Can you smell?
WWE 2K23 is basically the same game as last year.
I put over 60 hours into WWE 2K22, and that was despite its best efforts. Everything was okay as I performed my review, but the moment 2K Sports started patching it, the whole thing broke. For many of those hours, I was completely unable to access Universe mode. Support said to completely erase all of my save date, and I didn’t spend so much time creating my stable of wrestlemen and wrestleladies just to start from scratch. This was a problem many other users reported, and it was never fixed throughout the game’s support.
I poked at WWE 2K22 for the remainder of the year, locked out of my favorite mode. It was one of my biggest disappointments from 2022.
So, I was excited to get into WWE 2K23 because maybe this will be a product that works. And it does. However, I need more time with it before I give it my final evaluation.
This year John Cena is on the box, and he gets the spotlight in Showcase mode. I legitimately can’t think of a wrestler who I’m less interested in. That’s nothing against John Cena. He’s a fine wrestleman, is reportedly a very decent person (my husband met him in an airport once), and has had a successful career. However, he’s the wrestling equivalent of dry toast.
WWE 2K23‘s Showcase mode is very much the same as it was last year. It intercuts kayfabe interviews with footage from the star’s more famous encounters and gameplay. The actual gameplay part of it has you going through a list of specific moves and events. It is tedious. It works as a way of interacting with a part of wrestling history, but I wouldn’t call it fun.
Then there’s MyRise mode which has you playing through a narrative career. There are two distinct stories, one for male and one for female wrestlepeople. I’ve only played partway into the female side, and it’s fine. The voice acting is horrible, and you can tell that the work is done by different people in different places with different qualities of microphone. Sometimes it sounds like it was recorded on a person’s cellphone. You can get better progression out of one of the other modes, but if you absolutely need a story, it’s here.
What I’m really interested in is the creation suite, and it’s definitely still here. It’s possibly the best it has ever been, but WWE 2K23 still suffers from many lingering issues that have never been addressed. My biggest bugbear is the poor categorization of parts and moves, which often necessitates scrolling through tremendous lists. You sort by what body part a move is targeting, but if you’re specifically looking for a particular flavor of Frankensteiner, you can’t just find the Frankensteiner category. You need to scroll the list to find the Super-Galactic Megasteiner or whatever. That might be fine if you’re brain is a giant warehouse of wrestle-moves, but for anyone who isn’t a smark, it can greatly slow down the creation process.
WWE 2K22 took away the advanced entrance creation for some reason. Thankfully, it has returned for WWE 2K23, and it functions essentially how it had before its removal. There is still no ability to add custom entrance themes, which continues to suck hard, but at least this was brought back.
In terms of actual wrestling, however, it’s largely the same. It’s still that weird attempt at a simulation of a performance sport. While I’d prefer it if the developers had more fun with the concept and added some unrealistic, over-the-top sorts of options, I generally enjoy what’s been presented for the last decade or so.
I haven’t had the chance to delve into the freshly added WarGames mode, nor have I tried MyGM or Universe, which are the ones I’m most interested in yet. I need a few dozen more hours to flesh out my stable of wrestlers to truly get the experience.
Which, I’m reasonably excited to get more into. You’ll have to forgive me if I’m a little less than trusting with 2K Sports this year. It seems like the onus to protect my creations has been pushed firmly into my lap, and I hate that. However, I’m going to take the time to do so, and I will report back with a full review when Breakfast Time Wrestling has had time to get off the ground.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]