By Will Pruett, ProWrestling.net Co-Senior Staffer (@itswilltime)
Friends, we’ve lived through a whole pandemic without a decent wrestling video game to play. For two years, we’ve been shut in our homes without an actual playable game to approximate wrestling television. A new wrestling promotion has launched and become competitive since the last time a wrestling video game was worth playing. Because of this, I found myself some combination of bored and excited this week and bought the deluxe edition of WWE 2K22 for the Playstation 5.
This edition of the WWE 2K series comes to us after a disastrous version of the game was released in 2019 (WWE 2K20) and a borderline-playable version in 2018 (WWE 2K18). The WWE 2K series has barely changed since it was introduced in 2013 and WWE’s games have not noticeably changed in over a decade. WWE 2K22 brings us the most change wrestling games have seen in a long time.
First of all, let’s talk about basic playability. I’ve already told you I’m bad at video games, so believe me when I tell you I was able to pick up the controls for this game almost instantly. When you begin the game, Drew Gulak pops up with an entertaining tutorial taking you through the all new controls. Striking, grappling, running, and diving are all much simpler now. When used to take multiple button presses now take one. It’s clean, simple, and well thought out. Of all the changes for 2022, this one is most important.
Along with the gameplay re-design, WWE 2K22 feels snappy and quick on a next-generation console. Instead of spending as much time loading as you do playing (a memory I have of the PS4 versions of the WWE 2K series), I have hardly spent time outside of gameplay. The menus are fluid and quick. The entrances pop up quickly. Even breaking out of an entrance for a run-in attack is a smooth process.
The absolute highlight of this game is the Showcase Mode featuring Rey Mysterio. Playing through moments of Rey’s long career and seeing the variety of opponents was a joy. I found myself wondering about a few of the choices (like not including Rey’s stellar 2009 feud with Chris Jericho), but I ultimately loved this game mode. I’m likely to play through it again and again, even as the years go by and new WWE games steal my attention. Rey Mysterio was the perfect wrestler to have in a story mode like this one.
The animation in the Showcase Mode matches truly blew me away. Every new Rey Mysterio was beautifully rendered and every opponent looked great. Not everything on this game is perfect, but this mode got as close as anything.
As far as fidelity to WWE’s TV presentation, WWE 2K22 is more fun to play than WWE is to watch. The entrances are well-captured and animated. They don’t feature the weird AR graphics like the 20 foot tall screaming Roman Reigns. You have the option to turn off camera shaking. It’s a well-made fabrication. The commentary, supplied by Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton serves its purpose. After about four hours of play, it’s as insufferable as most video game commentary, which is why god made podcasts.
My one qualm with the approximation of WWE TV is the lack of arenas to choose from. The year is 2022 and we can’t get every WrestleMania arena ever? What about some Backlash swinging hooks? It’s bad enough that WWE has decided on one set that serves Raw, Smackdown, and premium live events. Why should we, as video game players, be stuck in this same box. I know I could create an arena and I probably will. This is still an upsetting part of the game. They could give us all of the ThunderDome screens (which no one should want) but they couldn’t give us unique sets for each event.
Now, let’s talk about the roster. All of the normal mainstays are there. You’ll be able to re-create almost complete Attitude Era shows (without their entrance sets). There are over 30 released wrestlers in this game, so you’ll also be able to recreate entire episodes of AEW Dynamite with the likes of Swerve Strickland, Buddy Murphy, Keith Lee, and Jeff Hardy. After playing through the Showcase mode, you’ll find yourself with a plethora of Rey Mysterios to choose from. There’s a very solid women’s roster as well, making playing through MyRise as a woman feel complete and well thought out.
Overall, there are over 168 wrestlers at launch. That’s a lot of competition for the 24/7 Championship.
Most surprising is some of the recent additions to the game. Brock Lesnar has his ponytail, which feels very current and delightful.
Getting into the other varied game modes, I found MyUniverse to be exhausting. I started a new game and chose to play as one wrestler. I had to wrestle the exact same match four times. I was ready to never play this again after that. MyRise and MyGM will take me a little longer than I have to feel out, but both seem very involved. I could see myself spending hundreds of hours playing through these never-ending modes and really enjoying myself while doing so.
So, was the deluxe version of WWE 2K22 worth the $99.99 price? I actually believe it was. I would rather just buy a game with everything unlocked instead of having to grind through a bunch of gameplay I don’t care about. I also enjoy knowing any DLC released (including Doink The Clown!) will automatically be included.
There are bugs in the game, mostly of the comedic sort, but they are difficult to come by. The game is not littered with them and most of them won’t change how you play the game. There are also animations that could definitely be better. Bret Hart’s hair stands out as particularly disappointing (along with his entrance graphics).
WWE 2K22 is the smoothest wrestling game I’ve played in years and the most fun! It feels snappy and fresh, with revamped controls and a can’t-miss Showcase highlighting Rey Mysterio’s career. While the game’s roster highlights WWE’s recent turnover, it still feels complete. It’s a good version of a WWE wrestling game and likely the best one 2K has ever produced.
Will Pruett writes about wrestling and popular culture at prowrestling.net. Of interest to him are diversity in wrestling and wrestling as a theatrical art form. To see his video content subscribe to his YouTube channel. To contact, check him out on Twitter @itswilltime, leave a comment, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.