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WWE 2K23 Review: Never Give Up

EDITORS' RATING : 7 / 10
Pros
  • Addition of WarGame match type
  • New, more natural feeling method for escaping pins
  • Refreshing spin on 2K Showcase mode
Cons
  • Laggy slowdowns
  • Controls can sometimes be unresponsive
  • The AI can be frustrating

A PS5 code was provided to ZaaZ for this review. "WWE 2K23" will be available on March 14, 2023, for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.

Everybody deserves a second chance, right? After the whole "WWE 2K20" debacle, publisher 2K Games and developer Visual Concepts went back to the drawing board with the wrestling franchise and emerged with a much better game in "WWE 2K22." While it wasn't perfect, it was still favorable enough to get WWE fans back on their side — at least, according to MetaCritic. With "WWE 2K22" being a step towards righting the ship, surely the next entry into the long-running series could be something special, right?

Well, the good news is that "WWE 2K23" is a continued step in the right direction. The not-so-good news? It's about as safe as you can get when it comes to pushing the franchise forward. There are plenty of things to enjoy about "WWE 2K23" — most notably its WarGames match and refreshing spin on the 2K Showcase mode. However, "WWE 2K23" doesn't otherwise do too much to step outside of the already established "WWE 2K" formula.

That's not necessarily a bad thing and is ultimately a smart business decision given the series' tumultuous past few years. You just shouldn't expect too much in the way of innovation. "WWE 2K23" continues to build upon the new foundation of last year's game, which means you'll be immediately familiar with much of what this year's entry has to offer. The core gameplay remains largely the same, as do most of the match types and game modes. There are a few tweaks here and there when it comes to how matches play out, but overall, you're still in for the same kind of WWE action that you've come to expect over the years.

Picking up where it left off

For this year's 2K Showcase, "WWE 2K23" puts a fun and refreshing spin on the game mode by having you relive the career of the legendary WWE Superstar John Cena — this year's cover athlete. However, instead of playing as Cena himself, you take on the role of the opponents from his most iconic matches, including Kurt Angle, The Undertaker, and Rob Van Dam's legendary ECW One Night Stand championship match. Each match has objectives that allow to you literally play out the bouts that took place. The more objectives you complete, the more rewards you unlock. But let's be honest, it's mostly just a blast reliving these matches that have gone down in WWE infamy.

In between each match, cutscenes play with Cena recounting the matches, complete with footage of each match in a documentary-style format. It's a great addition that helps make the Showcase mode feel more engaging than it has in the past. Not only does it take you on a trip through time, but it also offers up some great insight into what made him such an iconic part of pro wrestling during his heyday. The Showcase mode still has its issues, however, as certain objectives don't always give you good direction on what needs to be done, resulting in some trial and error.

Still, it's a welcome change of pace for the game mode and it's nice to see that evolution make its way into this year's release.

Bring on the war

The biggest and most fun addition in this year's entry is the WarGames match type. This fan-favorite match type puts teams of three or four in a double-steel cage that encloses two rings that are set up right next to each other. Of course, it's not just a free-for-all when it comes to the participants. Teammates can (and should) work together to take out their opponents. This is often easier said than done, though.

The match begins as a 1v1 brawl, with the other wrestlers entering the ring in intervals. This means that one team will be outnumbered at multiple points. And since it only takes pinning one person to win the match, it's in everyone's best interest to watch out for one another. The two-ring setup helps cut down on the chaos that comes with multiple wrestlers on the screen at once, but there is still chaos aplenty in the WarGames match — especially when weapons, tables, and ladders are added to the mix.

Another fun "quality of life" feature is the addition of a new method of escape when being pinned. You can stick with the traditional button-mashing tactic to kick out of the pin, or you can use the new method that requires a simple flick of the right joystick. Think of it like the kicking mechanic in "Madden." When the cursor is within the green part of the gauge that pops up when you get pinned, that's when you flick the joystick. While traditionalists may prefer the old-school way of kicking out, this new method just feels a lot more natural and, frankly, makes it feel like you're more in control of your kick-out fate.

Creating the next Superstar

No "WWE 2K" title would be complete without a robust creation suite. "WWE 2K23" is no exception. You can create a slew of different Superstars, from the classic archetype to the bizarrely unique wrestler. The Create-A-Superstar mode continues to be wildly in-depth, allowing you to customize your Superstars' looks and abilities down to every minute detail. One of our custom character builds took two hours along — and even then, more customization could have been added had there been enough time.

The customization options bleed into the entire rest of the game, whether you're setting up a specific exhibition match, or building your own reality in the Universe mode that lets you create and manage your own shows, tag teams, rivalries, championships, and more. You want Rey Mysterio and Dominik to be best buddies? By all means, make it so in the Universe sandbox mode.

MyRise, MyFaction, and MyGM all make their return in "WWE 2K23," allowing players to have a variety of WWE experiences to choose from. Of course, technical issues also manage to make their return in "WWE 2K23." The game experiences lots of laggy slowdowns (there is A LOT of asset loading when creating a character), controls can sometimes be unresponsive (such as re-entering the ring or countering an attack), and the AI continues to be a bit of an issue (don't even get us started on the frustratingly delayed referee count). Overall, things seem to have improved since "WWE 2K22," but it feels like these technical issues continue to be an ever-present problem with the series.

Get back in the ring

For almost any annually released title, it's easy to nit-pick and find faults with the game. "WWE 2K23" is in a bit of a different situation, though, as the series builds its way back up from the near ashes. Sure, there are some issues that need to be addressed, but the overall experience feels much more polished than "WWE 2K22." Most important, though, is that it's still fun to play.

Maybe it's overly optimistic to already be saying that it's time to up the ante and take this series to the next level, but the "WWE 2K" series now has two games that (at the very least) meet expectations, returning to form for fans of the franchise. Sure, "WWE 2K23" is a safe design choice in almost every way, but that's better than the alternative. We now know what rock-bottom (pun absolutely intended) can be, and at least we can focus on the positives going forward. Never give up, indeed.

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