WWE 2K23 review: Incredible action from bell to bell
WWE 2K23 is an improvement on the previous iteration in almost every way and 2K Games have certainly embraced feedback to create one of the most compelling wrestling games ever seen.
Last year, I reviewed WWE 2K22 and described it as a series that was “back on track — and on the cusp of something special.” This year, 2K Games have returned with a new annual release in WWE 2K23, and the ante has most certainly been upped.
Whereas the previous entry was a chance to right the wrongs of the disastrous WWE 2K20 and win back fans, WWE 2K23 needed to show that it was not willing to lie down for a 3 count and settle for a paycheck.
Thankfully, this is not the case as WWE 2K23 is sports entertainment personified and will keep players gripped and engaged for hours.
WWE 2K23: Key details
- Price: £49.99/$59.99
- Developer: 2K Games
- Release Date: March 17, 2023
- Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC
WWE 2K23: Trailer
GM Mode is WWE 2K23’s real superstar
The heartbeat of WWE 2K23 is defined by its numerous game modes as that’s where its longevity lies. Spine-tingling body slams and the thunderous impact of lariats may hit like a 10-ton truck, but this feeling is worthless without substance – and the game has a ton of it.
Without a doubt, the conquest I lost hours to the most was the improved and incredibly addictive GM Mode. After making its return in 2K22 – albeit slightly undercooked – 2K Games have fixed almost every criticism I had with it.
You can book many more match types, there is now a multitude of championships for your roster to compete for, you can now battle with up to three other GMs, and PPV cards can sustain more matches to finish off all your intense rivalries.
There are now multiple seasons to compete over, with your success being determined by new lifetime awards and achievements. Just like legends at the end of their career, you’ll find it difficult to walk away from a GM Mode session and you’ll be booking full cards in your sleep.
Away from the world of wrestling strategy, MyRise returns with two fully-fledged storylines: The Lock and Legacy. Each offers a variety of side conquests and interesting story developments incentivizing you to complete them to improve your created diamond in the rough.
You definitely should, too, as you’ll experience weird and wacky subplots from French Cage Matches to wrestling literal dream opponents.
Universe Mode is back for those who want to sink hours into a long, randomly generated career with your favorite superstars, and John Cena is the face of this year’s Showcase.
The overarching premise for this incarnation of Showcase delivers some fascinating matches and unexpected results, but I did have some problems with its presentation. John will give some real insight into the upcoming match beforehand, but then completely disappear mid-match leaving you with some long segments of real footage from the match with no narration and weird, dubbed audio.
The structure of the journey is all over the place and chronologically makes no sense either. The match choices are iconic, but you’ll relive Cena vs Edge from Summerslam 2005, and bizarrely follow this up with their New Year’s Revolution encounter a few months prior.
I am also concerned about the decision to make MyFaction online integrated as it now has an Ultimate Team feel to it, and FIFA and Madden fans will understand that these games began to suffer once the online phenomenon evolved.
WWE 2K23 is King of the Ring
WWE 2K23’s gameplay remains undefeated in the ring, as the hybrid of button mashing for combos and precise, but varied, move inputs for the 100+ superstars make the game so accessible to all audiences.
The overall gameplay feels largely untouched with reversals and mini-games being simplified, and the goal of each match is to try and build up offense quickly so that you can land Signature and Finishing Moves.
Weight divisions create fascinating dynamics as a Cruiserweight like Cedric Alexander will need to have his ring smarts fully engaged if he wants to topple the titanic Omos — because mark my words, he will do the height thing and wreck smaller opponents!
I could maybe do with wrestler AI being more aware of their ring positioning when it comes to delivering high-impact moves and submissions as it can be a bit frustrating delivering a finisher, only to have to waste precious seconds dragging an opponent away from the ropes.
The game’s collision detection system, while still pretty coherent, is still annoyingly prone to lapses and uncontrollable shaking of body parts trapped in a physics void. Limbs will become trapped in the ropes and environment and bend in ways that only a double-jointed person could dream of. If we want to take the WWE 2K franchise to the level, this problem really needs to be sent to Suplex City.
When the gameplay lands though, strikes combos are devastating, the incremental accumulation of damage on your opponent to wear them down is as satisfying as ever, and the ebb and flow of the drama still truly captures the magic of a top-tier professional wrestling match.
As usual, there is a star-studded line-up of match types to wage war in, speaking of which — it’s time for WarGames! The classic multi-person tag team, double-cage affair has finally arrived and the gameplay is frantic and fierce.
The Grandest Stage of Them All
Inside and outside of the ring, WWE 2K23 is a beautiful game, it really is. Facial models are scarily accurate in many cases, even for lower-card talent, and minuscule factors such as sweat particles help to highlight the length and physicality of a match.
Spot-on camera angles and well-timed jump cuts mesh excellently with the engagement of the crowd to create a dramatic amphitheater in which the ring is the centerpiece.
Shockingly, the heightened sense of drama is positively influenced by the game’s scrupulous commentary. It seems that for years commentary has always been an Achilles heel in sports games. WWE 2K23 finally seems to have nailed this troublesome trope with a combination of contextual consistency and useful contributions to a match.
One tiny note is that the MyRise load times were daunting as I became scared to edit my character in fear of another agonizing wait. For some reason every other game mode is fine, but MyRise struggles — truth be told it’s one of the game’s few technical headscratchers.
Verdict – 4/5
I feel in some ways I’m echoing my sentiments from one year ago. The gameplay is near-perfect and the presentation and delivery of a worldwide sensation are engrossing and captivating. Better still, one of the game’s most promising game modes is fully realizing its potential.
There’s just the odd gripe that lingers just enough to bog down its joyous moments. If 2K can avoid MyFaction from hogging the spotlight and eliminate those tiny faults, all the while concentrating on MyGM, Showcase, and MyRise, then a perfect rating could beckon next year.
Reviewed on PS5
You can check out some more of Dexerto’s reviews below:
Hogwarts Legacy review | Dead Space review | Deliver Us Mars review | Forspoken review | Fire Emblem Engage review | Need For Speed: Unbound review | Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion | The Callisto Protocol review | Marvel’s Midnight Suns review | Metroid Prime Remastered Review | Atomic Heart review | Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty review