WWE 2K23 Review
After 2K and Visual Concepts got the WWE 2K series back on track last year with a stellar entry, there was little doubt in my mind they wouldn’t stay the course with WWE 2K23. For better or for worse. And after spending two dozen-ish hours within 2K23’s assemblage of modes, it’s safe to say that prediction was correct. At times, 2K23 feels almost indistinguishable from 2K22. By no means do I think that’s a low-blow comparison. But if you were hoping for another significant step forward for this long-running franchise akin to yesteryear’s, you might be disappointed.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I’d imagine this was the motto WWE 2K23’s development team lived by over the last 12 months. After all, it wasn’t long ago that there were serious concerns over whether or not we’d get another wrestling game, period, given the disaster that was WWE 2K20. And there is no greater example of this than in 2K23’s minute-to-minute gameplay.
Matches still revolve around hitting big moves, building momentum, reversal timing, and impressing the crowd. Though, you’ll need to navigate WWE 2K23’s less-than-beginner-friendly control scheme to do so. Veterans of the series will feel right at home as everything still works the same as it did in 2K22. Remember that these games aren’t nearly as challenging to pick up as Steet Fighter or Mortal Kombat, but you will need to practice before things feel natural.
Once grapples, strikes, and reversals become second nature, however, is when the action heats up. Matches have the same back-and-forth excitement that the real-life product is known for. This is mainly due to the superb animations of each superstar. The true brilliance of WWE 2K23 lies in its ability to grant players complete control of every situation they may find themselves in. If your opponent is outside the ring, you’ll always find a move or action that seamlessly continues the fight. Ditto if you’re on the top rope, traversing the stage, climbing a cage, or cowering in the corner. Like never before, matches flow in an authentic way that we simply aren’t accustomed to – and it’s excellent.
A 5-Star Performance
To complement the smooth, fluid gameplay is an extensive roster that looks every bit as well as it plays. WWE 2K23 might be the best-looking sports game on the market, quickly giving the NBA 2K and Fifa franchises a run for their money. While some models look better than others, everybody you would want to play as is a brilliant representation of their real-life counterparts. Though, if no one on the current rosters tickles your fancy, WWE 2K23 continues to provide the best character creator in all of gaming. Seriously. On top of the already massive list of costumes, props, and accessories available, Visual Concepts has added roughly 600 new items to help create your ultimate superstar.
Once you have your dream creation locked and loaded, the various game modes of WWE 2K23 give you a plethora of goals to strive for. For starters, you can jump into the MyRise story mode. With arguably the best original story to grace a WWE game in over a decade, MyRise offers a never-ending calendar of matches and feuds that will surely scratch the itch of those craving the classic WWF Smackdown games. Universe mode is also an option if you prefer to play as an already-established talent, such as John Bradshaw Layfield or Yokozuna. Just remember that Universe mode – much like in WWE 2K22 – seems to still act as only a precursor to the beefier MyRise.
Outside the Squared Circle
If in-ring action isn’t exactly your thing, there’s also the ever-improving MyGM mode that takes a step forward in 2K23. You can now challenge up to three friends throughout a 52-week schedule vying to see who the best booker is. Fans of this mode should also appreciate the welcome additions of Eric Bischoff, Tyler Breeze, WCW, and NXT 2.0. Most important to MyGM, though, is the ability to curate the outcomes of your matches better than last year. It helped make results feel like less of a crapshoot and more of my vision for my show.
Finally, WWE 2K23’s Showcase mode follows in the tracks of last year, replacing Rey Mysterio with John Cena. Interestingly, unlike 2K22, you’ll play as John Cena’s opponents during a collection of his most memorable losses. Like Mysterio did last year, Cena will narrate players through various scenarios, giving a brief history of each match before the bell rings. Frustratingly, given that Tazz and Jim Ross are now commentators with rival AEW, their likenesses are noticeably absent from this mode. It’s jarring going from solid commentary throughout the rest of WWE 2K23 to silence throughout Showcase mode.
Even more detrimental to the overall package are the still excruciating multi-man matches. Once you have more than four superstars in the ring, matches fall apart. The AI struggles to focus on a single opponent. You’ll constantly be attacked from all angles, with no hope of getting out of dodge. It’s painful to be forced to jump from a solid singles match to a non-sensical, frustrating multi-man circus. If WWE 2K24 can fix this, it’ll be primed to be arguably the greatest wrestling game of all time.
I have and will continue to enjoy my time with WWE 2K23. It’s nowhere near the overall improvement 2K22 was when compared to 2K20. But it didn’t need to be. 2K23 is a fantastic follow-up to last year’s game. If Visual Concepts continues in this direction, it won’t be long before the WWE series stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the giants of the sports game genre.
***PS5 code provided by the publisher***
- Superb animations
- Gorgeous character models
- MyRise is fantastic
- Multi-man matches are a slog
- Technical issues
- No commentary in Showcase