Last year’s WWE 2K22 was a very important release for the franchise, successfully overcoming the botched mess of a launch that was WWE 2K20, while also incorporating some key new features such as the addition of the MyGM and MyFaction modes, highly improved visuals, redesigned entrances and much more. WWE 2K23 isn’t an overhaul on the same level of last year’s game – it instead builds on the foundations that WWE 2K22 set in place, delivering a more meaty and mature experience that’s definitely worth your while.
Inside the squared circle, the gameplay will feel largely familiar if you played WWE 2K22. The biggest change is the addition of a new pin meter which swings back and forth rather than being focused around button mashing (although you can go back to the old system if you want to), and in our opinion, it’s a welcome feature that adds a bit more unpredictability to pin attempts. Some of the more subtle improvements this year include the ability to lure opponents into “possum” attacks, along with a significant array of new animations for moves and transitions, and these upgrades add up to to the most fluid and enjoyable gameplay experience that 2K has delivered with the WWE series to date.
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Speaking of fluidity, 2K has really pulled off some great work when it comes to the menu design and speedier loading times in WWE 2K23 (MyRise aside), giving the game a true AAA quality feel. This obviously extends to the gameplay presentation too, where the graphical enhancements of last year have been bolstered once again. This is especially evident in entrances, where the character models, video trons, arena designs and lighting are all given a spotlight… you’d be forgiven for getting a few goosebumps from time to time during some of these sequences!
Outside of the ring, WWE 2K23 has again made big improvements. One of our complaints with last year’s game was that despite the game modes being enjoyable, they felt a little under baked. We’d argue that’s still the case to a degree in 2K23, but definitely not to the same extent. The Ultimate Team-style MyFaction adds online play for the first time this year albeit in limited form, MyRise introduces two story modes that are fortunately more narrative-driven than last year, Universe mode allows you to get more creative with cutscenes, and MyGM continues to be our favourite way to play 2K’s WWE games these days, featuring many more match types and unlimited seasons as you attempt to outwit up to three other general managers to put on the best show you can.
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As mentioned, there are still areas of improvement that could be made to all of these game modes, such as MyFaction providing more meaningful reasons to show off your cards, and Universe implementing better AI to help develop more immersive rivalries. A similar thing could also be said of the John Cena focused Showcase mode, which is great in terms of the real life footage and how it transitions into the game, but its objective-heavy focus can occasionally grow tiresome at times as it did last year. On the whole though, we’re really happy with WWE 2K23’s selection of game modes, which are guaranteed to keep us busy for potentially hundreds of hours.
Of course, we shouldn’t forget that WarGames has been created for WWE 2K23 as well, marking the first time this match type has ever appeared in a WWE game. It’s immediately become one of the most enjoyable options on offer, allowing you to compete in 3v3 or 4v4 matches across two rings with a steel cage fitted around them (along with plenty of weapons you can bring into the mix). The big takeaway here is that 2K has clearly put a lot of effort into making WarGames a memorable experience – everything about this match type feels meticulously well-designed.
As fun as it is, there are still a few minor downsides to WWE 2K23’s gameplay across the board, and they’re the same old limitations that we’ve become used to over the years. This is easily the best version of the engine we’ve seen to date, allowing for incredible jump-out-your-seat moments at its peak, but collision detection issues can still crop up when wrestlers get stuck in animations, and weapons are sometimes a bit harder to pick up than they should be.
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The thing that we really want to see get a major focus next year is sound design. The way music is implemented is good, but the fake-sounding crowd noise (especially during entrances) can take you out of the immersion a bit, the commentary sometimes comes across as too forced, and characters in the MyRise stories often sound like they’re sitting at home reading their lines into a cheap recording device, even when they’re supposed to be standing in the middle of the ring!
There are some other nitpicks that we could point out, but we don’t want to dwell on those. The positives massively outweigh the negatives with WWE 2K23, and we’re having the most fun we’ve had with a WWE game since the PS2 glory days of SmackDown! Here Comes The Pain. You might feel like it’s worth skipping the 2023 version if you bought last year’s entry, but in our opinion this is an upgrade that truly deserves your hard earned money.
WWE 2K23 builds on last year’s already impressive effort to deliver arguably the best wrestling game Xbox fans have ever seen. The gameplay feels smoother and more entertaining than ever, nearly all of the game modes have received welcome improvements, WarGames is a fantastic addition to the array of match types, and this is ultimately the most enjoyment we’ve had with the series in well over a decade. It’s still a little rough around the edges in some places, but you’ll most likely be having too much fun to care.