A decent enough soundtrack, but it seems like the same three tracks play on a loop. Superstars who lend their voices do a fine job, too.
WWE 2K23 is a fantastic-looking game, boasting all of the pomp, pyrotechnics, and bombast of real-life WWE. Only a handful of minor physics schisms pop up now and then.
Where the previous game brought with it a complete revamp, WWE 2K23 refines and polishes, making for the most accessible and immediately enjoyable entry yet.
Overflowing with modes, options, features, and a massive roster of Superstars, there’s not much, if anything, missing from WWE 2K23. The downside? Some crap loading times. That’s about it.
Quite a bit of overlap from last year’s game, although there’s a good spread of objectives here across all modes, and some are inventive. Not a bad list in all.
March 22, 2023
With WWE 2K22 setting 2K's beleaguered wrestling franchise back onto the rails last year, WWE 2K23 is an opportunity for developer Visual Concepts to refine and build upon what's come before, and that's precisely what the studio has done. This year's entry is another strong showing, shoring up and tightening up the gameplay, while expanding the range of available features, modes, and match types – the result is a game that's quite possibly even better and more comprehensive than its forebear. No mean feat.
Greeted by UpUpDownDown's Austin Creed (better known as WWE Superstar, Xavier Woods) delivering an energetic optional tutorial to get you better acquainted with the fundamentals, WWE 2K23 then drops you into a clean and well presented main menu, where you'll find all of the basic quick play matches, card-based MyFaction mode, the deeply involving MyGM mode, the MyUniverse sandbox, and the story-driven MyRise mode. That's before you even get to the creation suite and the wealth of online options.
The headline here is cover star John Cena's 2K Showcase, amusingly titled 'You Can't Beat Me!', in which your sole task is to work through all of the times that the WWE icon lost in the ring during his otherwise victory-studded career. Your job is to uphold those defeats, which means playing as a range of grappling Legends, from Rob Van Dam to The Rock, Kurt Angle, Edge, Batista, and Undertaker, facing Cena during key moments of his WWE tenure. It's all remarkably well presented, with live-action archive footage once again blending seamlessly with gameplay, framing each objective-driven bout, as Cena offers rare, personal insight between each match.
MyGM has also been expanded, with more brands to choose from, including staple WWE shows like RAW and SmackDown, as well as WCW, NXT, and NXT 2.0. The number of playable managers has increased, too, with Mick Foley, Kurt Angle, and Eric Bischoff joining the fold. That said, the concept remains much the same, as you draft your own stable of Superstars to compete with your rivals, book matches and promos in a bid to chase the highest ratings possible, and manage both your budget and the needs of your talent. It's involving and engaging stuff, but perhaps not quite as immediately gratifying as MyRise or MyFaction.
As ever, MyRise is a good place to start, as you guide a custom superstar from their debut, this time as a burgeoning prospect known as 'The Lock' (something that The Rock humorously takes issue with during a social media exchange with your character). From a series of grudge matches with Sami Zayn, you'll soon join forces with certain factions, making choices at pivotal moments that determine the path your WWE career will take. You can even choose to behave disrespectfully towards other Superstars, although don't expect that your character will be particularly well liked if you do.
Either way, you'll earn attribute points to improve your custom Superstar, until you embark upon 'The Legacy' portion of the MyRise story to cement your status as a WWE Legend. This is a full-fledged career mode, then, although it's much like last year's MyRise, and it's also hamstrung by some pretty appalling loading times, even on new-gen hardware. But then, WWE 2K23's load times are fairly shoddy across the board – perhaps that's something for Visual Concepts to look at addressing in WWE 2K24.
Of course, all of these deep and compelling modes count for nothing if the gameplay doesn't have it where it counts, and happily, WWE 2K23 is an even smoother, more intuitive experience than its predecessor. Those all-important counter windows feel even slicker, the fluidity of the action is right on the money, and the ability to block and dodge adds an extra facet to proceedings. Combos are also easier to string together, and it's clear that an onus has been placed squarely on delivering crisp, unfussy, and accessible fun. WWE 2K23 is far and away the most immediate and enjoyable wrestling game I've played since the old days of WWF No Mercy or the series' heyday under former WWE developer Yuke's.
With MyFaction adding longevity through daily challenges, Proving Grounds and Weekly Towers, as well as ongoing Faction Wars and online showdowns, no stone has been left unturned here. On top of all that, there's community-created content to consider, and a wealth of multiplayer modes, which conspire to make WWE 2K23 every bit the full-fat wrestling game. Nothing is missing. Factor in a generous roster of 200-odd Superstars and Legends that covers a huge chunk of both the WWE's modern day and its past glories, in a game that's impeccably presented and put together, and you have the makings of something truly excellent, even if it's somewhat iterative rather than revolutionary.
But, then, WWE 2K23 didn't need to bring about sweeping changes. Instead, it manages to improve upon WWE 2K22 in a meaningful way, and that's more than enough.