REVIEW: ‘WWE 2K23’ Maintains Its Quality (XSX)

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WWE 2K23

After 2K’s brief hiatus from the WWE franchise due to overwhelmingly negative reviews for WWE 2K20, it was somewhat refreshing to have a polished, playable title like WWE 2K22. Even though there was a lack of interesting innovations, atmosphere, or creativity, it was reassuring that professional wrestling video games had been given the opportunity to restore their damaged reputation. Unfortunately for professional wrestling fans, this year’s WWE 2K23 is even less remarkable than the previous iteration, but the foundation for an annualized title like WWE 2K is still solid.

Last year, WWE 2K22 brought back the beloved General Manager mode, which had not been seen since Smackdown vs. Raw titles. Thankfully, 2K has brought back this beloved mode for this year’s entry as well. General Manager mode puts players in the seat of a WWE manager, organizing events, budgeting, and rosters. It is highly addicting to try making shows each week better than the last, much like other management simulators such as Game Dev Tycoon or older NFL Head Coach games. The tutorial is thorough and assures that even newcomers will understand how to manage an overabundance of tasks.

Players are given the option to choose from several different characters, each with different perks that might sabotage rivaling managers or benefit your weekly show. Essentially, GM mode feels much like a strategic deck-building game, where players’ shows will only improve with the appropriate roster and upgraded resources. Though it can feel convoluted at times due to the rich profusion of menus and analytics, most excess menus can be skipped and overlooked. Fortunately, the GM mode is still addicting and will serve as a pleasant addition for fans that are nostalgic about older professional wrestling video games.

The story-driven MyRise mode is making a comeback this year. MyRise will take players through the journey of reaching the top of the WWE with their own created superstars. This year, players start as a meek, self conscious superstar who was assigned the nickname “The Lock” by WWE executives. Through profound, pivotal moments of characterization, it is easy to empathize with your created superstar and become motivated to break the mold that the WWE executives have created for you. The game features several different conclusions, adding more replayability to the mode overall.

As silly as it seems, WWE 2K23‘s MyRise mode presents a fully realized coming-of-age story that provides a level of depth that is easy to get lost in. The voice acting of WWE 2K23‘s MyRise mode has some quirks and moments that break the immersion, but it never falters so much that the mode becomes unplayable. Unlike last year’s game, players will experience the overwhelming feeling of what it is like to truly be an underdog. The urge to improve and do better for your superstar is an undying motivator to continue playing this year’s installment.

Also making a return is the MyFaction mode, which allows players to create their own marketing strategies and teams. In theory, this concept could be an addicting addition to the game. This mode is supposed to rival the daily tasks and goals that are becoming more popular in many free-to-play games.  2K’s aim for MyFaction was to present the player with unlockable cards and goals that provide replay value even after most of the primary objectives of the game are completed. Players can purchase packs of characters with different stats and add them to their faction to compete with other factions. However, the way that this mode is presented feels extremely inaccessible.

Even with the tutorial, it is difficult to remember the purpose of each card and component in this mode. In general, the interface feels clunky and unorganized, making this mode unappealing for anyone new to WWE games. The most noticeable flaw that makes this mode feel unpolished is that completing tasks in matches currently does not always unlock daily rewards. This glitch makes the mode feel like the work put into unlocking rewards will ultimately go unnoticed. 

This year, WWE 2K23 is introducing a new War Games mode, where two rings are set up side by side as fighters compete in 3v3 or 4v4 matches trapped in a cage. Wrestlers will enter the cage one at a time in brief intervals to assist their team, essentially creating a heavily convoluted six-to-eight man match within ten minutes. Even with a system in place to help players know where their wrestler is looking, it can be confusing at times trying to navigate the match. The rings are so cluttered and so much is happening at once, it feels nearly impossible to make any progress. Having an additional ring accessible is rather pointless since the same thrill of multi-superstar cage matches is just as easily achievable with one ring with a tornado tag or fatal four-way match. This feature is rather tucked away and easily missed since the game does not heavily advertise it, but it will also go unmissed. Instead, WWE 2K23 maintains a heavy focus on its Showcase mode.

Much like last year, the Showcase mode remains among the most interesting aspects of WWE 2K23. This time, John Cena narrates the highlights of his career as players fight their way through several of the superstar’s famed matches. Interestingly, the theme of this year’s showcase is loss and never giving up. Not once will John Cena win a single match as players control several of the famed wrestler’s biggest rivals.

Compounded with the motif of maturation and self-development that is found in the MyRise mode, players will feel moved by the engaging and empathetic stories that this year’s installment has to offer. WWE 2K23 is truly a groundbreaking revelation for not only storytelling in sports games, but storytelling in video games as a whole. The gameplay cuts out regularly to show actual footage of historical wrestling matches, and players gain insight into Cena’s thoughts and feelings about the crucial moments of each match. Conveniently, objectives for each match are always listed in the upper left corner of the screen. Unlike last year, John Cena will provide far less narration than Rey Mysterio, which limits the documentary-like feeling of the mode. However, by playing through Showcase mode, players can still unlock several incarnations of John Cena and supporting wrestlers, remaining one of the primary sources of satisfaction in the game.

Conversely, the game’s most prominent negative aspect is the lack of innovation or change. With only a few exceptions, graphics, rosters, gameplay, and the overall menu and interface have remained virtually unchanged. Unless players are big fans of John Cena, it is not worth investing sixty to seventy dollars in the latest installment of the WWE 2K franchise. Last year’s installment will be available for far cheaper at several sites and outlets. Except for avid fans of Cena, players will miss nothing by skipping WWE 2K23.

WWE 2K23

The sheer amount of work it takes to unlock anything outside Showcase mode is still an unrelenting grind. 2K has adopted a marketing strategy focusing on microtransactions so players can far more easily purchase the characters they want instead of working for them. The game requires a thousand of its virtual currency (VC) to be spent to unlock any character, including some of the most popular and recent superstars such as Undertaker, Batista, or Triple H. Regularly playing exhibition matches in the game will probably average a hundred VC per match. If you slip up and lose a match, in many circumstances, the game won’t even reward ten VC. By locking all of the most popular characters the WWE has to offer, 2K forces players to play an average of eight to ten tedious matches to unlock one character or spend ten dollars to unlock them all instantly. By doing this, 2K has eliminated any satisfaction for its players and made playing the game seem like an uphill task.

WWE 2K23 boasts an interesting soundtrack with music from classic rock bands such as Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Despite 2K gaining the rights to include such popular music, it is only played while navigating the main menu and becomes redundant rather shortly. As a whole, there are only a total of twelve popular songs in the entire soundtrack. Sound during actual matches is rather lifeless, and players will only be able to hear the distinct grunts of their wrestlers and the slamming of the mat as a robotic crowd and soulless generic music murmurs in the background.

Overall, WWE 2K23 serves its purpose. Anybody looking to play a fighting game with characters they recognize from WWE’s brand will get precisely what they want. Unfortunately, people looking for a unique fighting game and anyone feeling nostalgic for the great pro wrestling games of the past will be disappointed. It is clear that WWE 2K is a series of games that will easily be recycled year after year, and 2K will probably continue its cycle of releasing games with diminishing quality unless critics and fans remain vocal and active.

WWE 2K23 will release on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC on March 14, 2023.

WWE 2K23
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10


Overall, WWE 2K23 serves its purpose. Anybody looking to play a fighting game with characters they recognize from WWE’s brand will get precisely what they want. Unfortunately, people looking for a unique fighting game and anyone feeling nostalgic for the great pro wrestling games of the past will be disappointed.

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