With WWE 2K23, the developers Visual Concepts and Publisher 2K have upped the ante - the successor title to the restart of the sports game series last year is significantly better in the relevant areas. The result: WWE 2K 23 is the best wrestling game out there.
The WWE 2K series was a guarantee for great gaming fun, especially for wrestling fans. That changed abruptly with the release of WWE 2K20. The title was so bad at the time that 2K temporarily suspended the series to get back to quality. It was successful, because the developers Visual Concepts showed with WWE 2K22 that you obviously have what it takes and can follow in Yuke's big footsteps.
As if that wasn't enough evidence, a qualitative leap has been made for this year: WWE 2K23 is better than its predecessor. The developers and probably also the publisher 2K have taken the motto of this year's cover star John Cena to heart: "Never give up".
Never give up!
Simply being alone in the market is not a sign of quality. Visual Concepts had obviously made this a priority last year. The only pro wrestling match was also a good one. And this year it's even better - although the sequel hasn't changed much, at least in terms of core gameplay mechanics. Once again, the developers are focusing on an action-oriented ring event, in which the end of the game can launch light or heavy beating attacks or start a grab. This time, too, you can counter the attacks if you guess the correct type of attack and react quickly enough. In this way, situations can easily be reversed.
The actions of the wrestlers in the ring are reflected in three relevant status displays: There is a damage figure that provides information about which body parts you have worked particularly intensively with your moves, there is also a finisher display and one for the "signature". The latter can be used cleverly to ensure a comeback in the ring or to harass the opponent with sometimes nasty attacks from an ambush. The "fast recovery" is particularly useful, i.e. getting up quickly so that the other side doesn't get a chance for further wrestling moves.
One thing is clear: WWE 2K23 is a fast, but not fast-paced game. It's somewhere between a simulation and an arcade title - it almost seems like the developers can't decide on a real path. In terms of game speed, Visual Concepts can step on the gas pedal a little more to bring the ring action to the screens even more faithfully. The real arenas are not quite as leisurely as WWE 2K23. The game doesn't stand up to comparison with the classics of the genre, but compared to the much more simulation-heavy wrestling games of the modern age, it offers a crazy good pace. There are no obvious revisions this year, the focus has rather been on expanding the good basic structure of WWE 2K22 at the level of detail.
In any case, the characters can be controlled intuitively, which ultimately means that the WWE stars can be run, jump and tap fluently through the ring. Due to the countless matches with special rules, the counterattack also gains in value: depending on the situation, a successful counterattack is the only chance of being able to avert a defeat at all. The developers now rely on fairness here, because the time window for pressing the button is noticeably longer, so that the counteractions can actually be triggered and are not based on luck alone. It's good for combat. Because you can also dodge attacks, the combination of all action options results in a fairly entertaining match process that doesn't just consist of stupidly hammering buttons.
This works really well in conjunction with the stamina system, which forces the end of the game to repeatedly downshift during battles. Even the biggest WWE stars just run out of breath at some point. However, the developers refrain from "can't do it anymore" situations, so that even the sporty breaks do not have a negative effect on the tmpo. Visual Concepts has done a great job with regard to the "flow".
The developers took a much more offensive approach to what is probably the greatest innovation: the AI adjustments for created wrestlers. Downloading the creations of the fans and then competing against the sometimes absurdly designed athletes is great - sometimes it's quite funny. The story about the new cover star John Cena is the other obvious innovation. And it's quite entertaining, because not only Cena's defeats are at the center of the action, but also the repeated comments of the WWE star himself. And they're extremely funny.
Wargames: Two rings, two teams, one goal
Also exciting is the new variant "Wargames", in which two teams of two or three WWE Stars compete in two rings surrounded by a cage. The Royal Rumble-like gameplay is refreshing and entertaining as the balance of power keeps shifting.
The online modes or fights in couch co-op are also really fun, because then the gameplay, which works well anyway, is complemented by the unpredictability of the actions of human players - they are sometimes unconventional. If you want, you can of course do without it and just pass the time in solo mode.
And if that's not enough for you, you can hire the scarce screen time in GM mode as general manager of your own wrestling stable or simply organize the entire franchise in universe mode. "My Rise" ensures that WWE fans can experience two stories: as a wrestler or wrestler. So there is a lot to do in the ring, outside the ring and away from the arenas - sometimes even too much. The sheer number of game modes can be overwhelming, especially for beginners. Especially since the editors also eat up time resources once you have developed a taste for creating your own content.
Coal for trading cards
With “My Faction” 2K toots the horn that otherwise Electronic Arts loudest in its sports game series: Similar to Madden NFL, Fifa and Co, you improve your base faction with collecting cards that can be bought using in-game currency, but of course also by using real money.
Such game modes are now controversial in the scene, with WWE 2K23 you can basically get all the stuff for free, but that requires a lot of patience from the players. However, 2K is not quite as focused on monetization as Electronic Arts, which is ultimately only due to the large number of alternative game modes available. If the focus had been more on "My Faction", the criticism at this point would have been greater. Especially since the game with an RRP of around 75 euros is not a bargain - fortunately the latter are available regularly and often shortly before the release.
The investment is still worth it, especially for fans, especially since wrestling has never looked better on screen. Looks and sound already created a lot of atmosphere last year, and this year it's even better. The wrestlers look almost photorealistic, with small visual changes in favor of the playful.
The rows of teeth of the WWE stars are still a bit absurd and at least we - better: our ears - also had to struggle with the music selection. Many really cracker songs are joined by some almost unbearable pieces. It was better last year, but at the same time it depends on personal taste in music. So the soundtrack is by no means a drawback.
Number of players: single player/multiplayer
Age: from 16 years
Long-term motivation: high
Genre: Sports Games
Sub Genre: Wrestling Action
Developer: Visual Concepts
Official Website: Link
Year of publication: 2023
Platforms (Test system): PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
Costs: from 69,99 euros
WWE 2K23 is a guarantee of fun - finally the series returns to the quality it once stood for, especially for fans. Nevertheless, Visual Concepts and 2K have to stretch a lot to justify the existence of the game compared to its predecessor due to the improvements made largely at the level of detail.
In the end, it's the sheer number of small advances - from gameplay to timing to game mode updates - and the fact that it's largely bug-free that makes WWE 2K23 the best choice for wrestling fans. Still: Because Yuke's, the original developer behind the WWE 2K games, is also in the starting blocks with an AEW game. Given the superior quality of Visual Concept's work, however, they would need a stroke of genius to persuade fans to abandon the most popular wrestling franchise. In any case, it won't be easy against the background of a WWE 2K23. If developers and publishers can maintain 2K's level of quality, future games can be looked forward to, as there's a lot going on in the ranks of the WWE Superstars, even reboots of the game series that would be perceived as pure "roster updates". worthwhile.
WWE 2K23 is close to the perfect wrestling game. If the developers get the unnatural rows of teeth and some adjustments to the enemy AI on the line, the next title in the sports game series could be "King of the Ring".
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