WWE games have been a mainstay among fans for decades, originally making its debut in 1989 on the NES with its first inception titled, “WWF WrestleMania.” Since then, numerous titles have populated, with classic gems such as WWF No Mercy on the Nintendo 64, SmackDown: Here Comes The Pain on the PlayStation 2, along with SmackDown vs Raw, and a litany of other titles that many fans hold in high regard due to games modes, their soundtrack, and nostalgia sake as well. How will WWE2k22 compare?
Ever since the WWE games made their way to last-gen consoles such as PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (most notably with the rushed WWE 2K15), fans have struggled to get into these iterations of the series, due to a lack of focus on arcade-style action and an emphasis on simulation to its TV counterpart, as well as certain features being stripped away like the highly requested ‘GM Mode,’ as well as various gamers complaining about the graphics not being completely up to snuff and glitches that have plagued some of the games.
After several attempts, WWE 2K19 had a great balance of simulation and some emphasis on an arcade style to appeal to fans who have long desired to see some form of wackiness return, and the graphics weren’t bad as well.
With the announcement of WWE 2K20, fans became excited, hoping to see a continuation of what was done with the previous instalment. However, a split from long time partner in developer Yukes mid-way into the development of the game was suddenly announced from 2K, with Visual Concepts, developer of the NBA 2K series, taking the reins over the WWE games for the foreseeable future. Long story short, WWE 2K20 was released, and quickly #FixWWE2K20 was trending all over the Internet. GIFs, photos, and videos were being shared of absolutely horrific (albeit sometimes funny) glitches that were littered throughout the game at launch. Models of the Superstars were downright abysmal, the controls remapped to an atrocious controller scheme from what gamers were familiar with in previous entries, and the graphics seemingly were somehow worse than WWE 2K19. WWE2k21 needs to hit different for a variety of reasons.
With the amount of backlash that WWE 2K20 received, 2K announced that it would be skipping its annual release as 2020 saw no entry in the 2K simulation series (WWE 2k21), instead of being replaced by the mediocre arcade brawler WWE 2K Battlegrounds, a game almost similar in nature (but nowhere near up to par) to WWE All-Stars, as it was littered with microtransactions and made grinding for in-game currency for those not wishing to spend real money to unlock characters and items quite a laborious chore. WWE2k21 was a world away.
A statement was made from 2K at the time, claiming, “we hear you and we know you want more from the franchise, so we are applying what we’ve learned to the next WWE 2K simulation game with a renewed focus on quality and fun,” says 2K. “As part of that commitment, we are extending the production timeline and will not be releasing a WWE 2K simulation game in 2020. We want to ensure the development team can create a great game that will entertain grizzled WWE 2K veterans, as well as newcomers who want to climb through the ropes and step into the ring for the very first time.”
Fast forward to April 10th, 2021 during Night 1 of WrestleMania 37, an announcement trailer for WWE2k22 was aired, showcasing a real-life Rey Mysterio and flipping to a virtual version of the legendary high flyer, with about 10 to 15 seconds worth of work-in-progress build shot gameplay, ending with the tagline, “It Hits Different.” Almost immediately, fans shared their thoughts and opinions, seemingly enjoying what they saw, but are apprehensive nonetheless due to the dumpster fire that was WWE 2K20. A noticeable difference in lighting, textures, motion blur and frame rate were obvious in the alpha variant of footage, as both the character models for Rey Mysterio and Cesaro (as well as some of the members in the crowd) looked to be updated, as it seems more than likely that this will be the first game of the series to be released on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.
YouTuber RysterRyan made a comparison video, taking shots from WWE 2K20’s Highlight Reel feature and putting it next to what we were given from WWE2k22’s announcement, attempting to get them as close together as possible. Another YouTuber by the name of ITSMYYARD claims that WWE2k22 doesn’t “hit different,” as he feels the trailer doesn’t do the tagline justice, and also shows how the trailer uses the same animation(s) for Mysterio’s signature move, the ‘619’ that was used in WWE 2K20, but also admitted that we don’t have enough footage to firmly create an opinion quite yet.
Needless to say, 2K and Visual Concepts has a lot of work cut out for them, as fans’ expectations for our next step in between the virtual ropes of a WWE ring to be quite a high bar. A vast amount of gamers are hopeful for numerous features that were stripped out of previous iterations to make a triumphant return, such as ‘GM Mode,’ the once-popular ‘Road to WrestleMania’ mode, as well as ‘Showcase Mode’ and maybe ‘MyCareer.’
WWE2k22. This game must be jam-packed with game modes, match types both old and new, and a plethora of WWE Superstars, Legends, and whatever pre-order bonuses that usually come with these titles. 2K, Visual Concepts, and quite frankly the WWE cannot afford to have yet another bomb of WWE games under their belt, as fans will seek to take their needs elsewhere, with titles such as Fire Pro Wrestling and even the upcoming AEW video game that is in development as a possible substitute until 2K or whatever another developer that comes along gets their act together. For now, it’s still too early to weather the storm, as alpha gameplay rendered in 1080p and not in a full 4K (or higher) resolution for an early build of a game does not give us enough to cast judgements or full opinions on. Until then, all we can do is sit and wait, and see what 2K gives us next, as we can most likely expect more news and possibly gameplay to come to SummerSlam later this year.