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WWE 2K23 Review: Even Stronger Than Before (PS5)

WWE 2K23's tagline is "Even Stronger," and while updates and upgrades to core game modes certainly enforce that idea, there are certain areas that still need improvement. However, they may not be enough to prevent this game from entering the Hall of Fame of WWE video games.

WWE 2K23 Review: Even Stronger Than Before

WWE 2K23 is the newest installment in the WWE 2K franchise. The disastrous release of WWE 2K20 in 2019 led the developers to rebuild the game from the ground up ahead of WWE 2K22‘s release in 2022. The game boasted new modes, updated graphics and models, and a new gameplay system. 2K22‘s reception was, and still is, mostly positive. A step in the right direction toward bringing wrestling games back to their apex. That’s not to say people didn’t have their issues with it, though.

The developers immediately felt the pressure from fans to continue the upswing with WWE 2K23, improving on the solid foundation. They didn’t start out on the right foot, keeping lots of key information about the game secret until weeks or days before release. Expecting people to drop $60-$120 for one match type isn’t the strongest marketing tactic. However, WWE 2K23 is actually a very solid improvement on 2K22 in virtually every way. Though, there are still areas to be improved upon. 

WWE 2K23 has three Editions: Standard, Deluxe, and Icon. All available on PS4 & PS5, Xbox One & Series X, and Steam. Standard Edition is $59.99 on Steam and last-gen consoles, and $69.99 on PS5 & Xbox Series X. The Deluxe Edition – complete with Season Pass and Bad Bunny pack – is $99.99 across the board. And the Icon Edition – featuring the Ruthless Aggression pack – is $119.99.

New Champions! WWE 2K23 Official Launch Trailer | 2K

Story – Lock Your Legacy

The MyCareer mode – renamed MyRise in WWE 2K22 – is one of the main things people look forward to each year. The mode was revitalized in WWE 2K18, becoming more story-driven, and that is still the approach today. WWE 2K20 finally made it possible for women to participate, though it wasn’t received very well. 2K22 took a different approach, creating a bunch of smaller stories that comprise your career, with completely distinct stories for male and female created wrestlers.

WWE 2K23‘s MyRise is the merging of those two ideas. The mode splits into two stories: “The Lock” and “The Legacy.” They are gender-exclusive, and feature a host of side missions to compliment the main story. “The Lock” sees your male Create-A-Superstar (CAS) brought into WWE as the next big thing like Brock Lesnar, Drew McIntyre, or Austin Theory. Essentially telling the WWE Universe that you are a future world champion. “The Legacy” sees your female CAS be the niece of a WWE Hall-of-Famer, struggling between honoring her aunt’s legacy and creating a legacy for herself.

The former Chosen One, Drew McIntyre, in WWE 2K23

The former Chosen One, Drew McIntyre, in WWE 2K23

Both main stories are interesting in their own right, and contain many optional side stories that make them even better. The WWE Superstars you interact with in the main story are limited, and the side stories allow them to expand on that roster. Every person you talk to – wrestler or otherwise – is fully voice acted as well, adding to the immersion and the comedy.

The modes does feel short is you aren’t keen on side missions. And there are some rather annoying matches at times. However, the mode overall is a lot of fun. The personalities of all the Superstars are captured accurately, and there are certain branching paths that add some replay value. There’s room for improvement, though it is by far the best MyCareer yet.

Gameplay – Keep it Tight

The main match gameplay of WWE 2K23 is largely unchanged. However the game splits into four main modes outside of MyRise and regular Play mode. Each one with their own unique style that adds value to the overall game. Those being MyFaction, MyGM, Universe, and Showcase. All of them featured in WWE 2K22, and most were staples long before then. So let’s see what WWE 2K23 adds to each of these modes.

MyFaction: Here Comes the Money

This mode should not exist, plain and simple. But it does, so I have to talk about it.

This is the WWE 2K franchise’s answer to Madden Ultimate Team and all those other microtransaction-infested, pack-opening, gambling gateway modes in yearly release sports games. However, Visual Concepts (head developers of WWE 2K22 and 23) don’t seem to be anywhere near as lazy as EA Tiburon (developers of Madden). As the money made from microtransactions in this mode haven’t made them think they can rest on their laurels. At least, not yet. 

In MyFaction, players create two teams of four – one for men and one for women – and use them to compete in different towers, or online against other players. A good idea in theory ruined by the pack-opening core of the mode. You have to buy and open virtual trading card packs to get wrestlers to use on your team. And you can’t stop opening them once you get a team you like. Each wrestler is only available for a certain number of matches before you have to replace them or use a Contract card. And, of course, there are a bunch of different rarities and ratings for cards, meaning my Liv Morgan card might destroy your Liv Morgan card because mine has a blue border and yours is green. 

WWE 2K23 MyFaction cards featuring Ricochet, Asuka, Roman Reigns, Becky Lynch, & Matt Riddle

MyFaction cards featuring Ricochet, Asuka, Roman Reigns, Becky Lynch, & Matt Riddle

That being said, there’s still a core flaw to MyFaction that makes the card rarities and values almost meaningless. You still have to play every match. So, the value of the cards doesn’t matter if you’re good enough at the game. The towers can be fun, but you spend most of the time worrying about completing enough objectives to earn enough “MP” to actually progress to the next match. Instead of, you know, having a fun wrestling match.

MyGM: The Don of WWE 2K23

MyGM was introduced in WWE 2K22 as the modern revival of the GM Mode that fans loved from the old SmackDown vs. Raw games. Given that the old mode is in games made by a completely different developer roughly 20 years ago, the mode obviously saw many changes. Visual Concepts improved upon the groundwork laid for the mode last year by adding plenty of welcome updates that make the mode more fun.

For starters, the mode now supports up to 4 players at a time, using any mix of human and AI. There are also more brands to choose from, bringing the full list to: Raw, SmackDown, NXT, NXT 2.0, and WCW. The list of GMs has also expanded to: Stephanie McMahon, Adam Pearce, Sonya Deville, Kurt Angle, Eric Bischoff, Mick Foley, Xavier Woods, and Tyler Breeze. The latter two being included thanks to the popularity of their popular Battle of the Brands series on UpUpDownDown

A glimpse of Adam Pearce's SmackDown roster post-draft in MyGM

A glimpse of Adam Pearce’s SmackDown roster post-draft in MyGM

Many things were added that should’ve been in from the start, but better late than never. Each show now has a midcard championship to fight for, along with a host of new match types and stipulations to use. However, it’s a massive oversight that you can’t book triple threat or fatal 4 way championship matches. There are also a plethora of new power cards to either boost your show or screw over your opponent. Along with many UI fixes to make the whole process smoother.

The biggest change is the introduction of Seasons. Each Season is a locked 25 weeks. However, unlike before, the mode doesn’t end once the season does. Instead, you roll right into another draft for the next Season. The ultimate goal is to collect Hall of Fame trophies by completing challenges. I do like being able to keep a session going into another season. However, I wish we got to set how long each season was. Only competing for half the year at half the Premium Live Events – including SummerSlam AFTER Survivor Series for some reason – is a bit unfulfilling. 

Universe: All About The Game

Universe Mode is the best mode when it comes to making a WWE 2K game last the full year cycle. You are put in the shoes of Triple H and Shawn Michaels, responsible for booking Raw, SmackDown, NXT, and all their Premium Live Events from the ground up. You’re provided full control the rosters, the feuds, the matches, the teams, everything. You can even switch up the shows if you want to relive the Monday Night Wars between WWE and WCW, or create your own shows. 

Rhea Ripley & Bianca Belair in WWE 2K23

Rhea Ripley & Bianca Belair

Universe is often the mode that goes the most unloved, as they seem content leaving it as an open sandbox. However, WWE 2K23 actually added a huge improvement: Rivalry Actions. Players now have full control over what actions will occur at each stage in a rivalry, being able to more finely tune the story you’re trying to tell. It might not be the most groundbreaking change for players who like to book full stories on their own, as the actions can be pretty limiting, but it’s something. Once change that is still very much needed is PLEs being booked on Saturdays. WWE consistently books their PLEs on Saturdays now, and WrestleMania spans both Saturday and Sunday. However, PLEs in Universe Mode are locked to Sundays. 

Superstar Mode also remains in WWE 2K23. You pick anyone on the WWE roster and control their career. The Rivalry Actions are also usable in this mode, though I don’t see many people using it. A few small steps in the right direction is better than a downgrade. But here’s hoping they continue to build the mode in years to come. 

Showcase: J-Town Down

This year’s Showcase goes through the career of WWE 2K23 cover star John Cena. I’m sure that’s his biggest accomplishment. However, this year’s mode is different than the ones before it. It still features recreations of famous matches from the career of the focused superstar(s), though now it is all about some of the biggest losses in John Cena’s career. One of Big Match John’s key catchphrases is “Never Give Up,” and they really leaned into it this year.

WWE 2K23 Cover Star John Cena

WWE 2K23 Cover Star John Cena

You play as the opponents that beat John Cena, going through those matches and recreating moments from them, interspersed with real footage from those matches. They span John Cena’s 20 year career, from his 2002 debut on SmackDown against Kurt Angle to his SummerSlam 2021 main event against Roman Reigns. Between each match, John provides a brief retrospective on them and his opponents. 

Playing as the same wrestler for 10-15 matches gets very tedious, so the chance is welcome. Also, this has by far the greatest bonus reward matches of any Showcase mode before it. So great that I dare not spoil it for those who don’t know.  

Graphics & Sound – More Than Smoke & Mirrors

The WWE 2K franchise never has standout graphics, but the game has never looked better than this. Not everyone looks perfect, looking at you Creed Brothers, but many look amazing. Also, 2K seems opposed to accurately capturing the figures of certain wrestlers. Still, the entrances of the wrestlers are still incredible to watch. However, certain arenas look better than others. The worst example is the WrestleMania 38 arena. Also, I firmly believe every wrestler should do motion capture for their entrance. 

Carmelo Hayes makes his 2K debut in WWE 2K23

Carmelo Hayes makes his 2K debut in WWE 2K23

2K’s recreation of the arenas from WWE’s last year look great, but they have one core issue. Every arena ramp has to be the exact same size to fit the entrance animations. Meaning stadium shows like Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, Clash at the Castle, and SummerSlam have the same stage size as smaller shows like NXT. I don’t know how they would fix that, but it’s a needed change.

The sound effects and commentary are as solid as before. However, there is one sound issue. Each game has a jukebox, allowing players to control what songs they hear in the menu. They can choose between all the entrance tracks in the game, along with a handful of real songs that change each game. Tag team themes aren’t in the jukebox this year for some reason. So, anyone who wants to hear RK-Bro’s theme or The Judgment Day’s theme in the menu is out of luck. Also, Cody Rhodes’ theme isn’t in it either. Furthermore, they removed the ability to set the soundtrack songs as entrance themes. I don’t know why, it was a nice change from the generic tracks that have never been updated.

WWE 2K23 was reviewed on PS5.

WWE 2K23 took everything that filled 2K22 with promise and expanded on it, making them better than before. The time and effort put into things like MyGM and WarGames are evident. And the quality of MyRise can not be understated. Interesting stories filled with self-aware jokes and storylines directed toward 2K and WWE in a refreshing manner that hasn't been seen before. Though there are still issues and kinks to be worked out that prevent the game from being as great as its potential.
  • Interesting MyRise Stories
  • Improvements to MyGM
  • Quality match gameplay
  • Some outdated and lackluster models
  • MyFaction lacking purpose
  • Certain aspects of the presentation lacking grandeur

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