There are seldom games I’m more excited about than WWE 2K22. I’ve been a fan of professional wrestling for over 30 years. WWE has been a staple of my life for so long, as have the games. When the last installment was so disappointing, it felt as though the video games were as dead and buried as The Undertaker’s opponents in a Buried Alive match. One thing became apparent as soon as I played WWE 2K22: wrestling was back. It felt more intuitive – more realistic. The flow of the matches feel authentic, and the fact that button mashing to break out of a pin is back made me so damn happy.
WWE 2K22 isn’t a huge step away from the gameplay of previous titles. The way you strike and grapple feels familiar, and moves can still be reversed. However, you have more control over your choices. Different moves flow into the next, and you have the option to break an opponents attack by countering their strikes or grapples with one of your own. Also, you can input combos that feel unique to the individual, and also mix up the match by adding a range of moves for each wrestler. In one of my earlier matches, I had an absolute war with Big E. Naturally, I picked “The Beast” Brock Lesnar. Two big meaty men slapping meat. I landed a range of suplexes and E retaliated with slams and big chops.
WWE 2K22: Past mechanics given new life
Big E managed to hit his finisher, The Big Ending, and I panicked because of the obtuse pinning mechanic from WWE 2K20. Thankfully, all I had to do was mash the A/X button to break out. As I did so, a green circle filled up and I kicked out at 2.9. It may seem like such a small thing, but having this mechanic back made the match feel winnable. Last time around, if an opponent hit a move and you didn’t press the button at the right time, the referee would get to three without either wrestler breaking a sweat. After landing an F5 and picking up the win, I had loved my first foray into WWE 2K22. This only got better when trying out other Superstars.
Playing as “The Genius of the Sky” Io Shirai made aerial assaults look amazing. Dropping Matt Riddle with a spear as Edge felt so satisfying. With such a huge roster of talent, the pairings all worked individually. Big guys controlled differently to the Cruiserweights, and so on. Whomever I took control of, they offered a contrast to the last. Visual Concepts has gone back to the drawing board and made sure WWE 2K22 does indeed “hit different.” It isn’t just a fancy tagline. There are big changes in the way the mechanics have been implemented, while still feeling like they used to.
Run this town
The main mode I got to play in the preview was MyGM. It’s a brand new mode that allows you to take control of one of four brands and make it the best it can be. RAW, SmackDown, NXT, and NXT UK can be ran by one of five GMs: Sonya Deville, Adam Pierce, Shane and Stephanie McMahon, and William Regal. You can also create your own, but I went with Regal. Each GM has a Power Card that can be used to make your brand special. Mine allowed me to sign a Superstar from the Legends for free. You start off with a budget that allows you to sign 8 Superstars in a draft. I went toe-to-toe with Shane McMahon who was recruiting for NXT UK. Once you get your talent, you can continue drafting or save your money to make the shows special.
Everything from better arenas; advertising; lighting and production; free agents and legends; Power Cards; and stipulations can be added to each week’s event. The better the production and performers, the more chance you have to become the number one brand. Building feuds leading up to a main event is vital to getting over with the crowd. Along with booking matches, promos can be scheduled. These promos can be used to call out Superstars, promote individuals, and build the fanbase. Triple H was there every step of the way to give tips to build a better show. You learn quickly how to make a great show, and it was a lot of fun learning the ropes.
WWE 2K22: Building your brand
There’s a lot packed into building your brand. Achieving great star ratings mean more fans will support your brand. More fans mean more money, and more money means more opportunities. After each show, you’ll get a report of how it went. Along with a break down of fan support and revenue, a social media feed pops up. Here, you can see what the fans would like to see, and what your talent is saying. Triple H also gives his input about goals he’d like you to achieve, and if completed, you’ll earn a Power Card. These can range from giving Superstars a day off to go to the spa, or improving a specific area of advertising or production.
Superstars will also email you asking for a shot in the main event, participating in a tag match, or asking for a rematch. Agreeing to their demands build their morale. Having Superstars continually wrestle each week wears down their stamina. Low stamina can lead to injury, meaning top guys can be out of action when you need them most. With so many factors to think about, MyGM is a deep mode that offers a lot of opportunities to run a brand. I didn’t get to spend hours with it, but the early stages were a lot of fun. Building NXT in the early stages got me excited to see how I could build my roster and put on some dream matches down the line.
WWE 2K22 feels like a more polished title, with gameplay that works much better than it did before. Visual Concepts has provided an authentic experience, and made some much-needed changes. Button mashing is a big plus. The way you break out or implement submissions is also much simpler. Other great features include hot tags and recovery in tag matches. It’s too early to say just how improved it truly is, but just from two hours with it, I’m confident this will be a much brighter outing for World Wrestling Entertainment.
WWE 2K22 is coming to PC, PS4, PS5, and Xbox on March 11th 2022.