Published on March 25th, 2023 | by Paul Stuart
WWE 2K23 PS5 Review
Summary: A nice step-up from WWE 2K22 and with oodles of gameplay options, WWE 2K23 is the best modern console wrestling title to date.
U Can't C Me (in 2K23)
It’s near impossible approach a review of WWE 2K23 in a similar fashion to its predecessor, as WWE 2K22 followed a year off and arguably the worst sport game debacle in modern console history. In contrast, WWE 2K23 is but a subtle albeit noticeable improvement over a surprisingly strong and prior entry [given the circumstances]. Most obvious is the more polished look of WWE 2K23 versus WWE 2K22. Menus are easier to navigate, in-game video, character models and presentation improved, and significantly less graphical clipping during gameplay. Related, entrances and crowd are a little better looking, and controls less staccato. Thus, owners of WWE 2K22 will immediately notice that this year’s version looks and plays better.
There’s not much truly new here, but what is…is very worth mentioning. Showcase mode – done wonderfully via Rey Mysterio – is now told by John Cena. As a cool touch, it’s now told in reverse. In WWE 2K23, the goal is to beat different versions of Showcase focus Cena via his most classic opponents, with Cena acting as the storytelling heel throughout. Classic environments and wrestlers are picture perfect, and – much like WWE 2K22 – victories will unlock playable goodies (wrestlers, arenas, and customizations). WWE – for all its foibles – is always excellent an introspective historical storytelling – and the Cena showcase continues just that. Thus, for any fan of Cena face or heel, this an awesome mode to literally wrestle. Thankfully, there’s no cheesiness anywhere (a Cena faux pas at times).
MyRise made a terrific decision to offer a new option in 2023, that being to enter as a mid-career professional (‘The Legacy’) against tried-and-true legendary opponents. Grinding was never my thing, and I enjoyed something old…being told via something new. If you’re a build ‘em up kinda’ guy or gal, that’s here as well (‘The Lock’).
MyGM – already a strong component of WWE2K22 – introduces a whole new suite of GM’s, NXT 2.0 and WCW leagues, and oodles of novel match types. Everything just is so much smoother versus WWE 2K22 MyGM, and decision pathways (wrestler types and salaries, roster match to GM, logical rivalry builds, promo selections, post show rewards, etc.) better executed. As someone who rarely does a sport management mode in any game, MyGM is the rarest exception and because it does everything so darn well…while being fun.
If it’s 2K, microtransactions are inevitable parts of core gameplay. MyFACTION is just that, a card collecting mode that encourages tons of play and purchase to conquer daily/weekly challenges and building the perfect (i.e. most powerful and rarest card) roster. If this is your thing, 2K pulled out all stops in variety of cards available to unlock and options to customize said factions. As 2K provided the highest end version of WWE 2K23 to review, I was able to see first-hand how cool the Bad Bunny MyFACTION are in appearance and in ring application. Ditto some highest end cards from the get-go.
For Fire Pro Wrestling types hooked on customizing every aspect of a wrestler, this is the best WWE Creation Suite ever released. One can spend countless hours perfecting and testing created wrestlers with over 600(!) customizations. I’m confident these creations will be in the tens of thousands for sharing and comparing soon. Similarly, MyUniverse offers WWE diehards an opportunity to customize literally every aspect of their WWE 2K23 experience down to minutia. This isn’t for everyone, but – for those whom it is – lots to micromanage love.
Finally, War Games makes its first appearance, the wacky mode connecting two rings inside a steel cage. Like regular matches, War Games is fully customizable, with an option to wrestle as any of the combatants at any time. It’s quite impressive to watch how well CPU controlled wrestlers employ the War Games environs from grabbing goodies under and into the ring, using the top beams to leap, navigating across rings, and – of course – teaming up to produce maximum mayhem.
As always, rosters are absolutely amazing in volume and diversity. 2K repeats a stellar history of presenting old and new WWE talent in pixel perfect fashion, to include evolutions across eras when applicable. Every WWE 2K23 wrestler astonishingly looks and plays as they should and matches logically ebb and flow to further this authenticity (as wrestlers select appropriate moves and courses of action over a duration). WWE 2K23 is a joy to watch even with CPU versus CPU, and fans will snicker in seeing how on screen translates (albeit scripted) real life. Like MLB22, WWE 2K23 knows its audience! Classic WWE fans (ahem) will salivate over how many cool versions of their favorite old school rasslers are a few clicks away to embody on a PS5.
Soundtrack is very WWE…in that I’m too old for it, clearly. Audio, theme songs and crowd chants remain highlights.
Evidenced in a negative way in WWE 2K20, execution is everything in wrestling games…and WWE 2K23 shines and then some in thankfully the opposite direction. Matches and moves are rarely disjointed, and counters appropriate in timing window and execution. The new kickout (by simply flicking up the right analog stick in a timed window), is great, ditto the simple rope grab when in reach. Unlike WWE 2K22, reversals and desperation moves are now more naturally performed, likewise getting up ropes and in/out of the ring. Some more on-screen prompts would be nice, however.
There are some hiccups to patch. While the submission mechanic is cool, it struggles at being in stalemates for far too long at certain strength levels. This results in endless button mashing with no end in sight (until fatigue settles in and one wrester clearly advantaged), and no change in on-screen graphical hold to keep things interesting.
Second, challenges in Showcase, MyRise and/or MyFACTION are not specific enough in how to accomplish stated goals, and the tutorial and control schemes may ignore the requested moves entirely. More overt handholding to direct wrestlers to specific sequences – and the buttons to accomplish them – is needed. Related, additional on screen guides for the art of the im/possible based on wrestler type and/or available actions would go a long way. When and can I lift up someone? What about grabbing certain stuff from under the ring? Leaping from inside over the ropes onto a downed opponent? There’s also no way to seamlessly pick up a downed opponent which slows down in/out of ring dynamics, considerably.
Third and while MyGM improved, there’s still fuzzy and seemingly random logic on rewards systems throughout this mode. This, in turn, makes roster selection and decisions with them more trial and error than strategy. To reduce this, a semi-assist in explaining selection logic – and/or confirming what would be poor decisions – is needed. Branched logic explanations, if you will.
Next, targeting limbs is nice – and while happy the UFC combat style moveset gone from the PS4 to 5 transition – specific strike types are a bit too random. I would recommend a d-pad option to move across body areas and/or auto-adjust based on existing damage (e.g. auto target legs if already injured from existing movesets and/or submissions). On the other end of the spectrum, note that WWE 2k23 strikes are limited to heavy, light and hold combinations, with modifiers accordingly. Dodge and block, however, surprisingly work quite well. Storytelling trumps strategy, Jabroni’s.
Looking further, I’ve always been critical of the 2K match meter, and WWE 2K23 falls a bit short once again. I get that match diversity and back/forth improve excitement, but WWE 2K23 matches do not unfold in a fashion that encourages/rewards maximum excitement (star) factor. The CPU AI should be more deliberate in strikes and counters to force a human controlled player to work with it to improve match ratings and crowd enjoyment. Pop-up tips/reminders?! This, of course, is how real-life WWE matches are scripted (inasmuch winners/losers secondary to how a match unfolds).
Last and logistically, DLC/Season Pass purchasers should note that most of this content type not available at launch, and temper expectations accordingly. Still, expect 2K to update the game’s content (roster and storylines) throughout as these get slowly released.
It’s hard to have a strong opinion on WWE 2K23 noting the realities of WWE 2K22…and still no AEW title in sight. Still and with such a strong product at launch, it’s now clear 2K does not require Yuke’s to make a viable and enjoyable WWE offering. Thus, WWE 2K23 is a definitive win on the PS5, and will offer oodles of play and customization for any wrestling fan type.