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‘WWE 2K23’ Puts You Right In The Middle of The Action – Review

The pandemic had significant effects on the life of every single person around the world, but only wrestling fans will know its particular story related to WWE video games. After the controversial release of WWE 2K20, the studio knew it had to implement big changes immediately. And while it was expected due to the complicated state of the world, it was still hard to see WWE 2K21 officially canceled.

But in March of 2022, two and a half years after the release of the previous title in the series, WWE 2K22 came to change what we knew about wrestling games. By introducing a new gameplay system and physics mechanics, the game had fans excited to come back to the ring.

(Courtesy of Visual Concepts)

A year later, WWE 2K23 continues the good streak, giving members of the WWE Universe (as the company has designated its fan base) a chance to simulate what it is like to be one of their favorite WWE Superstars. Some of the mechanics that have been changed this time around include the pin system, where you have to make two bars meet each other in order to allow your Superstar to stay alive in a match. It takes some time to get used to the new timing necessary to survive, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll realize that with a good amount of skill, kicking out turns out to be relatively easy. The possibility relies on the player more than previous iterations, where you merely had one or two chances to interrupt a pinfall attempt.

Before getting into some of the other specifics that make 2K23 a wonderful addition to the franchise, it is worth pointing out how this year’s Showcase is a continuously entertaining experience. John Cena takes the spotlight, in a look at the career of one of the best to ever lace up a pair of boots. From Ruthless Aggression to facing the Tribal Chief for the Universal Championship at the 2021 edition of SummerSlam, the Showcase allows the player to go through some of Cena’s most iconic matches. Some of them, of course, with a career as long and successful as Cena’s, has too many highlights to compile them all in a single game.

All of the rivalries explored in the Showcase make sure to contain two matches between Cena and each opponent, so fans can see how much things changed over time. The collection is not ordered chronologically, so you never know what you’re going to get as long as you don’t go back to the main menu as you play your way through the experience. The most notable difference that makes this Showcase stand out from the ones that came before is that this time around, the player must fight against the featured Superstar, instead of playing as them. That’s correct! It doesn’t matter if you’d rather be The Rock, Brock Lesnar, or Edge, you’ll have the same opponent every time: the legendary John Cena.

(Courtesy of Visual Concepts)

Before every combat begins, the man himself appears in a brief video introduction that gives historical context to the match, and elaborates on what they meant to him personally. The videos do a fantastic job of making the Showcase more emotional and gives an understanding as to why these particular moments are considered some of the Superstar’s greatest. Not only do they help at locating where the fights took place, but it also allows fans to look back and think about the legacy Cena will leave behind when he decides to retire. Love him or hate him, you must admit that WWE wouldn’t be what it is today if a young man in red shorts hadn’t walked down the ramp and screamed about how he had “Ruthless aggression”.

Similar to the other Showcases at the center of WWE games, the video game action transitions into a recording of the matches as you continue to complete objectives. The comparisons evidence how similar the arenas are to the ones seen in WWE programming and a major detail that was improved takes center stage, literally. For years, WWE games featured a standard size for all of the venues you could fight in, regardless of how big or small they are in real life. For the first time in the history of the franchise, that has been updated, and every arena has a very distinct design to it.

WWE 2K23 - Gameplay
(Courtesy of Visual Concepts)

If you want to play in a sold out football stadium for WrestleMania, your character will take a longer time walking up the ramp, and the stage you get to is considerably larger than that of a regular weekly show. Similarly, the stadium used for the 2021 edition of SummerSlam is also replicated in 2K23, including the massive screens behind the audience. While it all might sound like a small detail not related to the gameplay, it is certainly pleasant to look at, after years of games where huge arenas are simply crammed into small stages due to they limitations of other consoles and the technology used while designing the game itself.

One of the features that came back for the fighting mechanics was the ability to aim the direction of where your opponent will fall after an attack. Whether you’re applying a suplex or a chokeslam, you can move around while your opponent is being thrown, a feature that was present in WWE games many years ago, but had been removed as of late. You can also store up to three finishers, and the momentum generated to get them is obtained at an even pace. In a positive change that will make fans of extreme combats happy, lighting a table on fire won’t take a finishing maneuver from your character anymore.

With an emotional Showcase, updated gameplay, and new arena designs, WWE 2K23 is a powerful addition to the franchise, allowing fans to step into the squared circle under their own terms. Through countless combinations of match rules and Superstars, it is your turn to fight for your championship of preference. And, hey, if you managed to grab the pre-order edition, you can now make Grammy award-winning artist Bad Bunny have a match against The Undertaker. Your ring, your rules, your own WWE Universe.

WWE 2K23 is now available for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X and Windows.


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