Wrestling and video games have a pretty epic history together. I remember one of the first video games I fell in love with as a kid was WWF Wrestlemania Challenge on the Nintendo Entertainment System, and my brother and I have spent years buying new games every year on our various consoles. As a lifelong WWE fan, I have had the privilege to witness Stone Cold Steve Austin beat Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 14, Mick Foley beat the Rock for his famous World Title win, and even recently, Cody Rhodes win the Royal Rumble in San Antonio (thanks to 2K). Wrestling is just in my blood.
That’s why a game like WWE 2K23 is so important to me. Yearly sports simulator titles are often a new coat of paint on some game modes and updated rosters, but when it comes to WWE video games, it kind of hits differently because of the entertaining nature of professional wrestling. Visual Concepts had a rough start transitioning from a support studio to Yukes on previous WWE titles to be the full-blown developer of the franchise, but it’s safe to say after taking a year off to really get things right, they came back gloriously with WWE 2K22, and it seems like everything is back on track.
For WWE 2K23, Visual Concepts promises they are coming back “Even Stronger,” and they have absolutely delivered on that promise. I had an opportunity to play the game when 2K flew me out to the Royal Rumble in San Antonio, Texas, in January while mingling with WWE Superstars Seth Rollins, Bobby Lashley, Omos, Drew McIntyre, and the New Day, so even before getting my hands on some early access to the full release, I knew I would be getting into another classic WWE video game and some fun new experiences gaming with my brother.
One of the biggest features of WWE 2K23 is the Showcase Mode, where you can relive some of the most amazing, classic matches in the storied career of cover star John Cena. Cena recorded a number of segments where he talks about the match while you play, and in a twist from last year’s Showcase featuring Rey Mysterio Jr, you actually get to play as Cena’s opponents in these matches. Completing all of the objectives in the match will allow you to unlock 15 different versions of John Cena throughout the years, including Visual Concepts’ take on a classic John Cena meme as one of your last rewards. I don’t want to be the one to spoil it, but it is well-played and should absolutely put a smile on your face.
Reliving all of these matches is amazing, as much as it has been there watching over the course of the 20 years of John Cena’s career. The final match of the Showcase is called “Council Of Legends” and, in a sense, introduces what could be WWE’s Mount Rushmore, as John Cena joins three of the biggest names from their era of WWE history in one classic fantasy match. John Cena has had so many classic rivalries with the likes of HHH, the Undertaker, Batista, Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton, The Rock, Edge, AJ Styles, Kurt Angle, and even more recently with your Tribal Chief Roman Reigns, but perhaps one of his most famous matches is what kicks off Showcase mode with his classic match at ECW One Night Stand against Rob Van Dam. I will never forget watching this live and seeing the fan with the “If Cena Wins, We Riot” sign. I have never believed a sign in the crowd more than that one!
Versions of all of those Wrestlers are unlocked by completing the objectives in the John Cena showcase, but in order to fully unlock what could be the largest base roster in wrestling history, you’re going to have to dip into other game modes. Winning matches will earn currency that can be used in the Superstar store to add tons of Legends like Bret Hart, Randy Savage, the Ultimate Warrior, and more.
- Related Reading: WWE 2K23 Season Pass, DLC Wrestlers and Release Dates Revealed
MyRise is basically story mode and gives you two choices that can send you down different pathways. The Lock and The Legacy each have different stories and let you start your career as a rookie and work your way to being a legend. What’s great about this year is that you can actually bring created Superstars into the story and considering that the creation suite is as good as it gets in video games, and there are so many amazing creators uploading insanely cool wrestlers from every area of pop culture, this is going to be a must play mode for many people.
The Lock storyline lets you start your career as a premier athlete entering the WWE hype machine as you are groomed into becoming a generational talent.
The Legacy storyline has you entering as a second-generation Superstar facing all the pressure that surrounds following in the footsteps of greatness.
MyGM is the ultimate simulator and allows you to run your own brand in the game. There are seven GMs to choose from, with Adam Pearce, Sonya Deville, Stephanie McMahon, Xavier Woods, Tyler Breeze, Kurt Angle, Eric Bishoff, and Mick Foley as options. Each GM has its own strengths and weaknesses. For example, Xavier Woods can steal any non-title holder to your roster, and Stephanie McMahon can earn double the money. You can also choose to use your own custom superstar, which will make the first legend you sign free. This is a really fun game mode that lets you book your own shows and feel like you are an actual GM for whichever brand you choose. Options include Raw, Smackdown, NXT, and WCW.
MyFACTION is a game mode that does not really interest me, but it is very popular in the sports sim genre, and I totally understand why. It is similar to My Ultimate Team in the Madden franchise and relies on buying packs and developing and leveling up your roster. You can earn currency by playing matches and trading and selling cards, but many people use real money to buy packs as microtransactions. I am not anti-MTX personally and spent 20 bucks to open some packs and ended up with a Sapphire Diesel and Montez Ford to go with Emerald Matt Riddle and Chad Gable, which I believe would be a nice foundation to get started in this game mode. With that said, to play completely free it’s going to be a grind, and I don’t know if it is the right game mode for me.
Make It Your Own
The backbone of the WWE 2K series is in the Community Creations, and much like it was in WWE 2K22, the Creation Suite in WWE 2K23 is simply outstanding. Visual Concepts added over 600 new pieces to be used, creating Superstars, arenas, and everything else you can create, and if that’s not good enough, there are ways to upload your own creations to the game. I was able to upload my own logo from my YouTube channel that I can use on my wrestling attire in the game.
The best part about creations is that even if you don’t feel like you are personally very creative, there are tons of other fans all over the world creating things and uploading them to the servers. I was able to download a bunch of new versions of current WWE superstars as well as legends for the past or even top stars from other promotions through Community Creations, and the game has barely been available to anyone outside of the media! I am looking forward to adding tons of pop culture characters and having them battle in Royal Rumbles soon.
As far as game modes are concerned, the biggest addition to WWE 2K23 is in the form of War Games, and I think people are going to love this. You can do matches that are either 3v3 or 4v4 and pick your team and battle it out across two rings side by side, surrounded by a steel cage. Once all your wrestlers are in the ring, the first team to gain a pinfall wins. They did a really great job with this, and I think people are really going to love playing War Games online.
I think anyone that gets into a season sports simulation-style game understands what they are getting. You are paying to have the shiny new toy with some new bells and whistles and the hope that the changes made are enough to be worthy of your purchase, and I believe that is something Visual Concepts has accomplished with WWE 2K23. They have made the best of their time and really delivered on a beautiful game that was well thought out and created with reverence for their community of fans and the WWE Superstars they are putting in the game.
My experience in San Antonio was very unique because I had the opportunity to meet and interact with a bunch of the team at Visual Concepts as well as see some of the Superstars experience the game themselves. One of my favorite memories is sitting behind Seth Rollins as he went through the limited roster we could play with and finding out that his wife, Becky Lynch, had a higher rating than him. I also really enjoyed watching Bobby Lashley’s kids play against each other, with one of them being their father and the other being Brock Lesnar.
This is what these games are all about and why I believe that if you are a fan of WWE, there has never been a better time to jump in the action in WWE video games. WWE 2K23 is outstanding, and I think there is really something here for everyone.
- Updated roster with lots of new wrestlers.
- New Game Mode: War Games is an awesome addition.
- Even better Creator Suite – Improved and bigger than ever,
- John Cena Showcase.
- The UI is a big improvement over last year’s, even if it remains similar in many ways. Colors and art go a long way.
- Like most sports games, sort of acts as a small update from the previous game
- Spoilers – Action Figure John Cena seems to only be in My Faction
Reviewed by Jason Joseph,(JayShockblast on YouTube), who is also part of the 2K Nextmaker content creator program. Review copy provided by the publisher. You can read MP1st’s review and scoring policy right here.