The annual release of 2K’s WWE video game franchise is set to release on March 17, 2023, and on January 28th, I was invited to a special press event in San Antonio, Texas, to try out WWE 2K23 and attend the 2023 WWE Royal Rumble on behalf of MP1st. After spending a few hours with the game, I think fans should be really excited about the progress Visual Concepts Austin has made entering into their third fully developed release of the WWE 2K franchise.
A New Kind of War
After taking a year’s hiatus, WWE 2K22 was a return to glory for the wrestling simulator, delivering on many of the aspects of a wrestling game fans had grown to love. With WWE 2K23, Visual Concepts is coming back “Even Stronger” as the game’s slogan suggests. This is definitely going to be the best-looking wrestling game ever made, and the gameplay is every bit as smooth as the graphics are gorgeous.
We had access to a select part of the roster and features, and the big one people will be excited about is War Games. In War Games, there are two wrestling rings side by side, surrounded by a steel cage. You can compete in 3v3 matches or 4v4, though in this build, we could only do 3v3. One wrestler for each team starts in the ring, and, like the Royal Rumble, other wrestlers will come to the ring one at a time during set periods. This can create disadvantages. However, the match can only end once all participants enter the ring.
This game mode is fresh and exciting enjoyed it quite a bit. I had a few matches, each being from the men’s and women’s divisions, and it was pretty interesting to see how the AI worked with me and against me. The gameplay was smooth, even with all the extra screen space needed to see what was going on in two different rings. Upon entering the ring, I was given the choice of bringing weapons into the ring, as the match had no disqualifications. This is a fantastic new addition to the WWE 2K franchise, and I have a feeling people will love it.
One of my favorite things to do in WWE 2K22 was have Royal Rumble matches on stream and sit back and commentate on them. I would download a lot of created wrestlers from all sorts of realms of entertainment like Marvel, DC, anime, etc., and that feature is back in WWE 2K23. I was able to play a few 10-man Royal Rumbles with the 11 male superstars we had available in this build, and they were every bit as fun as they were in last year’s title. The 11 male superstars we had access to were Roman Reigns, Edge, Seth Rollins, Bobby Lashley, Brock Lesnar, Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, Cody Rhodes, Bron Breakker, Drew McIntyre, and the cover superstar for WWE 2K23, John Cena.
Speaking of John Cena, he Showcase series is back in WWE 2K23, and this year, it focuses on the career of John Cena. Last year’s title featured some of the greatest matches of Rey Mysterio Jr’s career, and beating them and achieving all the objectives would unlock new gear for Rey, and the same will be true with John Cena in WWE 2K23. One area of difference, though, is that you will not have to play as only John Cena. Because John Cena understands the complex relationship he has with the fans and how some love him, and others hate him, in this year’s Showcase series, fans will actually be able to fight against John Cena in some of his most legendary matches.
For this build, we relived the one-of-a-kind match at ECW One Night Stand on June 11th, 2006, against Rob Van Dam. Completing the match unlocks Rob Van Dam himself as a playable character as well as other things that we weren’t able to see at this time. The Showcase was not my strong suit in WWE 2K22, as I had my brother Eric ghost-play them for my videos because he is really good at the game, so I struggled a little with it. In the Showcase mode, you have to meet specific objectives to advance the story of the match, and there were 17 to reach in this match. Of course, because I was busy trying to hit specific moves at specific times, I ended up taking a beating, ultimately losing my match. But this is one of the biggest challenges that fans look forward to with this game.
What I love about Showcase is that it shows John Cena as a narrator. There is a video of him talking about the match, and when you reach certain “checkpoints” in matches, it actually cuts to real footage of the match itself seamlessly. Showcase promises to let fans relive many of John Cena’s most famous matches, so I have a feeling we’ll be seeing some legendary moments with The Rock, HHH, Edge, Kurt Angle, Sean Michals, and many more. I doubt we will get to relive the legendary match against CM Punk, though. Just a hunch.
We also had the opportunity to do more basic 1v1 matches. These are not the only game modes that will be available in the game, but it was quite a bit to work with for an early build ahead of the full release. WWE and 2K have a fun process they go through in revealing all of the wrestlers that will be in the game along with their ratings, so we didn’t get to see the entire roster and were asked not to discuss any character ratings, but I will say when Seth Rollins stopped by the event, he didn’t seem too please with his rating compared to his wife, Becky Lynch.
Other female wrestlers we could use at the event included Lynch, Bayley, Charlotte Flair, Bianca Belair, Asuka, Ronda Rousey, Liv Morgan, Shotzi, Rhea Ripley, and Shayna Baszler. For some reason, the build did not allow me to do a Royal Rumble with the women, but I got to play some War Games, which was great.
One of the things that stood out to me while playing was just how much care and effort went into the animations. The entrances were incredible, and it felt like we were watching real life, not a video game. I also noticed that many of the ring’s motions and mannerisms were succinct. This stood out to me in a singles match between Bianca Belair and Rhea Ripley. Hair can be tricky in video games, and Bianca Belair is known for her signature braid, which is almost as long as she is tall, and it moves to perfection. I also noticed how accurate the look of disgust on Rhea Ripley’s face was when I kicked out of a pin. It was quite impressive.
Speaking of pins, one of the most notable changes I noticed in the gameplay itself was the pin break minigame. Flicking up on the right analog stick will now help you break out while being pinned, although there is an option in the menu to switch to the legacy option from WWE 2K22.
I was a bit rusty with my gameplay and wished I had performed better, but I had a blast playing the game and being a part of the event. 2K invited some of the biggest WWE Superstars to the event, and we got to meet and chat with Seth Rollins, Bobby Lashley, Drew McIntyre, Omos and The New Day Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston, and Big E. I am happy to say Big E was looking great on his way to recovering from neck surgery last year.
At the Royal Rumble itself at the Alamodome, we got to sit in the press box and watch Cody Rhodes and Rhea Ripley with their respective Royal Rumble matches, as well as Roman Reigns defending his World Title against Kevin Owens. After the event, I participated in a post-show press conference where we got to hear from Rhea Ripley, Bray Wyatt, Cody Rhodes, and Paul “Triple H” Levesque. The whole night was a dream come true as I have always wanted to attend the Royal Rumble.
WWE 2K23 will be released on March 17, 2023, with a few different versions (which you can read about here).
I would like to thank MP1sts.com for collaborating with me on this project. My name is Jason Joseph, and I am a 2K Nextmaker known as JayShockblast on YouTube. All accommodations for the event were provided by 2K.