WWE 2K23 Review

WWE 2K23 by developer Visual Concepts and publisher 2K Games-Xbox Series X review written by Nick with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Last year saw the WWE 2K series bounce back after a rough outing with its 2K20 release. It was an acknowledgement from 2K Games that in taking another year to make sure they got it right, that there was plenty of room for improvement. This year’s release of WWE 2K23 builds upon that foundation from last year’s iteration and maintains or improves the game in just about every way possible. Last year the team pushed a theme of how 2K22 hit different, and this year the team of “Even Stronger” resonates just as well.

First of all, WWE 2K23 does what the series always seems to – which is to provide a ton of modes and options. That has almost never been an issue, and Visual Concepts continues to provide that here in the latest release. What is even more impressive however, is how the various modes have even more depth than last year. I spent a ton of hours going through the myriad modes and options in 2K22, and it’s clear to me that I’ll have even more great content to work through in WWE 2K23 well after this review has gone live.

Let’s start with the cover star, John Cena. Several years ago WWE began to provide a ‘Showcase’ feature that let us get to know wrestlers like Stone Cold Steve Austin and Rey Mysterio better, putting you in their shoes (boots, colorful outfits, you get the idea) and play through some of their biggest matches ever. The script gets flipped a bit this year though, because instead of focusing on the star wrestler’s biggest wins and pulling their moves off, you are facing John Cena as he relives some of his biggest losses.

Simply put, I love this approach for a few reasons. One, it’s a completely fresh take on things, as Cena is more focused on the match, the crowds, the environments and not just tooting his own horn throughout. Sure, some of those losses happened in dubious ways (I mean, that’s a hallmark of the WWE), but it’s still nice to see a star willing to talk about failure and not just triumph. More than that, from a gameplay perspective, it’s just a lot more fun to get to play as different wrestlers. You might not get quite as good with that single wrestler in this scenario, but it’s a lot less of a grind and far more interesting how you get to switch it up every match.

Showcase is really all about telling the story of the chosen wrestler – in this case John Cena. For those new to the mode, it not only sets up the biggest matches – which you still want to win, but it intersperses the fights with a series of objectives. You might be asked to pull off a signature move in a specific location, or to pull off a series of light combo strikes, something specific to that match that actually happened. You can of course choose not to, but you won’t get ‘full credit’ and unlock all of the available rewards. One aspect of this mode that I’ve always enjoyed is how many times, these specific objectives set up a scripted scene that sees the wrestlers recreating what actually happened in the match, but then fading from the game video to replace it with actual footage from the fight. It’s always been a slick presentation feature, and it has only gotten smoother transitioning from archival footage to gameplay in WWE 2K23.

My one quibble with this year’s iteration of the Showcase mode is that there’s less of a documentary style feel to it than years past. John Cena’s very comfortable talking in front of the microphone by now, and he is given ample space to describe why a match was important to him in between matches as he reflects on his career. It’s engaging to hear, but in the past we’ve had the featured athletes adding commentary during the fight, so it’s not just the announcers and the cut scenes. It’s still an improved mode overall, but that’s one design change I don’t love, as I’d have enjoyed hearing more of Cena’s thoughts during the matches.

Another mode to call out due to his massive improvement is MyGM. This mode was okay last year, but this year it’s seen a lot of small tweaks that have seriously added to the depth here. Probably the biggest change is that instead of watching your story end after a single season, it’s more like an NBA 2K game in that you can run multiple seasons and try to cap them off with an induction into the Hall of Fame. I still find it a bit odd that there’s no online feature (or if there is, I certainly didn’t find it). While playing this mode with friends on a couch would probably be the ideal method, that’s just not an option available to everyone and I could see that as a bit of a letdown for some players.

There’s plenty of other modes, all of which have received various tweaks. You can wrestle online, take on some AI opponents, and participate in. The most open-ended mode is probably Universe, which is a sort of sandbox feature for diehard fans to create the WWE world the way they see fit. MyFACTION is the mix of fantasy sports / card collection that seems to be a monetization staple of every sports game that comes out anymore. You pull wrestlers from packs of cards, you acquire consumable items to upgrade them or extend the number of matches they can participate in, things of that nature. You then take your stable of wrestlers (both male and female) into various settings called ‘towers’ that pit your wrestlers against a variety of challenges. 

Completing these challenges earns you some currency that you can use to purchase more packs of cards. Of course, it’s a bit of a grind and you can always accelerate the process by spending more real money on the VC (virtual currency) and buy more packs that way. This mode’s got a few new flavors of challenge baked in there, and it’s always fun pulling a higher tier wrestler that you like, but I’ve never found it to be the most compelling mode and this year’s tweaks didn’t change that for me personally.

That being said, MyRISE is still where I have the vast majority of my fun. Say what you will about annual releases, microtransactions and all of the other things naysayers ding the 2K games for, I get a ton of enjoyment out of these RPG-like modes, and that holds true in WWE 2K23 as well. There’s been a shift in recent years to include female wrestlers into the mix, but it’s been a somewhat bumpy transition. At one point in the series, the divas felt simply bolted on. Then they tried to do a single story involving both male and female wrestlers in the disastrous 2K20 outing. Last year, they offered male and female careers, but they were essentially the same thing. I played as a ‘good person’ with one and a ‘heel’ with the other just to see some differences in there, but they were pretty miniscule.

WWE 2K23 offers two very distinct storylines, fully voiced options, essentially creating two stories to play through on your way to a (hopefully) Hall of Fame career. You play matches, make choices (which offers solid replay value for either of the two paths if you’re so inclined to see how the stories could play out differently) and continue to upgrade your superstars with new moves and abilities. The storylines on either path in MyRISE is pretty well-done, and I easily spent the bulk of my time here. It’s also worth noting that you can (finally) create a superstar and properly import them into this mode. I’m sure that I’ve been hardly alone in being annoyed by going through all of this work to create a specifically stylized character only to find out I have to do it all over again once I fired up my career mode, because there was no way to import them. That always seemed like a rather silly oversight and I’m glad to see that’s been remedied.

Last but not least, a bevy of modes and features are all well and good, but they don’t mean a whole lot if the in-ring action doesn’t deliver. Thankfully after the rough outing of 2K20, the developers spent a lot of time refining the controls and collision detection in last year’s release. As a result, I’d describe the gameplay of WWE 2K23 as more of a refinement than anything else. There’s a new option for kicking out of pins if you choose to use it (flicking the stick up during a sort of timed minigame as opposed to mashing a single button repeatedly). I personally use this method now myself, as it just feels slightly better than the previous button-mash method. Otherwise, the game’s controls are pretty similar to last year.

One on one fights still handle better than mass melees, but that’s some of the product’s charm I suppose as well. Still, there are times opponent selection or even hit detection during canned moves can look and feel a bit dodgy. Also, the game is not entirely bug-free.While nothing like what released a few years ago, I did have a couple of odd instances where things just did not seem to collide properly and wrestlers were doing moves against thin air instead of one another, but I can count the number of times that occurred for me on one hand. Match types from past years are here, but with the addition of a cool new one called WarGames, which I had a lot of fun with as well.


WWE 2K23 is the best in the series, and it avoids any major missteps along the way. Some of the modes received much improved death, while gameplay tweaks are minor but progressive. MyRISE is still the best mode in WWE 2K23, and I have and will likely continue to sink a ton of hours into it. It’s great to see WWE 2K23 building upon the solid foundation from last year and gives ample hope that the series will continue to shine.

Score 8.5 / 10



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