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Game review: WWE 2K23 (Xbox Series X)
Mon, 20th Mar 2023
FYI, this story is more than a year old

After the disastrous release of WWE 2K20 a few years ago, developer Visual Concepts knew it needed to revamp its wrestling franchise in order to win back the rabid wrestling fan base. Thankfully, last year’s release of WWE 2K22 was a step in the right direction for the series.

A year later and we now see the release of WWE 2K23 for modern and past consoles. While WWE 2K23 doesn’t fully reinvent the wheel, it is still a solid foundation that will improve in the years to come.

The 2K game engine that Visual Concepts first improved in WWE 2K22 is still being used for WWE 2K23. This is by far the best-looking wrestling game I have played to date, especially if you are playing the game on either a PS5 or Xbox Series X console.

Visual Concepts has slightly altered the lighting this year to make the wrestlers look more realistic and true to life. Some people might like the contrast used in last year’s game, although the visuals are nearly identical between the two games.

The only thing that still annoys me about the game’s performance is that the loading times are still slow, even when I was playing the game on Xbox Series X. When you are playing the MyRise mode, it can take ages for you to get back to the main menu after you have finished a match or watched a brief cutscene.

Aside from the slow loading times, the game mostly performs well. WWE 2K23 can run in full 4K and 60fps without any slowdowns or issues. It is also impressive that the game still runs well when you have eight wrestlers in the ring at the same time!

In terms of controls, WWE 2K23 mostly retains the same winning gameplay formula that was first introduced in WWE 2K22. Each wrestler has combos for strikes and grapples in order to perform a ton of powerful wrestling moves.

If you choose to be a high-flyer like Rey Mysterio or AJ Styles, these types of wrestlers can springboard on the ropes to do impressive dives and flips. The one element I still don’t like about WWE 2K23, though, is that you still have to press and hold two buttons to execute signatures and finishers. If you remember the old WWE games, you only had to press one button for finishing moves.

That being said, WWE 2K23 caters to players of skill levels, thanks to the introduction of more game slider options. Thanks to the game sliders, you can make the game easier or harder depending on your own personal gaming preferences. I usually like to make the AI use fewer reversals because the game can get boring if they keep hammering you with moves all of the time…

One new thing that WWE fans will love is that WWE 2K23 introduces an all-new match type. If you watched last year’s Survivor Series, you will be glad to know that the War Games match has been added to a WWE video game for the very first time.

If you’re unfamiliar, this is a team-based match full of weapons and mayhem. The best part about this match is that it has two rings surrounded by two steel cages! Much like the match itself, War Games in WWE 2K23 can get very intense when lots of wrestlers are in the two rings at the same time. You can ram wrestlers into the cage or even bring in weapons for more chaos and excitement.

If you liked the game modes in WWE 2K22, many of them return in WWE 2K23. Last year the 2K Showcase mode focused on the career of Hall of Famer Rey Mysterio. This year it’s different because it concentrates on John Cena’s 20-year wrestling career. However, there is a big twist because you are playing not as John Cena as you are controlling his opponents instead.

This changeup is great, in my opinion, because you get to play as many different wrestlers, and the gameplay doesn’t get too repetitive. Not to mention you control a variety of legendary wrestlers like The Undertaker, Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar and more. You even get to unlock new variants of wrestlers and old-school PPV stages too.

The game’s main mode is still MyRise, where you get to play as a new wrestler that has entered the WWE for the very first time. There are two different storylines this year as you get to play as a female wrestler and a male wrestler with separate career paths.

As the female wrestler, you play L.J., who is the niece of a famous WWE legend named Justine. L.J. tries her best to live up to her Aunty, although there are jealous wrestlers in the locker room who think she’s got an advantage in the business due to nepotism. You have to prove the doubters wrong.

When you play as the male wrestler, you are stuck with a gimmick where you are called ‘The Lock’. WWE management wants you to play this particular character, but your male wrestler wants to break out and use his own gimmick instead.

MyRise is lengthy as always, as the matches are long and there is a ton of dialogue to sift through. Sometimes the matches can get annoying, too, because the AI will counter your moves, or prevents you from pinning your opponent in multi-man matches. That being said, both MyRise modes should give you many hours of gameplay.

The other two game modes in WWE 2K23 are MyFaction and Universe mode. MyFaction is an online-only mode where you collect random card packs of wrestlers and use them in multiple matches. The random nature of collecting wrestlers can be a pain because there’s a chance you may not even get to play as your famous wrestler. You can, however, keep grinding in this mode to collect exclusive wrestlers not available in the other base game modes.

WWE Universe mode is where you can play and plan your own TV shows and PPV events. You can either play as anyone you want or just follow the career of only one wrestler. There are many cool cutscenes to witness, plus this mode is basically endless, so you can play for as long as you want.

The creation suite is also back, and it’s better than ever. If you want to create wrestlers from other companies like AEW, you can do so. For those of you that aren’t skilled enough to create your own good-looking wrestlers, you can download other people’s creations for free online instead.

Although WWE 2K23 is a mostly enjoyable video game, the one main thing it suffers from is that it’s outdated already. The game doesn’t feature the new commentary team that includes the likes of Kevin Patrick or Wade Barrett. Other wrestlers like Sami Zayn have their own heel gimmicks instead of his new babyface turn from this year.

Another thing you need to know is that some wrestlers aren’t yet available to play in the launch roster. If you are looking to play as Bray Wyatt, you will have to wait until later this year to buy him as DLC, along with many other wrestlers.

WWE 2K23 is still a fun game as it mostly retains many of the gameplay and modes that made WWE 2K22 an enjoyable game. Not to mention the inclusion of War Games is sure to put a smile on any wrestling fan’s face. Sure, it feels outdated sometimes, but this does not dampen what still is a decent wrestling title.

Verdict: 8.5/10