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    Tuesday, March 22, 2022

    Play Henry: The Official WWE 2K22 Review

    WWE 2K22 feels like a whole new game while still keeping the all-familiar aesthetic that has existed since the Playstation days of WWF SmackDown. It’s not just a fresh coat of paint but a minor overhaul that shies away from the mess that was WWE 2K20, but also distances itself from WWE 2K19. Let’s take the game apart in a discussion between myself and Smark Henry Editor-in-Chief, Romeo Moran.

    What are your first impressions of the game?

    Ro Moran: I hadn’t played a WWE 2K game since 2K19, so I will say that a two-year break from the whole thing was welcome. My favorite thing about it is the redesigned controls, which we’ll get to in a bit. It feels like there’s a lot more control in the back-and-forth flow of a match, and you’re not just sitting there waiting to reverse a move and take over. Wrestling games have always strived to be fighting games more than actual simulations of wrestling matches, and I think 2K22 found that right direction.

    Migz Llado: The presentation felt very fresh. Who knew that changing camera angles would breathe new life into this game. I’m still a little iffy with the controls but they do their job in changing the dynamics a lot. I don't think I share your opinion fully in terms of the new controls. They're a chore to learn, but yeah, once you get the hang of it, you'll feel right at home.

    Let’s talk about the controls. What about it did you like and not like?

    ML: I honestly dislike that we have so many defensive buttons this year. We have R1 for dodge. We have Triangle for a reversal. We have combo breakers. Honestly, I feel it could have been simplified, although maybe this is just me missing the L2 and R2 grapple vs. strike reversals of the old days. I also miss single-button finishers, paybacks, and comebacks. Yes. I'm that lazy.

    RM: Like I mentioned, I absolutely loved that it was more interactive than what we’ve been used to for the past few years. I appreciated that offense was centered around light and heavy attacks, but that’s honestly me preferring strike-based action in pro wrestling. The result is matches that feel like a real fight, with well-timed button presses changing the momentum and some unpredictability being rewarded (while still being equally satisfying, no matter what you use).

    We mentioned that the presentation had a huge overhaul this year. What are your thoughts?

    ML: As I previously said, the new camera angles are very in-your-face so they feel more realistic. I got the impression that it was very similar to the weekly shows. Even the new in-match camera cuts felt fresh. The entrances looked amazing. It was a step in the right direction.

    Meanwhile, I’m not sure what to think about the HUD. Up to now, I still get confused about the stamina bar, the dodge meter, the finisher meter, and all the things shown on screen. Call me an old dog, but honestly, I felt that 2K19 had the best HUD.

    RM: I’ll agree with the HUD not making that much sense at first glance, but it does get intuitive when all the meters charge up and you’ve got a signature move or finisher ready to go. Camera angles feel like they’re the same ones from back in the day, so I didn’t feel like they were anything special.

    Of the new gameplay mechanics, which one stood out to you?

    ML: It has to be the new combo system. On one hand, it does feel confusing at first. However, it feels like a good replacement for the quick grapple system. Plus, it feels fluid so it feels like you’re actually playing a game. Is it bad that I’m kind of enjoying the gameplay because of this new system? It felt like I was playing something like Def Jam Vendetta.

    RM: Definitely agree with the combo system. As I mentioned before, it feels like a real fighting game that rewards some skill and thought. You can mash buttons or you can switch it up a little and it’ll still work. It does make the quick grapple system feel old and clunky—and it brings some weight to the marketing tagline of the game “hitting different.”

    Are there any complaints on your end? Were there things you didn’t like?

    ML: Admittedly, a lot. The stamina system seems like an afterthought in this game. I also miss the squash matches from 2K19. Now that I mention it, there are a lot of missing pieces from this game that existed in old games—the biggest one being Custom Entrances. Promos from Universe mode are also missing now. A few fun features like payback levels were streamlined this year, but honestly, I preferred the old ones.

    I also dislike the fact that skills have been removed. I like being able to differentiate my Superstars—like Andre the Giant not being able to do Top Rope moves. It seems OMG moments have been integrated as regular moves instead which is a weird change if you ask me.

    I don’t know if it’s just me, but I did not dig the physics of the weapons. I do miss the days of SmackDown vs. RAW 2011 so that’s a personal preference. But also, the weapon hit animations also felt slower than usual. I first noticed this during the Showcase mode match against Kane at Cyber Sunday.

    RM: My biggest complaint is one that the development team definitely had a hard time dealing with, which is the accuracy of the WWE roster. There doesn’t seem to be a uniform policy as to which released former WWE Superstars and current active roster members get to make it to the game—talents who have been released for quite a while are still there, while others aren’t, and some of those who are very much active haven’t made it. 

    While the extensive Community Creations suite does fix that, being officially in the game still goes a long way.

    The creation suite has always been a big thing for WWE games. How does this year fare?

    ML: As an intermediate custom creator, I like how streamlined everything feels. While I miss the old body morphing options, I do enjoy the new body types available this year. I also enjoy the new Persona system. It just feels natural as a template—although I wish they did more than just the look. Perhaps a gimmick system could’ve been implemented?

    The other modes seem the same so there’s really not much to talk about. A few options here and there were either adjusted or removed but they’re not really game-changing so it gets a pass from me.

    The biggest takeaway from all of this is the cross-platform support. Gone are the days when you’d see an awesome Xbox creator be exclusive. If you see it on the web, then it’s most likely downloadable on your end. And with Windows, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X available, the possibilities are endless.

    RM: I hadn’t gotten to explore Create-a-Superstar in WWE 2K19 as much as I did in previous generations, so everything is still kind of new to me. I love that there are so many different options for appearances, and I have to give props to the Persona feature for classifying looks and easily switching between them on the fly.

    People will complain about not being able to extensively create entrances, but I don’t mind it as it’s fewer steps to take in rounding out your custom Superstar. I do wish there was the ability to upload custom entrance themes, especially on PC, but I understand the limitations.

    Moving on to the meat and bones, with the various modes available now, what’s your favorite of the bunch?

    ML: While I’m really a MyUniverse guy, can I say that MyRISE really tops the list now? We’ve got branching paths. We’ve got interesting stories. Imagine the SmackDown vs. RAW Season Mode of the old days. Plus, we’ve also got both male and female stories.

    It’s still a bugger that there are a lot of models exclusive to this mode, but I guess, it is what it is. As a bonus though, you can check out WhatsTheStatus on Crossplay Community Creations—you’ll find he has some “interesting” uploads. 

    RM: MyRISE is a lot of fun, as it’s no longer just a strictly linear progression from chapter to chapter, which I really hated from 2K19. There are a lot of things to do, which I honestly haven’t gotten to explore too much yet, but I definitely appreciate the depth they put in.

    MyFACTION is also a fun way to throw on some quick matches without having to think too much about who you want to play as. It’s a great arcade mode for when you just want to get into a quick fight versus the AI and play as many different Superstars as possible.

    Let’s talk about the new MyGM mode. What are your impressions?

    ML: I’m a simple guy. Honestly, it’s a barebones mode if I had to put it simply. However, just because it’s missing a lot of wanted features, it doesn’t mean it’s not fun. Triple H’s weekly challenges help keep the game diverse. It throws you curveballs every now and then. “Oh? You wanted to book Keith Lee this week? Not a chance.” It keeps you on your toes and helps balance your booking skills.

    Is it what we expected? Definitely not. But, it has some interesting features that I think could be hashed out once WWE 2K23 or WWE 2K24 comes out.

    RM: It’s a mixed bag, to be honest. I like that custom Superstars are usable and have popularity values that are adjustable, which gets rid of the idea that they’re all enhancement talent. Booking three matches every week is both convenient and frustratingly limiting at the same time, though I’m glad that feuds don’t suddenly disappear if you end up not booking people against each other or at all.

    Like I said, there’s a lot that can still be improved in MyGM, but it’s not a bad first step—and there are bits of it that are an improvement from how the mode used to be in previous generations.

    What about MyFACTION? There doesn’t seem to be a lot of fanfare for the mode.

    ML: MyFACTION is surprisingly fun. It’s a bugger that we couldn’t get online faction vs. faction battles, but as a sucker for trading card games, it is surprisingly fun. Again, similar to MyRISE, it doesn’t help that there are exclusive characters to this mode. But, it does give the mode something to keep it different. I’m hoping there’ll be locker codes in the future that will give us updated attires or the likes.

    Personally, an improvement I’d like to see added is the ability to customize your faction’s looks. If I wanted to make something that would rival the nWo., I’d at least hope we wore matching colors, right?

    RM: I love MyFACTION for the reasons I stated above. The trading card aspect does seem to make it fun, and while I don’t think I’ve played similar modes in other 2K or sports games, I now understand why it’s a thing. I hope I won’t end up spending a lot for VC, though.

    Every year since 2K15, the Showcase mode has been a solid staple of WWE history in videogame format. How does this year’s edition fare?

    ML: Surprisingly good. It’s too short though. I wanted to see Rey Mysterio’s Royal Rumble win. I wanted to see the WrestleMania triple threat. But, it was still a fun ride. What I liked about it was how fighting game-ish it felt. You slowly made your way up to the bigger “bosses.” Rey’s size difference made a huge impact on the presentation. Starting from Eddie Guerrero, and passing through the likes of JBL and Kane, it felt like the challenges were bigger as you progressed.

    My only gripe would be with how the objectives were presented this year. I’m not sure if it was because of the new control scheme, or if the gameplay felt different, but I’ve talked to other people who had difficulties doing some of the objectives (I’m looking at you, backflip DDT).

    WWE 2K20 was well known for being a buggy mess. How does this year’s version compare to that?

    ML: The truth is, there are still bugs floating around. I’m on Playstation 4 and the game has crashed on me thrice since the last week—mostly during or after using the creation suite. Hopefully, they fix a lot of the issues which cause the crashes (I’ve heard some creation suite issues exist).

    Still, this is so far from the mess that 2K20 was. It’s playable. It’s fun. It’s new. So I’m not complaining and I’ve learned to separate my thoughts on this from my thoughts on the older games.

    The roster seems outdated as of the moment. What are your thoughts on this?

    ML: I am NOT complaining. It’s a good thing they were able to keep a good chunk of the roster—even the released ones. Sure, we might not have the likes of Adam Cole or Daniel Bryan anymore, but hey, at least Community Creations can fill that gap.

    I’m not a fan of the multiple Rey Mysterios—which I feel could’ve been relegated to alternate attires instead—though at least they’ve addressed the other stuff. I did wish the alternate attires from MyRISE and MyFACTION bled over to the other modes as well but hey, like I said, CC has got you covered.

    RM: I’ve already stated my thoughts on the outdated roster, and I understand that sometimes—or a lot of the time—it simply cannot be helped as WWE management does not have the development of the game as part of their priorities. I just hope that DLC simply fixes who is part of the official roster, and if you can’t take out people who have already been released, it’s better to add in new faces.

    I would love to see 2K keep 2K22 as an active service for at least two years, and simply patch in new members of the roster and updates to game modes. Sell the new updates as paid DLCs, like most successful MMO games do. I think it’s been proven that a yearly brand-new iteration just doesn’t work, especially for a company as volatile as WWE at the moment. 2K can do it for Civilization 6, which has been an active-service game for over five years; I’m sure they could do it for WWE 2K22 to keep fans happy.

    What are your final thoughts on the game?

    ML: WWE 2K22 is a step in the right direction. Just like 2K16 was, it puts the 2K series into a promising situation where some features are already interesting and will end up becoming a major part of future games. The combo system, MyGM, MyRISE, and MyFACTION are things that I would like to be developed moving forward.

    The missing features are noticeable in that, we’re used to a lot of these features so the removals seem baffling. However, if this happens to be your first time, or if you’re just looking for a fun game, I think 2K22 does its job well. The balance between arcade and simulation is well done. And hey, that's what's important right? Fun.

    I will still also recommend this game to both WWE fans and non-fans as it’s a solid game. If you’re looking for something like 2K19, then prepare to be disappointed. I think 2K22 sits in its own bubble, just as games like Here Comes The Pain and WWE 2K14 do.

    With that in mind, I am looking forward to this series evolving even further, but I do wish they’d bring back our favorite features in the future. WWE 2K22 is an awesome comeback for the series

    Migz’s Rating: B-

    RM: Despite the overall feel being fresher, dig a little deeper into the game and you can still tell that the whole idea is still half-baked, which is slightly disappointing considering that the WWE 2K series had been sent to the drawing board for almost two years. 

    It feels like everything had been pared down to make way for the reinvented control system, which isn’t a bad thing per se (it’s still a good bulk of the fun of the game), but the things that Migz mentioned makes WWE 2K22 feel a little incomplete and not fleshed out as much as fans would like it to be. Take for example MyGM, which was touted as a much-awaited return, but its current form leaves a lot to be desired and feels like the barebones foundation of what could’ve been a robust game mode.

    But—and this is an important but—WWE 2K22 feels like a lot of fun. It certainly helps that there was a pause between 2K20 and 2K22, as wrestling fans have been starved of a modern and up-to-date wrestling game. That’s what 2K22 has got going for it right now, and the timing is right. They will need to step it up, though, and I think that’s doable as long as they keep the WWE license. I’d recommend this to anyone who just wants to play a pro wrestling game the way they’ve always wanted to.

    Ro’s Rating: B+


    Note: Smark Henry would like to thank 2K Sports for providing the team with the early review copy.

    Miguel “The Migz” Llado is your resident Young Rock reviewer here at the Smark Henry offices. A lover of music, wrestling, videogames, and food, he lives his life tweeting his mind off (@the_migz) Instagramming random food items and locations (@tha_migz), and streaming videogames on Twitch (@the_migz) while he pursues his musical career via his YouTube channel (Migz Llado) and courtesy of his band The Mox (TheMoxRocks). You can also add him on PSN (MigzLlado) to show your WWE 2K (or any PS4) skills.

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    Item Reviewed: Play Henry: The Official WWE 2K22 Review Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Migz Llado
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