It’s hard not to tear up while reliving Rey Mysterio’s iconic Wrestlemania 21 match against the late Eddie Guerrero, as retold during WWE 2K22’s Showcase mode.
This is more than just a sincere display of the WWE’s admiration for Guerrero. It celebrates the match itself in great detail, allowing you to reenact specific moments, like the hurricanrana reversal that pushed Mysterio to victory in the end. But even though this mode is packed with nostalgia, emotion, and detail, it’s marred by a clunky control scheme and finicky AI, resulting in a wrestling video game experience that delivers a punishing amount of fun — but just as much frustration.
WWE 2K22 is 2K Sports’ first mainline WWE game since 2019. Following the abysmal reception to 2K20 that year, 2K took an extra year to make sure bugs were squashed and character models looked the part while preserving the fun factor. The team behind the latest release has addressed most of these issues this time around, and while 2K22 is significantly better than its predecessor, the bar was absurdly low.
The extra year has certainly helped, but ultimately, the final product still feels undercooked.
It’s clear developer Visual Concepts did its homework for WWE 2K22. The main thing that stands out is the game’s enhanced presentation, with character models, authentic animations, and careful attention to small details that add up to a more immersive experience.
The clearest example of this is Rey Mysterio’s new Showcase mode, which allows you to replay some of his most important matches over the years. It also includes a list of objectives that mirror the events of the actual contest itself. For instance, an unforgettable early moment sets the tone for Mysterio’s Summerslam 2009 Intercontinental Championship match against Dolph Ziggler. 2K22’s version requires you to whip Ziggler into the corner, which leads into Mysterio countering, jumping up to the top turnbuckle, and performing a backflip onto his opponent, just like the real match. The accuracy in the flow of the matches, along with the costumes, and venues are top-notch in this mode.
Superstar entrances in WWE 2K22 are also nearly identical to their real-life counterparts, showcasing each wrestler’s mannerisms and quirks, like Brock Lesnar jumping up and kicking while pyrotechnics go off in time. That meticulous authenticity carries over to the matches themselves. For instance, a medium-build superstar can run into a smaller opponent to knock them down, while a larger adversary will only stagger. It’s little features like these that keep you engaged.
Not all of WWE 2K22’s features nail the landing. The biggest change this time around is a totally revamped control system. Instead of the traditional formula that features grappling stances with the same button inputs across all wrestlers, 2K22 utilizes a combo system similar to a fighting game.
This significantly alters the pacing of each match, as combos can sometimes require upwards of four button inputs while pushing in a particular direction with the left stick. Since not all superstars have the same combos, it can be hard to remember how to properly execute specific moves. Other times, a move you were sure you performed properly comes out as something else entirely. Frequent visits to the combo menu during a match negatively impact the overall pacing.
Newcomers may enjoy this new system since button-mashing is far more effective than in previous entries. But veteran players will probably find the new combo mechanics difficult to get used to.
To make matters worse, the hitbox registration is terrible, resulting in a huge portion of missed aerial attacks, or even simple strikes. Connecting with an attack — even on an enemy who is lying face down on the ground — often feels like a dice roll, which is immensely frustrating. Other times, an enemy will seemingly teleport into place, allowing you to connect with a diving attack, making it feel inconsistent across the board.
WWE 2K22 also comes up short when it comes to matches with more than two competitors, whether it be a tag-team contest, Fatal 4-way, or a Royale Rumble. During these matches, the targeting system struggles to keep up, often causing you to attack the wrong opponent. It’s almost impossible to win tag-team battles because your opponent’s partner always comes in and breaks up a pin, meaning you have to knock them off the apron before attempting to finish the match. But since the targeting system is so godawful, you’ll probably struggle to knock down the tag-team partner before attempting to deal with your opponent. It’s a mess.
Underneath all of these issues is repetitive commentary that drags the player out of the experience. The exact same lines are used during entrances over and over, which makes them hard to watch more than once, despite the impeccable animations.
It’s tough to talk about WWE 2K22 without discussing the WWE itself. The wrestling promotion has let go of a lengthy list of talent in recent years. To pad out the selection, 69 of the 201 superstars are Legends, proving that WWE has a serious problem with its current roster. This has no doubt impacted the development of the game, as some superstars were released as early as 2022, causing Visual Concepts to work on the game until the last minute. While the developers aren’t to blame, it’s something players should be aware of, especially since the superstar selection is always such a major component with these games.
This also means that some iconic Rey Mysterio matches are omitted from Showcase mode due to certain superstars no longer being part of the WWE roster. For example, you’d think you’d get to relive Rey Mysterio’s famous Heavyweight Championship win at Wrestlemania 22, but since Kurt Angle isn’t in the game, that entire match is skipped, which is a shame.
One thing that will likely rope longtime series fans back in is the inclusion of a proper MyGM mode, which has been absent in recent installments. It allows you to run the WWE brand of your choice, drafting superstars, overseeing their morale, and managing a budget to come out on top. This allows you to create dream matches, with a satisfying element of strategy throughout.
WWE 2K22 is a major improvement over its predecessor, but given just how awful the last entry was, there wasn’t anywhere to go but up. It feels slightly more approachable than recent installments, with a simplified combo system replacing the complex, yet immersive gameplay from the past. The visuals are better than they’ve ever been, and while that will likely grab your attention, the same cannot be said about the awful hit-detection, limited roster, and repetitious commentary.
WWE 2K22 will launch on March 11. Inverse played the PS5 version for this review.
INVERSE VIDEO GAME REVIEW ETHOS: Every Inverse video game review answers two questions: Is this game worth your time? Are you getting what you pay for? We have no tolerance for endless fetch quests, clunky mechanics, or bugs that dilute the experience. We care deeply about a game’s design, world-building, character arcs, and storytelling come together. Inverse will never punch down, but we aren’t afraid to punch up. We love magic and science-fiction in equal measure, and as much as we love experiencing rich stories and worlds through games, we won’t ignore the real-world context in which those games are made.