Early returns suggest the major comeback bid for the WWE 2K series from developer Visual Concepts with WWE 2K22 is a big success.
After WWE 2K20 in October 2019 was a major stumble that sent the series into a hiatus, WWE 2K22 promised revamped gameplay, an across-the-board improvement in game modes and the backing of next-generation consoles.
Reviews, expert opinions and more from around Tuesday's early launch window would seem to suggest the release has managed to match some of the stunning hype.
Ben Wilson at Games Radar, for example, gave the game 3.5 stars out of five and noted that the revamped gameplay side of things is where it really shines:
"Character weights come through in how the game handles, with Happy Corbin against Finn Balor feeling like a finely balanced battle of heft versus speed. The focus on grapples and combos edges it towards proper-fighter territory, and while it's still some way off No Mercy or Fire Pro on that front, timing counters and dodges (new and very welcome) form an important element of any bout."
That's a huge ordeal. Gone are the days of trying to work through a complex system of precise joystick turns and hitting on proper timing to counter submissions and all the other mechanics that felt out of date in the ring.
In are true fighting-game mechanics that straddle the gap between new and veteran players so much better. New players can pick up the game and quickly understand the three variations of attack and defensive moves and find some success, while experienced players can know specific button combos for more advanced actions.
That doesn't mean everything is perfect in the first year of a serious revamp. As Wilson noted, things such as tag-team mechanics and A.I. aren't perfect. But disastrous gameplay and glitches derailed the last entry in the series, so some expected hiccups on this front after a major rework aren't a momentum-ruiner.
Where this comeback bid really drummed up hype was in the vast majority of its new and refined game modes.
The 2K Showcase, for example, is back and honors the career of cover star Rey Mysterio. But Marcus Stewart of Game Informer says the mode doesn't hit all of the career-highs that it probably should.
"It would be unreasonable to expect Showcase to cover every major milestone in his career, but it's far less comprehensive than previous iterations of the mode and doesn't do his career justice," he wrote.
MyRise is the rebranded story mode where players can insert a created Superstar into the WWE and forge a career.
And it sounds like it hits on the necessary beats, letting created Superstars begin their careers at the WWE Performance Center before progressing to various broadcasts and locales.
Brandon Ridgely of Real Sport 101 says the mode is a highlight of the entire game: "Whether you find yourself fighting in Japan, Mexico, the WWE PC, NXT, Raw, or Smackdown any given week, your story is always progressing to new places based on the choices you make, and this freedom draws from some of the best wrestling Career Modes of history."
In addition to those two modes, 2K22 also brings back the much-requested MyGM mode, enabling players to take control of entire broadcasts and book matches before ratings determine how they're performing.
As expected, there's also a collection-based mode dubbed MyFaction that takes its major cues from card-based modes in other 2K games, as well as FIFA and Madden. It would appear to fall into the "as expected" column, giving players yet another option to spend time on while learning the new gameplay systems.
Overall, it sounds like WWE fans finally have a video game that matches other sports titles. In the past, it has been easy to describe games such as NBA 2K and Madden as offerings that offer games within games, so to speak. The amount of game modes and appeal to a broad spectrum of players means one could spend all of their time in a single mode, but other modes offer just as much depth.
Keep in mind Visual Concepts will only build upon the base experience from here. There are five planned DLCs, which will add Superstars to the roster, if not other unannounced bonuses. Typical patch fixes and more will surely release over time, too.
WWE 2K22 fully releases on Friday with standard, deluxe and nWo 4-Life Edition offerings, where players will then be free to dive into whichever game mode they fancy and submit their own verdicts as to the biggest sports video game comeback in recent memory.