It's clear from the jump that WWE2K22 is a video game with a lot to prove.
After 2K20 was roasted alive by critics and fans alike and with the cancellation of 2K21 amidst a sea of developers departing the series, it seemed that the very franchise was naught but cinders, therefore all hopes were rested on WWE2K22 being something of a phoenix that would rise from the ashes.
And in short, this is a far superior game than WWE2K20 and there's a lot to enjoy for fans of the series thanks to a radical graphical overhaul, improved grappling mechanics and a bevy of much-requested modes on offer, however, I can't in good conscience call this a brilliant game overall.
That's not because the game isn't fun, far from it as I've had a mostly pleasant ride, but all of the enjoyment is done under the glare of the same trappings that have bugged the franchise for years now, namely terrible writing and voice acting, a woefully out-of-date roster, and of course the sickening presence of microtransactions and pre-order glut that feels more desperate than ever.
*NOTE* The Online section of the game wasn't live when writing this review so will not be covered.
7. UP - The New Grapple System Actually Works!
Ok so a lot has changed when it comes to how this game plays, with the devs re-tooling the engine (I won't say rebuilt as there are clearly animations that have been carried over from prior games) as well as the graphical and lighting engine, and I am pleased to announce that for the most part, this is a truly excellent revision.
Gone are the supremely stiff controls of the past, the overtly gimmicky mini-games, and the absolutely pathetic stamina system that would see your wrestler gas out in seconds. In its place is a system that feels robust, rewards timing, patience and also knowing when to cool off on the offensive.
Stringing together light and heavy attacks to form combo chains allows players to conduct a symphony of pain, and being able to cap these off with a heavy grapple can make for some truly exciting moments. Being on the receiving end and dodging at the right moment to then tackle your opponent to the floor is a blast, and I love how moves are framed with cinematic angles to highlight their impact.
It all feels very immediate and hard-hitting, and plays up to an arcade mentality that many have been clamoring for.
However, there are of course some issues here and there. The guessing game "combo breaker" in which you must guess whether your opponents grapple will be light or heavy in order to escape is good in theory but in practice, it's not very clear when the window for input opens, and as the game mentions that more than one press will void your escape attempt, it can be confusing to see your Superstar getting annihilated over and over. All while you do nothing to help, for fear of canceling your own button press.
Alongside this, blocking and dodge rolls seem to be less useful than simply trying to reverse an opponent's moves as reversals leave your foe open to a counter-attack, and the rolling animation isn't quick enough to stop your opponent from just moving up and striking again.
Also for some weird reason, some running attacks don't actually take down your foe and instead stun them with an animation that ends quicker than it takes for you to get up from the mat, which is hardly ideal!
Still, the overall changes to gameplay are very welcome and it's more than good enough to want this to be the status quo going forward.