WWE 2K23 is this year's entry to the sports entertainment simulation video game from Visual Concepts and 2K Sports. This early into this WWE 2K23 review, it's important to set expectations on what you're getting from this game: it builds upon the foundations that Visual Concepts has already laid out in WWE 2K22, deriving from it and improving almost all aspects. So, if you're just looking for assurance on whether or not you should get this game, there you have it. If you've played WWE 2K22, then you're getting mostly the same game with a lot of new bells and whistles. Down to its core, on the mat, it's the same game with arguably fewer bugs and glitches (but they're still there).
There are a lot of improvements spread out throughout different modes, like the massive improvement in MyGM, the online multiplayer addition in MyFACTION, wider selections in the Creation Suite, a much more flexible Universe Mode, and a much improved MyRISE. In this WWE 2K23 review, we're going to discuss each one of these improvements and how much they add to the full package.
WWE 2K23 Review: What is WWE 2K23?
WWE 2K23 is this year's version of WWE 2K, coming out on March 17, 2023, for the PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X, or earlier on March 14, 2023, for those who pre-ordered the Deluxe or Icon Editions of the game. This is the eighth WWE 2K game and just the third game that Visual Concepts solely developed without the help of former lead developers Yuke's. Following the critical failure of WWE 2K20, Visual Concepts skipped the 2021 version of the game to release WWE 2K22, a return to form that brought the series back on track. We reviewed that game last year and we've found the game, along with other game critics and fans, to be a good reinstatement of the franchise, laying down foundations for future versions of the game.
Now, WWE 2K23 is the first among those “future versions of the game,” and while many would bemoan the game for being a derivative of last year's version, that's not entirely a bad thing. Building upon things that already work is working smart, although we still lament how game developers are forced in this day and age to release yearly incarnations of the same video game. Thankfully, unlike most of the run-of-mill yearly games out there, WWE 2K23 shines by actually offering a wide selection of additions that make it worth picking it up even if you've already played last year's version. This game is especially great for those who skipped last year's outing, as they get the better version of “the same game” this year. Speaking of additions, let's go discuss the details.
WWE 2K23's gameplay remains largely the same as WWE 2K22 – in terms of what you can and cannot do in the ring. You take control of one of the 250+ wrestlers available in the game and battle against other wrestlers, controlled either by an AI or by a human player. Outside of the ring, WWE 2K23 also offers a similar array of game modes that were present in last year's game: Exhibition Matches for those who just want to get into the ring and play matches, MyUNIVERSE for those who want to fantasy book wrestling shows, MyGM for those who want to play a management sim-style game mode that involves running WWE's TV shows, MyRISE for those who want to roleplay as a superstar trying to make a name in WWE, as well as the divisive MyFACTION mode, the by-the-numbers game mode that forces in microtransactions and seasonal live service elements to the game. Of course, there are also online multiplayer offerings that let players go head-to-head against others. Sadly, though, WWE 2K23 isn't the version of the game that allows players to play online against other players in MyUNIVERSE or MyGM, which is a huge disappointment for many fans of the game.
While the selection is exactly the same as last year's, what is offered on the menu is deeper and most impressive. Visual Concepts really built upon what they already have and made everything better. Granted, not all game modes received the same amount of attention from the improvement department, but those that did get that attention killed it this year.
For example, the MyGM Mode, a game mode that has been requested by players for years before being reinstated in 2K22, is back this year and is arguably the one that received the most improvements in this year's outing. Last year's version was serviceable enough, and criticisms were mostly aimed at its lack of depth. Hence, this year's version of MyGM has way so much depth – the growth has been exponential. From a 1-on-1 head-to-head matchup between two GMs, the game mode now offers up to four players managing four different shows. The match varieties were also expanded to include match types that were absent last year, and other bells and whistles have been added to make the game mode more competitive and dynamic.
MyUNIVERSE was also improved to include a new “Momentum” system that allows players more control over how events play out in their shows. Visual Concepts also now allow a higher degree of freedom for players in MyUNIVERSE as there is now a “Free” mode that allows players to do whatever they want and have their shows play out exactly as they want them to.
MyRISE also received a massive upgrade this year, now offering two very different stories. The Lock follows a male wrestler who has traveled the world making a name for himself, now finding himself debuting in WWE with a lousy nickname and gimmick. The Legacy, on the other hand, follows a female wrestler who arrives at WWE living under the shadow of her WWE Legend aunt. Both storyline paths offer compelling stories, and this time around, Visual Concepts found the right mix of silliness and drama, making it easier for players to get invested in their MyRISE careers. It's also worth noting that MyRISE isn't as grindy as MyCAREER in NBA 2K.
The game mode that didn't receive much improvement, and for me is a good thing, is MyFACTION. Visual Concepts just added online multiplayer functionality, and that's pretty much it. You can now have your MyFACTION wrestlers go against other real players' MyFACTION wrestlers in online matches – but why you'll have to constrain yourself to this game mode when you have regular online matches is beyond me. Just like last year, MyFACTION is still a grindy game mode and is still easily ignorable, at least for my taste.
The addition of WarGames is also a highlight, and it's cool to see matches play out as smoothly as it does, given how resource intensive this game mode must be from a technical standpoint. It's also made with a lot of love and care – and although some interactions lead to bugs and glitches, the overall presentation is great and its addition to this year's version adds icing to the cake. Unfortunately, WarGames is currently only available in Exhibition matches, and it's a big shame that you can't book WarGames matches on your MyUNIVERSE and MyGM shows, even though those game modes feature the Survivor Series: WarGames Premium Live Event.
And finally, the cream of the crop, the Showcase Mode. This year's version is by far the most engaging use of Showcase Mode in any 2K game before. John Cena's charisma also just oozes out in this game mode, and his added insights beg the fans' appreciation for some of his iconic matches throughout his illustrious career. Having the player control Cena's opponents in his biggest losses was a stroke of genius, and it ties into Cena's motto of “Never Give Up” and “Hustle, Loyalty, Respect.” I'm really looking forward to how they will top this year's Showcase Mode next year, as it will take yet another brilliant idea to surpass this – and they can't just simply do a repeat next year and have the same impact. While we can't discuss all of the surprises here so as not to spoil players, fans who play through all the matches are in for a treat.
For those not yet content with what the game already has to offer, there is the much more versatile Creation Suite this year. Granted, I haven't spent much time creating custom superstars while covering the game for this review, but a cursory look at what's on offer should inform you that this year's selection is much more diverse and varied compared to last year. I imagine that it would be easier this year to bring into the game the wrestlers that didn't make the cut, or have wrestlers from other promotions join in on the fun. Many would criticize Visual Concepts for passing its work off to the community in bringing some wrestlers to the game, but really, it's only possible because Visual Concepts made the Creation Suite this powerful.
On top of these big additions are smaller, less noticeable improvements that add to the overall presentation of the game. I love this year's main menu and aesthetics, and I hope that they could stick to this design moving forward. I also noticed that some wrestlers now take off their articles of clothing like robes and jackets as part of their entrances – something that has not been possible in previous games for some reason. AI is also noticeably better this year with far fewer occurrences of tag team partners breaking holds or interrupting finishers. Small improvements like the new pin system and the improved HUD show just how much work was put into this version of the game – an effort that shows Visual Concepts weren't satisfied with their big turnaround last year and kept on going in trying to make WWE 2K a game actually worth the money you pay for it.
At a glance, WWE 2K23 looks just like WWE 2K22. That is mostly true, but from my personal purview, I felt like this year's models are much smoother on the surface, and sometimes even look prosthetic-like. This year's sweat looks even better (and it feels weird to write that down), although the sweat physics from hits and holds still doesn't look that different from cartoon splashes. There is still a lot of clipping to clothes and flesh in some animations and entrances, especially in animations that involve foreign objects and championship belts.
The visual presentation this year looks much better to me. The main menu design is just superb and much more appealing that leaves last year's main menu pale in comparison.
Sadly, this year isn't immune to reused and un-updated models. The models and attires also are on differing levels of being up to date. Of course, this is because the more high-profile wrestlers get a priority, but it's still quite disorienting when some models are based on more recent times while others were based on Visual Concepts' not-so-strict cutoff date. It also makes one wonder why Visual Concepts would be fine with reusing old assets and yet refuse to include the same lineup of Legends every year – although there might be more about licensing and other legal considerations in play there.
In any case, playing through WWE 2K23 feels like a treat because it gets the feel and presentation of actual WWE matches. It's also great how the game has this much graphical fidelity and still runs smoothly with some older graphics cards, although it seems that the older your card gets, the more likely you are to experience graphical bugs and glitches. Overall, WWE 2K23 isn't a visual masterpiece, but its presentation is superb.
Music and Sound Design
The music for this year, executively produced by John Cena, features a 12-track playlist consisting of songs from the likes of Metallica and Red Hot Chili Peppers. It's nothing special if I would be so blunt, but I actually liked the song selection and found myself jamming to the music as I played the game. If you'd like to take a look at the track list, you can find them on Apple Music and on Spotify.
Of course, the entrance themes are also included in the game and sound just as authentic as they could possibly be. The game's sound effects are also serviceable, so good that it's almost invisible. I don't see any problems with the menu sound effects or the sound effects used for hits and holds.
WWE 2K23 also features voice acting for its MyRISE game mode, which is a nice touch. If ever the wrestlers portrayed here are not voiced by the actual wrestlers, then they chose good impersonators as their depictions of the wrestlers are spot on. Voice acting is also directed better this year, although there are still some occasional cringe-worthy lines scattered here and there. It's just a shame that it's probably logistically impossible to have all wrestlers record voice lines for the game's MyUNIVERSE mode or to record all of their grunts and moans to be used for in-ring action.
Verdict: Is WWE 2K23 Worth A Purchase?
Just like Visual Concepts' tagline for WWE 2K23, this game is “Even Stronger.” Not only does WWE 2K23 play just as great as last year, but it's much smoother, more stable, and more fun to play. That's not to say that WWE 2K23 is a perfect game – no game that has to come out yearly will ever be – but there hasn't been anything in the game so far that has gotten in the way of me having fun with it. The commentary team still leaves a lot to be desired even with newly recorded voice lines to reflect the more recent storylines, but unfortunately, fans have grown numb to this over the years we'll only start noticing it again when it actually improves significantly.
There are still bugs and glitches, mind you, and a lot of them will still plague MyUNIVERSE and the Creation Suite that will surely make a lot of fans enraged when the things they worked hard for and as meticulously as they do get suddenly deleted due to a bug or a version update that breaks their creations. But compared to last year's outing, there are even far fewer instances of game-breaking bugs. Of course, the days and weeks that follow will inevitably unravel the seams and uncover bugs and glitches that no early access review playthrough would, but WWE 2K23 is polished enough and far from a messy release. Simply put – it doesn't feel like the game would need a Day 1 patch to fix any glaring issues.
There are also still ways to improve the (arguably already amazing) game modes, so there's still work to be done. Hopefully, Visual Concepts never tire of improving their game and coming out even stronger next year as well, finding ways, for example, to bring WarGames to the other game modes. I also hope that they never run out of creativity in bringing to players great Showcase Mode stories as well as unique and enjoyable MyRISE careers. But as far as I'm concerned, this year's version is a great one.
Editor’s Note: ClutchPoints received both a PS5 and a PC review copy to allow us to cover this game. This copy did not, in any way, affect this WWE 2K23 Review’s final score and verdict.