WWE 2K20 was an absolute disaster. A game so bad, so broken, so akin to a self-inflicted virtual torture, that it prompted publisher 2K games to release a ‘kind of’ apology. In an open letter to royally naffed off wrestling fans, they outlined the steps they were taking to ensure that the next game in the long-running franchise, WWE 2K22, didn’t – to quote D-Generation X – ‘suck it’. This amounted to taking a year off from the annual release madness and hopefully provide the time to do justice to a licence that has been underperforming critically for years.
Will this be enough? What can be said is there are some key aspects to the design of their wrestling games that 2K has to absolutely get right this time. First and foremost, WWE 2K22 has to work out of the box. When the bugs in the game are more entertaining than the game itself, you know you’ve got a problem. That’s exactly what happened with 2K20. Poor unwitting first day buyers filled Twitter with hilarious clips of sinking ring steps, melting faces and bodies merging together to become – what can only be described as – a terrifying gloop beast. This simply won’t be accepted again. WWE 2K22 has to work from the get-go.
Read more: watch WWE 2K20’s most amusing bugs
Next up, wrestling fans don’t want an arcade brawler. Just look at what happened to 2020’s WWE 2K Battlegrounds, a game that promised ‘all-new, over the top” spin on the series that promptly bombed without a trace. If I want to play an arcade brawler, than there’s plenty of other games out there.
What I want from a game carrying the world’s most prestigious wrestling license is a fun simulation of professional wrestling. I want to be able to recreate historic moments, live out epic rivalries and have the experience of taking part in a match so good that Dave Meltzer gives it five stars. This can only be accomplished by “selling” being reintroduced into the franchise. When a wrestler gets power bombed through a table they need to act hurt, they need to take time to recover; rolling back to their feet and dishing out some dropkicks destroys any and all player investment and belief.
Finally, please 2K, for the love of Shane McMahon’s sweaty sweaty face, please get rid of QTE button prompts. I don’t want to have to watch a meter move back and forth and tap a button at exactly the right time to kick out of a pin. I don’t want to wiggle thumbsticks to escape submission holds. Why not design the game so that by watching the action I’ll know when to reverse a move? So that timing is required rather than endless button bashing patience? That way we can all actually play the game rather than stare glassy eyed at yet another meter. WWF No Mercy managed this on the N64 over twenty years ago, why is this not possible – to a far greater standard – on modern hardware?
We won’t have long to find out what 2K are cooking up. During WrestleMania 37 the publisher debuted a short trailer for WWE 2K22, depicting a very convincing Rey Mysterio taking on Cesaro in the squared circle. Sure, it looked great, but until 2K can prove they have made brave decisions to shake up WWE 2K22’s game design, there’s not much cause to get excited yet. 2K have promised that their latest game will ‘hit different’. I hope they’re right, the continued future of this franchise depends on it.