On Saturday, March 12th, 2022, I attended a “Big Time Wrestling” convention that was attached to an independent show later that evening. As you can read from my 3/13/2022 review column entitled “Enjoy Your Favorite Wrestlers Today… They May Be Gone Tomorrow, I spoke about meeting many of my all-time favorites such as Kevin Nash, 3 of the 4 Horsemen (Tully, JJ, and Barry), Kurt Angle, Steiner Brothers, Ron Simmons, Buff Bagwell, and many other WWE, WCW, ECW, or TNA legends. The one that I really wanted to meet was Kevin Nash as the New World Order (NWO) storyline is possibly my favorite thing ever in pro wrestling.
Then right after I posted this column on Sunday morning (3/13), Scott Hall was announced to be on Life Support after complications following hip surgery to caused a clot to get loose and gave Hall 3 heart attacks. On Monday (3/14), his family took Scott Hall off of Life Support and he soon passed away. I just met Hall’s best friend, Kevin Nash, the previous day and now the Bad Guy passed away. Blew my mind.
Obviously, this put me in a binging mood to consume all things Scott Hall and with that, binging the New World Era stuff. Then, I had a crazy idea… I was looking for something to play on my son’s PlayStation 5 and figured “why not?”. The game has had mostly good reviews by other publications. Thus, needing something to play + emotions over a lost nWo hero in Scott Hall, I sprung to get the “nWo 4 Life” edition of WWE 2K22. Let me tell you, I’ve been enjoying this game.
2K Sports has had some tough recent business with WWE products. Since they acquired the WWE annual license from the closing THQ, each subsequent release of WWE 2K## has appeared to be just a retooling of the previous year, adding bad features or taking away good features, tinkering with controls for the worse, and seeming to put little effort into the game. 2K really got exposed with their half-assed port of WWE 2K18 for the Nintendo Switch but then really upset Playstation/Xbox owners with WWE 2K20 that saw a new studio wing of 2K overwhelmed, as graphics for the game were poor and it was highly glitchy. 2K took a year off from the WWE 2K## series and gave us WWE Battlegrounds during the Fall of 2020. Though not a bad game, it was too much of a repetitive button masher and not much replay value. In addition, it had lots of micro-transaction attempts on your wallet. On 9/19/2020, I gave it a generous 7.5 out of 10 rating mostly because it played well on the Nintendo Switch. However, I was done with the game after just a few weeks and it was soon traded in to acquire other games.
The beauty of WWE 2K22 is that you can tell 2K Sports took their time with this game. Why? Many of the 2021 WWE talent cuts, such as Keith Lee, Braun Strowman, the Iconics, and others are STILL in the game. What does that tell you? It suggests that 2K Sports has been working on this game for 2 years and their refusal to remove older names suggests that they wanted to keep that past hard work in tact. Plus, the inclusion of many 2021 WWE releases gives you the chance to “be the booker” and create a fantasy world where many of the released wrestlers can thrive in the WWE.
It’s very clear that 2K Sports took their time with this game while also simplifying many other elements to make this WWE game to be the best WWE video game in over a decade. Seriously, it’s THAT good.
I’m playing it for the PlayStation 5, one of the top tier systems for this game. Graphics are beautiful and a significant upgrade from the last few WWE 2K## efforts. I’ve seen some footage of the Playstation 4 version and they look great as well. This is the most life-like you’ll ever see wrestlers and those who have seen me playing it have questioned if I was playing a game or watching an event. It’s that good and 2K deserves major praise for the look of this game. Entrances look great and the animated crowd looks in credible and makes it seem like you are constantly in front of a hot WCW 1996-1997 crowd or a WWE Attitude Era crowd. Framerate is great on this game as well, as everything has been smooth for me so far other than Online play (we’ll get to that momentarily).
2K Sports simplified the controls. The past few WWE 2K## games tried to over-complicate things with combos, submission holds, and counters. Like the NBA 2K games, for example, it took a while to master the controls and that scared novice gamers away. What made the legendary THQ games on the Nintendo 64 great was the simplified 1 button controls to execute moves. Your 4 main buttons are for a light strike, hard strike, grapple, and counter. That simple. The triggers serve as other functions, such as running, picking up items, setting up cocky pins, and being associated with trademark finishing moves. It is simple for anybody to pick up a controller and join it yet there’s enough there for experienced players to master and be able to dominate any newb that dares to hit the ring.
For years, I’ve heard Nintendo getting ripped for their trademark games, notably Smash Bros, having framerate issues and freezing for their online play. Yet, I’m seeing that constantly here with my PS5 and I have it hardwired to the highest possible connection speed with Comcast. I had better luck wrestling in simple tag matches or singles matches but see more issues when the chaos gets ramped up, such as when ladders are involved or bedlam tags when all 4 wrestlers are fighting at once. It creates enough pauses in the action to be annoying but if you happen to get a match going with 4 good connections, it’s obviously a blast.
CREATE A WRESTLER
I did not personally like the Create-a-Wrestler. That said, I may not have unlocked enough to fully open it up. I was trying like hell to add facial hair to my wrestler but it just wasn’t there. Complicating things, you have to set attire for both ring and entrance while you could also create alternative costumes. It’s just a ton of tedious work to fix each attire to make them look alike but slightly different. There is a copy function but just maneuvering around the menus needs to be streamlined a bit. You can create a wrestler on your own or create a wrestler at the beginning of the “My Rise” mode where you build a wrestler from scratch and work your way up from the Performance Center to NXT and then to either RAW or Smackdown Brands. Selecting the moves of your wrestler is quite limited, as you select a style and size/weight of your wrestler and determines much of your moveset (I think) and then you are limited on the finishing move that you can select (unless you can later unlock more).
BUT, if you’re terrible at Creating wrestlers (like me), the Online Mode allows you to download other creations. And this is the best part, as there are other talented creators out there who have spent hours of time perfecting a wrestler that is not on WWE 2K22’s roster. For example, I needed Lex Luger and Sting to relive the WCW Bash at the Beach 1996 match between the Outsiders (Hall, Nash, and later Hulk Hogan) versus Macho Man, Sting, and Lex Luger. There were multiple perfect versions of both Sting and Lex out there and it made my life easier. It’s very likely that I haven’t unlocked many parts of it but you can always lean on others to supply you with wrestlers not in WWE 2K22 (or add goofy ones like Spider-Man or Spongebob).
On my end, I’m probably just not used to the Create A Wrestler toolset but I’m still satisfied that I can download wrestlers made by other people. Oh, you can also create Belts and Arenas. Funny to be downloading an AEW Dynamite themed stage on a WWE game while also defending the AEW Title in a WWE ring. But hey, more props to the WWE for not censoring gamer made content.
PLAY: Just a mode where you can set up an exhibition match whether it’s singles, tag, six man, and with various types of things like adding ladders, weapons, tables, Hell in a Cell, etc. Just pick your match and wrestlers, have fun!
SHOWCASE: This is a great tribute section to Rey Mysterio, as past games showcased other wrestlers. Man, this mode takes me back because I’m soon realizing that I’ve watched this man wrestle for 26 years now. Holy cow… Just reliving that Halloween Havoc match between Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio gave me goosebumps. The matches prompt you to perform a specific move and then that prompts the actual video of the match to appear along with Rey Mysterio actually commentating on that moment. It’s a great tribute to a longtime veteran and makes me happy that Rey-Rey stayed with the WWE to get a great honoring moment like this. The only thing is that matches against current WWE wrestlers or legends, whom the WWE has a current relationship or they are deceased, are in this mode. I would have LOVED to relive Dean Malenko vs. Mysterio, but hey, I have Create a Wrestler to help me out with that.
UNIVERSE: Did you like the oldschool Nintendo 64 career modes where you just picked a wrestler and worked through weeks of television. “Universe” is your mode, my friend. Currently, I’m working as Scott Hall in the scheduled version of the mode and he’s taking names on the Smackdown brand. They also give you a “sandbox” portion where you’re more in control of the cards and how your wrestlers are used. Either way, whether you just want to work how the WWE books you or if you want to be in control, it’s your choice and you’ll have fun with it.
MY GM: This is a “game within the game”. You are the GM of a WWE brand, whether it is NXT, RAW, or Smackdown and you can pick various personalities to be General Manager. I selected Shane McMahon and it was hilarious that I was answering texts sent to me by Triple H as my supervisor. Man, 2K really spent years working on this game, didn’t they. The fun part is that you can book each show with an Opening Match, Big Promo, Midcard Match, Another Promo, and then the Main Event. You can choose to work the matches or just simulate. I choose to simulate and it makes the mode like a “game of chess” against the other brand and played quickly. If you wrestled each match, you’d be there forever… So just simulate and see if you can quickly out-maneuver the other brand. The DRAFT part of MyGM is exciting, as you have a strict budget or Salary Cap when selecting wrestlers. Then, from your pool of wrestlers, you select your card. What happens, week by week, is that your wrestlers get injured, need rest, or request nights off. Thus, be careful about overspending on top guys. Don’t be like the Packers and overpay Aaron Rodgers when you select John Cena and not have much else budget to fill your roster.
Continuing on the MY GM mode, the hard part to fathom is how each segment gets rated… There is a Star System assigned to matches and the mode really doesn’t like when LIKE wrestlers perform against each other (Hoss vs. Hoss, Smaller vs. Smaller). It also doesn’t like Heel vs. Heel or Face vs. Face at all and will assign low stars. The stars, along with the successful reaction of the promos, are added up and that determines if your brand is “drawing” or not. If you draw more viewer and fan numbers than the other brand, you’re rewarded with more money. Each weekly show has a budget so thus if you want to attempt to pop a show with Hell in a Cell or a Tables match, that’s where you’d spend your weekly money.
This MY GM mode is fun and addicting, especially when you just let shows be simulated and you can quickly grind through a year in television in under an hour. Just be ready to think on how the game operates and make sure you link each show together. For example, you have a promo segment between 2 wrestlers, the should wrestle in the following weeks. Or, if you have a wrestler interfere in a match, that should create a revenge match. Failure to link your shows and thereby ignoring storylines will cost you. Then, you get really weird upsets that are unexpected. For example, Bianca Belair could NEVER beat Peyton Royce in a match. With due respect to Peyton and I wish her the best in Impact Wrestling, but Bianca is main event level female wrestler and former champion. Yet, she couldn’t defeat a wrestler who was mostly a tag wrestler. Be ready for those weird outcomes and just grind on this mode to figure out what creates higher stars for match ratings and how to link your promos/interferences to future matches. In other words, be a booker.
MY FACTION: Actually, this mode should be called “My Micro-transactions”. Like any 2K game, you open up packs of cards to start and from the wrestlers in these random packs of cards, that creates the stable of wrestlers that you can use. Then, you work events with members of your stable and build up points to possibly open up more cards to boost your existing wrestlers or obtain newer ones. That, or you could spend money on the system’s currency and by more packages of cards. The progress of simply grinding through this mode is much slower than just spending money on packages of cards, as this is the most micro-transaction heavy part of the game. This is the mode that I’m playing less because of this, however, there are many 2K players who like this stuff. Thus, if you enjoyed this mode in the past, everything seems in tact from previous years and this will give you your spending fix.
If you were worried about 2K’s intrusiveness on micro-transactions ruining this experience, then just avoid the MY FACTION mode. That said, I bought the nWo 4 Life edition which includes the Season Pass and other boosters. It seems like I have all of the wrestlers unlocked because of what I bought. Buyer beware if just buying the basic $59.99 or $69.99 version causes you to grind harder to get wrestlers unlocked. Because I sprung for the nWo 4 Life edition, I honestly don’t know and I cannot find any documentation out there that suggests paywalls blocking other wrestlers as seen in WWE Battlegrounds.
MY RISE: This mode requires you to create a wrestler and start from scratch to work your way up. It’s just like previous WWE 2K## games. You start at the Performance Center, go to NXT, and then join RAW/Smackdown to eventually climb the top of those mountains. Between matches, however, it is dialogue heavy as you “choose your own adventure” on responses by Trainers, fellow wrestlers, or WWE Officials that determines the fate of your wrestler’s future booking. If you liked this mode on previous games, it’s just like how you remembered it.
Or, you could just ignore the modes and go to the “Play” section to set-up whatever match you’d like and make up the booking in your head. Honestly, that’s how I usually play, as I’m constantly “booking” dream matches of my own to either play or simulate. This game’s graphic engine and smooth gameplay make it legitimately feel like you are watching a real wrestling event.
For example, are you sad that Triple H just officially retired from the ring? Well, he can live on as a wrestler through this game. And this game makes it actually look like Triple H, unlike that WWE 2K20 debacle on graphics.
ROSTER: This game is LOADED with most of the current roster, many of the 2021 releases, and many legends. If the wrestler happens to be working for AEW, they aren’t on this game obviously. But again, if you want a particular wrestler, just lurk on the Online Creations mode and you’ll find a picture perfect version. No CM Punk or Daniel Bryan? No problem, the online creations will hook you up!
VERSIONS OF THE GAME:
There are 3 versions of the game to buy:
(1) Regular standard version, $69.99
(2) Deluxe Edition, $99.99, which includes the Season Pass of upcoming DLC packages and a few other boosters that you can buy as DLC (maybe this unlocked most of the roster for me?)
(3) nWo 4 Life Edition, $119.99, which includes nWo wrestlers, theme music, rings, and belts while including everything from the Deluxe edition
You could probably just get #1 and if you’re a grinder, I could imagine that you’d unlock many of the things that might require boosters to unlock. It seems like many newer wrestlers since 2021 or missing legends shall be in the future DLC releases. Depending on your appetite for those missing wrestlers, that would make you consider buying the Deluxe edition or not.
I really love the New World Order so I thus bought the nWo 4 Life Edition. What do you get with it? nWo versions of Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, Sean Waltman, and Kevin Nash. Each wrestler comes out to the nWo theme song but if you tag them up, they’ll come out together with the theme. And that’s awesome! On top of the nWo wrestlers and the group theme song, you’ll obtain several nWo themed rings and belts. Look, you need to be a nWo diehard to really want this because they are forcing a $119.19 pricetag on this mode and you cannot get the nWo stuff separately. Hulk Hogan, Outsider versions of Scott Hall & Kevin Nash (as well as Razor and Diesel), and X-Pac area already in the game… Thus, you won’t be without those wrestlers in the game if you buy standard or deluxe. But if you want that sweet Black & White and da music, you gotta spend more. Trust me, I’m often using members of the nWo to help justify the cost of the version of the game that I bought. JUST TOO SWEET!!!!
SUMMARY: If you love a great wrestling game, BUY THIS GAME. This is as good as 2K Sports has ever made a WWE game and it really popped on my Playstation 5. In my opinion, it’s the best WWE game since the late 2000s before THQ began to really halfass their efforts on the annual game. The gameplay is so smooth, the roster is so deep, the graphics are the best they’ve ever looked for a WWE game, and this game can take you away from the harsh realities of what the WWE has become and put YOU in control of the company. I’m having a blast with this game and it gives me my wrestling “fix” as I refuse to watch any current WWE or AEW shows. I don’t need them, as this game entertains me just find.
9.0 out of 10
Rumor has it that this was the last game on 2K Sports’s contract with the WWE and reportedly, EA Sports has interest in establishing a gaming relationship with the WWE. If you’ve seen EA Sports putting such little effort into their games and they are actually WORSE than 2K on micro-transactions, do yourself a favor, buy WWE 2K22 as an endorsement that 2K Sports finally got the WWE game formula right and we want more. As bad as 2K has been during the past 5 years with their games, EA Sports will stink it up much more in a shorter time while pushing more micro-transactions down your throat. 2K Sports has this game in the right direction and they should be rewarded by that.
This game is GREAT! Strong recommendation to buy!