Over the last 20+ years, WWE games have been in the hands of several different developers. Some have been great; others, not so much. There have been quite a few stinkers, specifically from the WWE 2K series. Hopefully, WWE 2K22 can save the 2K franchise. But before we get into that, let’s take a moment to reflect on how great the older games were.
The most notable is the Smackdown vs Raw series on PS2. It seemed as if each iteration of the game was a step in the right direction; something new or innovative was added every year. It was as if the developers took pride in their work. The season modes, the GM modes, Road To Wrestlemania, even universe mode was better under THQ. The commentary was better, the gameplay felt more weighty and realistic, and don’t even get me started on how much better the character models were compared to the WWE 2K franchise models.
And who could forget about Smackdown Here Comes The Pain? While even older than the Smackdown vs Raw series, the game is arguably the best in its genre. It may not be as realistic as SvR, but the fun factor was through the roof. Not to mention the replayability in the season mode which provided hours of fun.
The Downfall Of WWE Games
Now take everything we just talked about, turn it upside down, douse it with gasoline, and light it on fire. The result is a game like WWE 2K20. Disagree? Allow me to present to you, exhibit A:
Many fans of wrestling games would agree that WWE 2K20 is by far the worst in the series and gives the series as a whole a bad reputation. Just take a look at the game’s Metacritic score and you’ll see that critics and fans alike were not happy with the “finished” product. The glitches aren’t even the only reason for the game bombing.
For starters, the career mode was lazily written and beyond cringy. The character development was lackluster and unfulfilling. Not to mention it was a grind to unlock any cosmetic items for your superstar which just made the experience boring. Overall, it was hot garbage. I’m not even sure if there was a single redeeming quality to this game. Maybe the gameplay was enjoyable at first when it worked, but then it became rather stale. When you use the same formula for years, it gets old quickly. The engine they use needs a serious overhaul.
The game was broken beyond repair and is still a mess to this day. It was as if the developers gave up on it after launch because they knew it was a disaster.
To avoid sounding like a broken record, I won’t dwell on WWE 2K20 anymore because you already know how bad it is. Instead, let’s focus on WWE 2K games as a whole.
As mentioned earlier, they’ve been using the same formula for years. The gameplay by this point is repetitive and quite boring. Where’s the innovation? Where’s the creativity? It all seems so lazy. It’s a simple copy and paste with a roster update every year.
Speaking of roster updates, hiding essential superstars behind a DLC paywall is ridiculous. They even had the NXT champion at the time as DLC at one point. Let’s not forget how they take superstars out of the game one year and then bring them back 2 or 3 years later. I understand this is due to contracts expiring, etc. However, if you bring them back as DLC, that’s just predatory.
As far as content goes, much like the superstars, they take match types and modes away for several years and bring it back, pawning it off as a “new feature” to spark interest in the series again.
This may sound like I’m dragging the WWE 2K franchise through the mud, but they know what they’ve done. That’s why they took a whole year off to go back to the drawing board after 2K20. Let’s not even talk about 2K Battlegrounds.
The Future Of WWE 2K Games
Now that my tangent is over, let’s talk about ways that WWE 2K22 can save this dying series. There’s potential here; there has to be. For the sake of the future of this series, there needs to be a dramatic change. Here are a couple of suggestions.
Make An Actual Season Mode
Remember how great season mode was? Not career mode. Season mode. You know, where there was an actual narrative with compelling stories and great dialogue? Those were the times.
The season mode for the aforementioned Here Comes The Pain was brilliant. You could visit the backstage area to have a chat or get into altercations with your favorite superstars. You could demand a title shot or even form a faction throughout your playthrough. It was endlessly replayable and never repetitive. The fact that this game still holds up to this day and is more pleasing to play than any current 2K wrestling game is sad.
Bring Back GM Mode
Ah, general manager mode. Oh, how we miss you. This general manager simulator was one of the most compelling features in the early Smackdown vs Raw games. It was so unique and innovative. It provided hours upon hours of creative fun.
Being able to draft your favorite superstars to your brand was a blast in and of itself. Proposing trades to the other brand, competing for fans, starting rivalries, and getting emails from superstars complaining about how your operating was only part of the appeal. This is certainly a fan favorite of WWE fans and according to a Twitter post from 2K Games themselves, it might just be coming back. Let’s hope this is the case because this feature alone could bring back some old-school fans of the series. This would be a huge step up.
More Match Types And Superstars
This should go without saying but please don’t remove match types and bring them back years later. Just keep them in the games each year. I can understand not being able to keep superstars in the games every year, but removing match types for no reason other than to bring them back later is ridiculous.
As for the superstars, you can add more legends to appeal to the older generation fans. Bring back some ECW icons like Sabu and Rob Van Dam. Even early 2000s superstars would appeal to that era of wrestling fans. It’s understandable to add the newer superstars into the game, but don’t forget about those playing these games for many years.
The lack of evolution in the WWE 2K franchise is saddening, these games were once stellar titles. Nowadays it’s the same old rehashed garbage. Just a few new features would dramatically improve not only consumer satisfaction but sales as well. From a consumer standpoint, the product we pay for doesn’t deliver. From a business standpoint, an unhappy consumer equals fewer sales. Do the math. WWE 2K22 desperately needs to evolve to save this series.