The WWE brand of professional wrestling is a strange beast. The promotion tells stories week after week, 52 weeks a year, and not everything pans out as expected. The franchise’s flagship TV show, Monday Night Raw, is a good example of this; some things work, some things don’t, and often, what doesn’t work outweighs what does. WWE 2K20 follows that same mold. It’s chock-full full of superstars and features with the promise of more to come as the year goes on, but right now, just like a recent episode of Raw, it’s a complete mess.
WWE 2K20 is the first game in almost 20 years not to have Japanese developer Yuke’s at the helm. Yuke’s singlehandedly set the bar for wrestling games with SmackDown in 2000 on the original PlayStation, and every game since has been built off that engine. Visual Concepts, the developers of NBA 2K, has taken over the franchise this year, and the difference is immediately felt. A lot has been written on social media about how WWE 2K20 is a broken game, so we’ll refrain from beating that particular horse, but we’re sad to say it’s all true.
Hit detection is spotty, character creation is a horror show, the graphics pop in and out, and the in-ring action feels sluggish and often times unresponsive. It seems some of the game’s modes were incomplete when shipped, and a patch to fix the numerous issues is still MIA. It’s a shame, as last year’s game pointed the franchise in the right direction, but the backslide here is more than noticeable.
The character models look fine in action, but their portraits on the selection screen leave a lot to be desired. Once the action starts in a typical match, some of the graphical issues are forgiven, until the poor hit detection and lumbering movement comes into play. The WWE 2K series has always had its issues with this, but this year, it is pushed to the forefront.
To offset these issues, WWE 2K has always tried to offer a WrestleMania-level number of game modes, and this year is no different. The biggest issue here is that one of the newest game modes isn’t even available at launch. Players trying to check out WWE 2K originals will be met with a “Coming Soon!” screen. For what it’s worth, the game has since added a Halloween-themed original called “Bump in the Night,” which features Finn Balor taking on Bray Wyatt. This mode adds new horror themes to Towers and allows players to unlock zombified WWE superstars and spooky rewards. But this wasn’t available on day one, making for one incredible head-scratcher. There are reportedly three more Originals coming soon.
One mode available at launch was the WWE 2K Showcase, which allows players to relive the rise of the Four Horsewomen — Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, Bayley, and Sasha Banks — and to play through the rise of the women’s revolution in WWE. The showcase opens with video packages and interviews, and players get to participate in 15 iconic matches. This mode has plenty of chapters, but being guided each step of the way saps the fun out of it. The matches force the player to perform moves as they happened, taking away the flow of the match.
This also leads to one of the most frustrating aspects of WWE 2K20 itself. You’re forced to land very specific moves as objectives, and if you fail, you lose the match and have to restart. As a result, these matches can take an extra 20 to 30 minutes (or more) to complete — having a match decision taken from you because you are forced to do an unfamiliar submission move is the definition of frustration.
The MyCareer mode also tried something new by adding a team consisting of a female and male wrestle — hence the reason Becky Lynch, arguably the most over superstar in WWE, isn’t alone on the cover this year. Unfortunately, the 20-hour story is poorly designed and is hard to digest logically — even for hard-core wrestling fans.
The story focuses on this duo, friends since high school with dreams of being WWE superstars, as they reflect back on their careers at their Hall of Fame induction. Players get to participate in some of their biggest matches, but again, they are forced to do so with specific match objectives.
Player creation for both the male and female superstars is lackluster, as the models have to adhere to elements of the story, which is a detriment to this being “my” career. In short, the MyCareer mode is missing the fun and over-the-top wrestling madness that last year’s game had, even if the two stars of that game make an appearance of sorts this year.
It’s not all doom and gloom for WWE 2K20, though. Visual Concepts have greatly expanded the Towers game modes — epic tournaments that players can participate in, and even something as simple as moving the reversal button to Triangle/Y has made a huge difference. Finishers and Signature moves are also mapped to two face-button combos, which makes them easier to pull off. These small tweaks help to build the foundation of what could be the future of the WWE 2K series, but with this year’s entry, it’s safe to say the foundation is on uneven ground.
If anything, the Yuke’s WWE games were growing stale, but Visual Concepts just didn’t do enough to make this their own. It looks, feels, and plays like a broken, in-progress version of a Yuke’s game, and fans and players shouldn’t have to pay $60 (or more) to be glorified beta testers.
Yuke’s is not taking their loss lying down. They are reportedly looking at making a non-WWE wrestling game, and without the draconian WWE breathing down their necks and demanding absurd changes, the Japanese developer will (hopefully) be back and better than ever — there’s a reason they were the go-to developer for 20 years. While WWE has dominated the sport for the last two decades, there’s a hot new wrestling promotion on the block with All Elite Wrestling (AEW). It begs the question — how long will it be before we see a Yuke’s developed AEW game on next-gen consoles?
WWE, Visual Concepts, and publisher 2K Sports need to get their gear in order, or they will be left in the past. And games like WWE 2K20 are a sign that maybe that’s where this franchise needs to stay. The graphical issues, the hamstrung game modes, and barely-functional gameplay are but a few of the many issues plaguing this year’s title. Until a patch is developed and released to remedy these issues, fans should be aware of what they are getting into.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game. A review code was provided to us by 2K Sports.
WWE 2K20 has its issues, and maybe they could have been overlooked if all the game modes worked. Sadly, that is not the case, and it feels like a broken game from the get-go.