WWE 2K20 begins a new era for the franchise, as Visual Concepts is now directing the ship after 2K and Yukes parted ways. That's resulted in a unique position for 2K20, as it's not a relaunch, per se, but is also not just another yearly entry in the franchise. Both of these aspects are quickly evident in our time with the game, as the franchise looks to expand, retool, and perform well all at the same time. That's a bit messy in execution at times, but it's also immensely rewarding at others, and we're here to break it all down for you and let you know whether this edition is for you.
At first glance, there's actually not that much different about WWE 2K20 when compared to WWE 2K19. The reversal, pin, and submission systems are all intact, as are the My Universe, My Player, and My Career Modes. Towers are back, and the 2K Showcase mode features a deep dive into a superstar (or, in this case, multiple superstars) career. Visually, the game takes a step forward in some aspects and backward in others, and at this point, you might be rightfully wondering what justifies a new purchase other than updated costumes, superstars, and a new Showcase mode.
You won't really see that until you step into the ring, but once you do, the steps forward start to slowly present themselves. WWE 2K20 features a reworked control scheme that takes a second to learn but, once you do, will make you feel in control of your match like never before. Half the fun of a wrestling match is the chess move aspect, slowly figuring out how to maneuver and push your opponent into the place you need them to be for a big spot or move, and in the past, that always felt more like you lucked out than any sort of skill or purposeful strategy.
That's not the case any longer. Whether it's moving the opponent into several stances when they're stunned via the Right Stick like a marionette, dragging them with a hit of the trigger and X, picking up your opponent and carrying them over your shoulder, or sending them into the ropes with an Irish Whip, all of your choices are easy to execute and have the proper weight to them, further investing you into building a bigger and better match as opposed to just hitting some moves before a pin. Sure, you could do these things in 2K19, but it never felt this smooth or conducive to telling a story in the ring, and that's where rebuilding the gameplay from the ground up really paid off.
Those subtle changes also serve the other match types extremely well, including the always-popular Ladder Match. Having some of the actions split into different bumpers means there's a methodical process to getting a ladder in the ring, set up, and ascended on as opposed to the previous contextual method of just hoping the game could figure out what you were trying to do.
None of that matters if the superstars you're controlling and fighting against aren't up to par. The good news is that most of the current roster superstars from Raw, SmackDown, and NXT are quite good, with standouts being AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, & Toni Storm, to name a few. There are some that stand out for the wrong reasons, of course, like Peyton Royce and Bobby Lashley, but for the most part, the superstars look good. Legends are another thing entirely, and you can really tell who had a face scan and who didn't. Superstars like The Rock, John Cena, Dusty Rhodes, Randy Savage, Edge, Molly Holly, and others are just not up to the standards of the current roster, though there are a few standouts like Eddie Guerrero, Stone Cold, and Trish Stratus.
That increased scrutiny is really more about the entrances, as in the ring, I had no issues with the visuals. Aside from the odd flailing bottom rope (which happened a few times when someone's feet hit it after a suplex), the visuals in the ring were stellar, and the animations overall were much improved from 2Ks past. Holds and submissions actually felt like such and not just two giant planks of wood kinda, sorta forming around someone's leg or torso, and the more life-like animation was definitely welcome.
There's more than just straight-up matches in 2K20 though, and a big addition this year is the male and female MyPlayer mode, which has you leading two would-be superstars through a story mode from their humble beginnings to the eventual destiny as a WWE superstar. This mode was one of the game's most pleasant surprises, and after starting, it was immensely easy to get lost in their ascension up the ladder. The characters you meet along the way are all voice acted, and while the animation and visuals that accompany that voice acting definitely need refinement, the mode itself was a joy to play. My wife and I both created characters and she ended up watching it with me, just for fun, and listening to the podcast episodes and checking messages further immersed you into the world of Red and Trey. With another year, this can really be a standout mode, but some won't be able to get past the visuals, which at times can be distracting, like Trey's giant backpack straps, for instance. Even with those issues, this mode captivated me, and I'm looking forward to spending more time with it.
Now we get to the main negative of WWE 2K20, which is online play. The first night it was up, I had no issues getting into a match, though the beginning started off laggy and then worked its way into normal speed. The next time I played was a completely different story, however, with the game freezing when trying to start a match and then one match being so laggy it was pretty much unplayable. Twice I had matches that resulted in pins but then the game glitched and never completed the match, leaving us in the match but unable to get into the ring, so either I had to quit the game and relaunch or quit the mode, in the best-case scenario. At this point, online is just borked, and when you're a sports game, you can't expect fans to react well to not being able to play with friends online.
This is pretty typical with games during the first week of release mind you, but you can't blame someone for being upset after paying $60 for a game and not being able to go online. If online is not as big a deal for you though, you'll find plenty of great content to work your way through, as the myriad of superstar Towers, a stellar 2K Showcase mode built around the Four Horsewomen, My Universe mode, and the delightful My Player mode all more than pick up the slack.
2K20 is packed with content and offers some of the best wrestling in the franchise. Throwing down in the ring has never felt better, and above all else makes you feel like the Superstars you know and love. 2K's Showcase mode feels like a love letter to Four Horsewomen fans, and you'll be more than entertained reliving some of those classic matches. That said, the MyPlayer mode needs another year of refinement before it can truly reach its high ambitions, and the online side of things needs to be fixed ASAP. For me, online play just isn't that important, and my experience has been relatively glitch-free outside of that, so if that describes you as well you won't be disappointed.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Published By: 2K Games
Developed By: Visual Concepts