The road was a bit rough for WWE's 2K series this year, as WWE 2K20 had a lot of hype but failed do deliver the sales bar from previous games. It was also constantly under fire for glitches and bugs, especially at launch, all contributing to a $2 million dollar hit to WWE's bottom line from lost revenue. While the game continued to patch those bugs and add more content, it wasn't enough to turn the ship around. As we recently learned, there won't be a WWE 2K21 this year, WWE and 2K are skipping this year's game for something else. Before we find out what that is, we've got a few things that the game can do to improve the final product and restore the franchise to its previous heights, or perhaps even further.
First though let's go through what fans had an issue with in 2K20. The game's biggest issue was Quality Control, as many fans posted screenshots and videos online after release of bug-ridden matches, glitching characters, and issues with online play. Glitches and issues at launch are pretty normal these days, but for some reason, WWE 2K20 kept tripping over itself, and couldn't get those issues taken care of until several patches in.
One glitch even made the game unplayable if the clock on the game was set to the year 2020. I mean, yeah it's a freak thing, but if that isn't ironic for a game titled 2K20 I don't know what is. It was that kind of stumbling that really cemented the game's status as a clunker, even though there was quite a bit to actually like about the game, at least for me.
Other issues with the game were of the typical yearly release variety that Madden experiences, with certain features being dropped because parts of the game were being overhauled in the transition from Yukes to Visual Concepts. Some of those overhauls weren't apparent enough for fans though, especially in the graphics department, though there were several things to really like about the game.
The Women's Evolution content was well done, and the control scheme got a welcome redesign and upgrade. That meant the actual wrestling in the ring also felt more refined, but again, that doesn't mean the gameplay couldn't use some major changes to help the overall experience be even better, and other modes need some touch-ups as well.
So, with that context, hit the next slide for the things WWE and 2K need to do to get the WWE 2K series back on track and make WWE 2K22 the best wrestling game around!
Let us know what you want to see in the game in the comments or by hitting me up on Twitter @MattAguilarCB for all things WWE and WWE 2K!
Every annual sports franchise attempts to bring the realism of the sport to their games, and over the years games like Madden and NBA 2K have had their own highs and lows in that regard, though NBA 2K is consistently setting a bar in that department. That's why it was surprising to see the graphics take a bit of a hit in Visual Concepts' WWE 2K20, though this varied depending on the wrestler. Some wrestlers looked outstanding and lifelike, while others looked rough and as though they were a first pass at the superstar.
For 2K22, Visual Concepts (or whoever ends up developing the game) needs to take the extra time and get everyone into their studio for face scans and motion capture, because it makes a world of difference. This can especially be seen in the legends, and in some cases, there is nothing that can be done, but in others that extra time and polish will go a long way to making someone believe they are playing their favorite legend.
It makes a difference, and honestly, the animations are already quite good. Don't believe the 2K15 comparisons either, because while those models looked picture-perfect standing still, once they started moving it was like watching trees lumber down the entrance ramp. Still though, the consistency was lacking from superstar to superstar, and some felt like afterthoughts compared to the bigger names, and even some of those big names were disappointing.
Taking the time and really making each wrestler look like their television counterparts will go a long way to winning some fans back over, and that goes for more than just the standard game modes.prevnext
My Player Potential
2K's My Player Mode showed incredible potential in 2K20, giving us an entertaining story of two up and coming wrestlers named Red and Trey who are trying to become WWE superstars. The story itself was quite entertaining, using a hall of fame style story to work in current superstars and legends, all the while making you feel as if you were really part of a story rather than just a weird generic version of yourself based more on stats and numbers rather than character that you find in most of these modes.
That said, there were some major problems. The voice work included in this mode was definitely appreciated, but at times it felt stilted, and the animation didn't help. The animation left a lot to be desired, and overall the graphics in this mode felt like two whole steps down from the main modes, especially whenever a backpack showed up (it's hilarious).
Despite those issues, a cast of interesting characters present themselves during Red and Trey's adventure, and both leads share enough genuinely comedic and sweet moments through the story that help you ignore the bad loading times (seriously, it's constant) and subpar graphics to see what happens next.
That's an excellent foundation, so imagine if it were given the same time and attention as the rest of the game? Graphically this mode needs to be on par with the rest of the game, and that especially goes for animation, which is crucial if you want the voice acting to really hit like it's supposed to. The foundation is there for something great, and now it's time to have it meet that potential.
Also, while I don't mind having two pre-set characters in the lead roles, I do want everything else to be customizable, and from the get-go. That means I want to be able to make my character look like a Power Ranger or Joker from Persona 5 if I want to, because while this is Trey and Red, this is my versions of Trey and Red, and that kind of thing goes a long way to hooking a player.prevnext
This was a huge omission in 2K20, and while Visual Concepts revealed it was something they were working on, we still haven't seen it included in the game. The game was already well into development when that brand split happened in WWE, but now there's no reason it shouldn't be included, and it can really become a yearly tradition for players.
The perfect comparison for this is fantasy football, which has drafts every year when the season is about to start. Now, WWE never goes away, but you can still do a season style set up throughout the year, perhaps splitting it into two or four seasons with the big two or big four (depending on what you consider to be big these days) pay-per-views being the climactic end to the season.
Before a season starts, everyone jumps into a league and drafts a new set of superstars with their group, and it would include Raw, SmackDown, and NXT. Then you play weekly matches within your league and the two who come out on top end up pitting their rosters against each other in a full pay-per-view style set up, which then leads into the next season.
You can give everyone who participates in a league access to an exclusive piece of gear for a wrestler, and you make them different for each season, themed around whatever event is happening. Then you give the ultimate winner an exclusive skin or something similar that would be an item that fans would actually want to use in their regular matches.
This is a model that mobile games do quite well, but console games have yet to really latch onto. This model though would keep players hooked into the ecosystem far beyond the first few weeks, and since every pay-per-view already has a unique theme, you can easily do a little customization to make these fun for players to participate in, but the carrot at the end of the stick is incredibly important too.prevnext
The WWE is a different beast than the NBA or NFL, so in many cases, a direct comparison can't really be made. This is especially true of roster updates, which can occur throughout the year in WWE, and since the season doesn't stop, there's not a break in there where a development team can catch up and start fresh so to speak.
I get it, believe me, but that said, the next game really needs to find a way to implement that feature into the game. While there will always be trolls that don't appreciate how much work it takes, the vast majority of players will understand that a full redesign like Bray Wyatt to The Fiend isn't something that can be done in just a month. Everything about the character changed, so that one will obviously take more time.
But what about the superstars who get a hair cut, or just a new shirt to wear to the ring? What about others who debut new gear at pay-per-views, like Alexa Bliss, Ricochet, or Seth Rollins? What about those who turn heel midway through and start wearing a special title belt as Daniel Bryan did?
These are all examples of things that continue to keep people's interest in superstars in real life, and they can do the same in the game, but they need to be there when they are remotely relevant. You can truly capitalize on all the talk around Tegan Nox's Captain Marvel gear or The New Day's Dragon Ball Gear if played know it will be coming to the game sooner rather than later, and it gives you another way to interact with the fans, as you can poll fans on which look they want first or most. You can also use these gear changes as prizes and rewards for the draft seasons if you want, but it's all about keeping people in your ecosystem and to do that you need to let them know that what they see in the real world will at some point make its way into the game before they stop caring.
As for heel and babyface changes, again, it's about representing the real-life product. Players are going to be disappointed if they go into the game wanting to play Dakota Kai after watching NXT and just see her old babyface version there, and the same goes for other superstars. It's not going to be easy, but these things can't just wait until next year's edition, at least not if you want to keep players hooked to a one of a kind franchise like WWE.prevnext
Fix Online Play
I immensely enjoyed the single-player aspects of WWE 2K20, but all that enthusiasm went out the window when I started playing online. The game was full of glitches and bugs that either caused matches to never end or would result in one player getting kicked and you being sent back to the lobby, not to mention the horrendous slowdown that occurred in relatively normal matches without a ladder in sight.
That just can't be in 2K22. We get it, launches have issues, and there will be a lot of players online. That can't be an excuse though, and after a few days of issues, there should be a return to stable matches that aren't full of lag and bugs. I'm not saying it has to be perfect, but it has to work, and you can't pull out customization options or variables like WWE 2K19 did, as that online mode was more stable but was not user friendly and lacked options.prevnext
An Arcade Mode
If you bring up recent wrestling games, it will not take long before you see a tweet talking about the good old days of wrestling games. Trust me, I love those games like everyone else does, and they informed quite a bit of my gaming childhood. Still, nostalgia rings true in those memories like every other game, and while I loved them and would still love to throw down in a game of No Mercy or WCW/NWO Revenge, I will take an NBA 2K style experience over that style of game any day of the week.
Now, that might just be my personal preference, but I don't think I'm alone in that, as I want a more simulation heavy experience in my games these days. That said, there are times when I do just want to battle it out in an NBA Jam-like game, especially when having a get-together or when playing with someone new to the game, so why not have the best of both worlds?
I'm not saying develop 2 whole games here, so you can keep the trappings of the regular mode in this Arcade mode of the game, including character models, arenas, etc. What does need to be changed are the controls and options available to players. Just give me 3 distinct moves and a finisher as my ultimate, and let go of or simplify the subsystems for submissions, limb targeting, and dragging. You can keep the pin system since it's relatively straight forward, but make the areas needed to pin wider and less challenging for longer.0comments
Now, if you really want to go all out fo this you could always give the models a unique cel-shaded style, but it would be more like a skin as opposed to a redone character model to lessen the work, and then throw in fun fire effects on the finisher.
To be fair, it's not a full arcade game and more of a half measure, but this could very well be enough to let those who want to give the game a try a perfect entryway into the franchise and those who want a callback to the games of the past a moment of nostalgia.prev