I mean, it can only go uphill from here, right?
The current WWE programming is a mess. Plain and simple. The company’s flagship shows, Raw and SmackDown, are the worst they have been in a while. Then there is NXT, the show that wrestling fans seem to like. Yet, it is scheduled on Wednesday night at the same time as AEW Dynamite, maybe the biggest wrestling show in the world right now. Then we have PPV’s like Hell in a Cell that buries one of the most exciting Superstars that WWE has right now. Now, we add the cherry on top with WWE 2K20, a game that is just as messy as its real-life counterparts, albeit, for different reasons.
You’ve probably seen all the wild glitches and bugs WWE 2K20 has to offer, and they are even more ridiculous and hilarious when you actually experience them in-game. On a technical level, Visual Concepts’ first lone outing is a mess. Say what you will about WWE 2K19, but it worked as intended. It is almost unbelievable the state WWE 2K20 has been released in. To launch a game so technically flawed is such a questionable decision to make. With Yuke’s, the series’ former primary developer having just left this year, why not take a year to really rebuild the game and bring Visual Concepts’ vision of the game to life?
This only makes everyone involved with WWE 2K20 look bad, and it’s a shame because the ideas behind the features and changes are really great and some of the best the series has ever offered. Unfortunately, it gets buried like “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt did at Hell in a Cell because of WWE 2K20’s technical problems.
For the rest of the review, I’m not really going to talk about the technical problems anymore. If I did, I would just be beating a dead horse. Just know that they hinder just about every aspect of the game. That includes the gameplay of MyCareer, 2K Showcase, 2K Towers, and online.
This year’s 2K Showcase puts the Four Horsewomen — Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch — into the spotlight. While I think last year’s iteration would have been more timely, especially with the Evolution PPV and the plethora of firsts that happened in the year prior to that, it’s great to see the “Women’s Revolution” be represented in a video game. These four, along with just about every women’s wrestler in the WWE, did actually revolutionize sports entertainment, and they deserve to be in the limelight.
Just like preview 2K Showcase modes, the matches are loose recreations of actual matches that are supposed to exemplify the subject at hand, which is the Four Horsewomen in this case. The matches chosen, like Bayley vs. Sasha Banks at NXT TakeOver Brooklyn and Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair at Evolution, are great and do represent the past 5 years of women’s wrestling in the WWE pretty well. What isn’t so great is the objective-based gameplay.
As you play through any of these matches, you will have to complete a list of objectives to finish the match. As you complete these tasks, cutscenes will play during iconic moments of those matches. For the most part, it is pretty straightforward until it asks to perform a specific grapple or submission without any indication of how to execute that move.
For example, about a quarter through the first 2K Showcase match with Charlotte and Natalya, it asks you to do a Backpack Stunner. If you were unfamiliar with specific wrestling moves, you would either randomly figure it out or be stuck in the match for way too long until you inevitably lose or quit. What the game doesn’t tell you is that you can go to “Match Objectives” in the pause menu and it will actually give you hints and tips on how to complete every objective.
For some of the easier grapples, like the aforementioned Backpack Stunner, it would be nice if they put the button combination with the objective in the corner of the screen. That way you are not wasting your time trying to figure out something so simple. There are so many wrestlers in this game; to expect someone to just know how to do a specific move with one of the many wrestlers is a bit ridiculous. Once I found out there were hints available, the matches became more enjoyable. It just would have been nice to have known that these hints were available in the first place.
Since women’s wrestling is being showcased with WWE 2K20, it only makes sense for this year’s MyCareer modes to do the same. For the first time, you can create both a male and female Superstar that will be playable in the MyCareer story, Road to Glory, and the other online modes. It is certainly a welcome addition considering how women’s wrestling has taken over the WWE.
When you begin MyCareer, you create both your female and male Superstars. You’ll choose their style of wrestling, how they look, their in-ring attire, and entrance routine. It is streamlined so you don’t have to look at every single option WWE 2K20 has to offer, which is a lot. After you finish creating your characters, you can go back into the creation suite and fine-tune these options to really create your dream wrestlers.
If there is anything to praise about this game it is the creation tools. However, it’s a bit ridiculous that a lot of these options need to be unlocked. I understand having a progression system and needing something for you to strive towards, but when options literally named “generic” are not available because you need to purchase or unlock them, it’s really frustrating. I really love creating wrestlers in the WWE 2K games because of how great the creation suite is, but when even the most basic of options need to be unlocked, I feel like I can’t create the wrestlers I really want to, and that’s a real bummer.
These two created Superstars star in this year’s MyCareer story mode. The story follows hot-head Red (your female character) and Tre (your male character) as they attempt to complete their bucket list and become WWE Superstars. Now, if you’ve played any of WWE 2K19’s story mode, you know to expect some of the cheesiest storytelling ever conceived. You shouldn’t come to a WWE 2K game expecting the Citizen Kane of wrestling stories. It’s more like a modern comedy, with cheesy one-liners, semi-likable characters, and somewhat heartfelt moments that are pretty enjoyable.
That really isn’t the case with WWE 2K20’s story mode. While the cheesy one-liners are still intact (maybe too intact), the semi-likable characters are few and far between. I want to like Tre and Red, and they have some fun banter throughout the story, but there really isn’t anything too compelling about them or their story. Sure, seeing your wrestler getting kicked in the nuts by a person in a rib costume is pretty funny, but if it’s the “dick and fart” jokes that are making me laugh the most, well, I think that kind of explains how good the writing is.
I will say I am enjoying myself with the story. It is similar to the objective-based gameplay of the 2K Showcase, but it’s a bit more simple making it more enjoyable. I like that there is an option to play through something with a throughline, and I’d like to see what Visual Concepts has to offer in terms of storytelling. But this isn’t it. There are so many great tales you can spin in the world of wrestling, but an amalgamation of The Bucket List and Fighting With My Family is not the direction I would go with.
Much of the drawbacks of these modes could be overlooked if WWE 2K20 just worked as it was intended to. But the lack of polish and the early Xbox 360 era graphics just make its flaws more noticeable creating a truly bad experience. It is so disappointing. This iteration has all of the modes and features I would want from a WWE 2K game, but because of how poorly optimized it is, WWE 2K20 is the worst entry of the franchise. I understand that Yuke’s leaving in the middle of the game’s development would make creating this game a challenge, but to many, this was the entry to prove that Visual Concepts was being held back by the Japan-based studio.
I am still excited to see what WWE 2K21 will look like, especially since Visual Concepts will have the time to actually learn how this engine works and use it properly, but it really is a drag that the entry with some of the best features just plays like hot garbage. In a way, WWE 2K20 is a true representation of WWE’s product as a whole right now, and that is just sad.