Visual Concepts has taken the reigns from Yuke’s giving WWE 2K20 some much-needed changes and features. Yet, it still has its problems.
Since Yuke’s and Visual Concepts came together to create the WWE 2K series, it has been an uphill battle. The differences in vision for each company was palpable as each entry has been a representation of that battle. That all changes with WWE 2K20, with Yuke’s out of the way and Visual Concepts in the driver’s seat. From the few hours I played of WWE 2K20, it is apparent that Visual Concepts is spreading its wings with the Showcase Mode featuring the Four Horsewomen and the new WWE Originals. Albeit, this build of the game isn’t without its issues.
WWE 2K20’s most prominent issue is one that has been present in just about every entry of the series: gameplay. The split between its simulation and arcade-style has always been a bit on the complicated side. There are so many different moves to learn, it is overwhelming. However, you can get away with using the same grapples, strikes, and finishers if you are just interested in beating the opponent. In a way, the gameplay is as complicated as you want it to be, but it has had a pretty weird control scheme that can be clunky.
For WWE 2K20, they do change the control scheme quite a bit. For someone who has been playing these games since WWE 2K16, I’ve become accustomed to that clunky control scheme, so seeing some of the changes does take a bit to get used to. One of the most noticeable changes was switching the reversal button from the trigger to the Y button (the preview event had the game running on Xbox One). However, after a few minutes, I felt more comfortable than ever.
With that being said, it is still that odd amalgamation of simulation and arcade sensibilities that make for that clunky experience we’ve come to know and (for some people) love. It is the responsiveness of the gameplay that is the issue this time around. It is just sluggish with each button press feeling like it takes a bit longer than usual to register. It’s not something I can chalk up to input lag; rather, it feels like it has to do with pressing a certain button and then waiting for that animation to finish before the move is executed. It isn’t snappy, which is an improvement the WWE 2K franchise could use.
Much of the flow and “authenticity” of each match was disrupted by a few bugs I had while playing WWE 2K20. For example, there was a point where the referee of the match decided their legs didn’t work and was slithering around the ring like a crazy humanoid snake. It was truly both horrifying and hilarious giving me a great laugh. It brought us so much joy, but for the wrong reasons.
I also had an issue where the rafters of the arena would block the action in the ring, leaving the players unsure of where the opponent may be or what is even happening in the squared circle. There were also cases where the rope would get stuck to my wrestler, sometimes trapping them in place. Collision detection issues have always been a bit of a problem in previous games, but they seemed to be more prevalent here than past iterations.
It should be noted that the preview build was not the final version of the game. The developers at Visual Concepts did tell me that I would experience some issues and that they are in the process of ironing things out. Hopefully, these problems do get fixed by release day.
Where WWE 2K20 does shine is with its slew of features and game modes. If you are a fan of WWE’s current brand of wrestling, this game really is a dream come true. Showcase Mode is back and rightfully puts women wrestling in the spotlight. Specifically putting the Four Horsewomen (Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Charlotte Flair) in the spotlight, you can now experience the Women’s Revolution in the most interactive way possible. This was the showcase I wanted last year (no disrespect to Daniel Bryan), and I am so happy Visual Concepts have listened to my prayers.
Similar to the Daniel Bryan showcase from WWE 2K19, this year’s showcase features interviews from the Four Horsewomen giving you an idea of just how revolutionary their matches were in the crazy world of professional wrestling. Maybe I’m marking out, but it’s a really great presentation, bringing some of the greatest women’s wrestling matches from the earliest moments of the Four Horsewomen’s reign.
A new mode called WWE Originals is where we get to see the wackier side of WWE 2K20 and it’s great. This entirely new mode will be sold as DLC; however, Bump in the Night – the first WWE Original to release for WWE 2K20 – will be available for those who pre-order the game.
Bringing horror to the WWE Universe, the WWE Original Bump in the Night features matches from some of the more monstrous wrestlers in its large roster. From The Fiend Bray Wyatt to a true Demon King Finn Balor, complete with molten lava skin and a devil horn-like crown, to a serpent-like Randy Orton, there are some wild takes on WWE’s most popular wrestlers. The matches themselves are set in non-traditional arenas as well, truly setting this mode apart from the rest of the game.
In a way, I wish these Originals would not only bring its themed antics to its wrestlers and rings, but to the gameplay itself. I mentioned how the WWE 2K games attempt to mix simulation and arcade gameplay to make a more approachable game. While it works in these zany settings, why not go for an arcade mindset for the mode completely. Similar to what MLB The Show did with its retro mode, simplify the controls and make it a simple and fun experience.
I really like the inclusion of the WWE Originals mode. This is where Visual Concepts’ departure from Yuke’s really shows, and it’s the kind of fun content the series has needed for awhile now. It’s great to see the developer spreading their wings and trying new things with what could be considered a stagnant franchise.
WWE 2K20’s MyCareer is also back with an awesome improvement. This time around, you can now create both a male and female Superstar to bring online to modes like Road to Glory, or its brand new story mode which stars both your created superstars in a goofy, fictional wrestling tale.
Like last year’s story mode, it is as cheesy as you can imagine. If you are looking for the Red Dead Redemption 2 of wrestling stories, maybe watch The Wrestler starring Mickey Rourke. This is more like the Aquaman of wrestling stories, and I do mean that as a compliment. It’s just goofy and fun with a pinch of heart. Also, if you make the palest wrestlers ever with bright orange hair and green eyes, it’ll only bring you happiness. And isn’t that what video games are all about?
A new feature coming to story mode is branching paths. It’s not something I experienced in my short time with the story mode, but there are matches that no matter what the outcome is, the story will progress with that result in mind. I don’t think it will be anything on the scale of Telltale’s The Walking Dead or even the upcoming Dying Light 2, but there will supposedly be those branching story opportunities spread throughout the mode.
The problem with all of these modes is how each of them implements objective-based gameplay. These modes are all great opportunities to teach new players how to play the game. Instead, objectives are displayed at the top left of the screen, sometimes with very specific commands, with no way of learning how to execute it on the fly. Honestly, it’s a bit infuriating.
These modes are all really great. But if I can’t progress through a match because it wants me to do a specific move, and the game isn’t telling me how to execute said move, how do I even progress? I understand wanting to give the player a challenge and test their prowess, but in something like Showcase mode, you are there to experience the story and recreate some of the greatest matches in history, not awkwardly try a bunch of random button combinations only to fail the objective and start the match over.
The biggest issue with WWE 2K20 is that it feels like a stepping stone to something greater and not a complete revitalized entry of the series. I am very hopeful for what’s to come in the future. Some of the features, like WWE Originals, the Four Horsewomen focused Showcase mode, and the Roman Reigns tower are great additions that show the team really appreciates WWE wrestling. Even giving players a story that puts both a male and female wrestler in the spotlight is so awesome and shows that Visual Concepts is actually listening to its fan base.
It is the gameplay and the bugs that are holding this game back from being a really great wrestling game. Even with its reconfigured control scheme, which is better than its previous configuration, the action on-screen feels stiff while the actual controls are too loose. It all just feels off making any given match not have the same kind of flow of its real-life counterpart. I am truly excited to see what Visual Concepts can do with the WWE 2K franchise moving forward, but WWE 2K20 seems like the testbed for those inevitable improvements.