Japanese developer Yukes has been the backbone of WWE’s yearly video game franchise for years, with 2K’s Visual Concepts (of NBA 2K fame) helping out recently. But, after cranking out wrestling games every year with no time to really address the same technical complaints, Yukes has gotten the hell out of dodge. Visual Concepts has had to turn the game around on its own this time, and the results of that effort are… strange. While the usual tweaks and new gimmicks are here, WWE 2K20 is most notable for its major changes to the control scheme and oddly sloppy production values.
Since Yukes took over, the WWE video game series has more or less sported the same control scheme. Over the years, various adjustments have been made, and systems like submission offense and submission defense have changed, but the basic button commands remained consistent. With WWE 2K20, Visual Concepts has fiddled with things quite a bit. In some cases, it moved functions to completely different buttons, while it made big changes to the functions themselves in others. One significant example is removing techniques like dragging from grappling, making the grapple button more dedicated and turning the right trigger into more of a modifier or utility button.
Similar changes have been applied to other maneuvers, such as running, interacting with objects, special moves, and reversals. Reversal timing has changed significantly, in addition to being moved to a different button, making this sort of move much easier to land than before. The balancing act there is making reversals much more limited, giving you a few at the start of the match and slowly recharging your ability to perform more as you play. While playing defensively is difficult as a result, it makes keeping track of them important. Overall, the new controls feel just similar enough where returning fans won’t be totally lost and potential newer players might have an easier time getting started. It’s more of a streamlining than an overhaul.
Aside from the new controls, WWE 2K20 is about what anyone would expect from a new installment, in terms of content. This year’s title is definitely occupying the “another one of these” space of annual game releases. There’s a showcase focusing on the Four Horsewomen that plays out just like the other showcase scenarios, a largely unremarkable Universe mode, and the well-received Towers mode fromWWE 2K19 is back too. One of the bigger aspects of WWE 2K20 that isn’t quite a “feature,” per se, is how much more attention the women’s division gets. It’s something that was sorely lacking in past years. Mixed tag team matches are back in the mix, and tag mechanics have been similarly streamlined for ease of use. It’s a lot easier to perform different gimmicky moves than ever before, including things like hot tags and double moves.
Not only are mixed tag matches back in WWE 2K20, but so are women in the MyCareer mode. WWE 2K20’s MyCareer is an odd one, simultaneously having a lot to do while feeling like it really got the short end of the stick. It’s more than enough, in terms of volume, but its presentation and overall quality have taken a big step back from last year. Previously, MyCareer moved away from its simulation style and opted for something a little more story-based. Following a wrestler on his way up the WWE ladder, WWE 2K19’s story was equal parts genuine and corny, giving off a very early-to-mid-2000s Tony Hawk vibe.
WWE 2K20 is a continuation of that effort, with a neat hook of following both a man and a woman as they find their way into the WWE. But everything about it just feels off. The overall visuals in WWE 2K20 feel like a step back from last year, but any NPC who isn’t a WWE Superstar looks even worse than usual. When I began MyCareer, I felt like I stepped into an alternate universe containing 1080p PlayStation 2s. The script and dialogue are also weird and corny, and the voice acting is absolutely abysmal. You can chalk some of that up to the actual wrestlers doing their own voices, as reading a mediocre video game script isn’t exactly cutting a promo.
While the presentation and fidelity in WWE2K20’s MyCareer mode feel low budget at best, there are some structural changes that feel welcome. This year, when you make a new custom wrestler for the first time, that feature feels designed as an explicit lead-in to MyCareer. You pick a body and a wrestling style, then you get to design the wrestler. But you don’t exactly get many options, as most items and moves are tucked away to unlock later. While that sounds annoying for vets and experts, it does help make initial character creation easier.
If you’re new, there will be some blinders on, with respect to which moves and whatnot you can start with. But once you progress in the story a bit, you gain access to the rest (sort of). Most items are unlocked by playing, though there is an in-game currency too. There are loot boxes to get gear drops, such as new moves and attire pieces, but there aren’t any microtransactions for in-game cash like in NBA 2K. You can also go through and cash in on individual items you want, so you won’t have to grind loot boxes to get that one jacket you like.
As much as I respect and even enjoy the streamlining attempts, WWE 2K20 is still full of problems. Aside from the unfortunate fidelity downturn, this may also be the most glitchy WWE 2K to date. Videos of some glitches in action have already been spreading across social media, so you may know exactly what I’m talking about here. This wrestling ring is a physics-defying deathtrap, which will often trap referees in the middle and suck them into the canvas, presumably for horrific digestion. Once that happens, anything that touches the wigging-out ref is forfeit to the whims of glitches, often resulting in bodies jittering and flying around the screen. These games have always had problems, but man. They’re extra present this year.
With its revamped controls and tighter focus on growing your custom wrestlers in MyCareer, WWE 2K20 has a lot of good ideas propping it up. Unfortunately, the game is propped up on top of an uncharacteristically weak foundation. WWE 2K20 is an ugly video game, with gross-looking noodle hair, weird character faces, and PS2-looking NPCs. Add to that a lengthy MyCareer story fueled by corny and sloppy writing, and you get a game only the dedicated parts of the fanbase will love. At its core, there is still a great deal of fun in playing WWE2K20, but the technical issues, poor visuals, and bad writing make this year an easy one to skip, especially if you’re still playing through WWE 2K19.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.0 Graphics
I hate to say it “looks like PS2 game” in a review, yet, here we are 4.0 Control
Visual Concepts changed the inputs and streamlined some functions, with mostly positive results 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
While it does include music from The Misfits, the soundtrack is tiny, the commentary is bad, and the voice acting is bad 3.0 Play Value
There’s a lot to do, provided the glitches don’t ruin it 2.5 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best