I’m bored with the current WWE product that’s on TV today. Now granted, you can’t be mad with the WWE wanting to protect its wrestlers by moving them to their Performance Center and taping shows in front of an arena of empty chairs, but the actual theatricality and personality of WWE was been stagnant long before the current year of hell popped up.
There’s something missing from wrasslin’ in Vinny Mac’s house chest slaps lately, its devilish attitude thrown to the wind in an attempt to draw more eyeballs to its product and appease television networks. WWE currently lacks any of the personality that made it so memorable during its Attitude and Ruthless Aggression eras. It’s just so damn lame and I’ve got to a point where I’m not even interested in covering it on the site because I’ve had my fill. Holy crap, am I finally growing up? Nope! I still have AEW!
Anyway, the point of that mini-rant was that this feeling of stagnation has naturally filtered down into the WWE games. Last year’s WWE 2K20 was the pinnacle of awfulness, an exercise in disappointment that finally broke the annual streak of the series and saw this year’s WWE game cancelled as the franchise simply could not risk another blunder of this magnitude.
Next year’s WWE 2K22 is aiming to finally get the formula right, and to do so, 2K Games is looking back to the past as it attempts to recapture the magic of a bygone era. “Core gameplay is one of the major investments we’re making in the next instalment—one of six pillars we are focused on disproportionately in development,” new WWE 2K boss Patrick Gilmore explained in a Reddit Q&A via VGC over the weekend.
We are looking at much-loved previous games like No Mercy or Smackdown: Here Comes the Pain, along with top franchise instalments, and more modern wrestling and fighting games to build an all-new philosophical foundation for the game. We are trying to combine the best ideas out there into a brand new wrestling experience that sets a new standard.
For Accessibility, we’re obsessed with a simple, intuitive interface which has meaning and depth in a wide variety of contexts—i.e. the game is a lot smarter about what the player is trying to do given a gameplay situation (in a grapple, on the ropes, against a turnbuckle, etc.), with consistent inputs regardless of situation.
New players should be able to accidentally pull off awesome moves just by playing with and experimenting with controls.
Gilmore also added that in addition to the development team looking at “ring position, deeper combos and ‘working’ moves, limb damage, technical capabilities, match momentum and unlocks, and rock-paper-scissors (RPS) strategies by archetype and player style,” there was also an added emphasis on recapturing “the essence” of professional wrestling, such as its “drama, changing context, massive roster, backstage action, weapons and props, audience participation and spectacle”:
One of the huge challenges of the franchise is finding ways for players to feel in control of the vast number of potential outcomes in a given match. While we take lessons from fighting games, action RPG’s and other genres, this aspect helps us stay focused on delivering a through-and-through wrestling game.
While we’re determined to deliver the spectacle and specific moments of a genuine match, I can say we’re trying to get away form UI popups or mini games to represent things like pins or reversals, and instead move those concepts into more fully-realized mechanics which feel like extensions of the main experience.
One of the biggest problems with the WWE 2K series, is that it’s simply too real. Make no mistake, character models looking like the spitting image of the superstars they’re based on is fantastic on a visual level, but attempting to create a sensation akin to that of 2K’s many other sports games was not a smart move. WWE fans don’t want to take control of a flawed and fallible human being.
They want heroes and villains, they want to defy gravity and land with a frog splash or shake the very arena that they happen to be in with a Stone Cold Stunner. They want the theatricality of a undead wild west mortician breaking the ring with a tombstone piledriver, they want to revel in the villainous glory of an RKO coming from out of nowhere.
WWE games of the past, from No Mercy and Here Comes the Pain through to the Smackdown vs RAW series excelled at this, granting players an escape from reality as they fought their way up the ladder to be crowned as the best in the industry. Gilmore’s words sound promising, but they’ll be implemented in a game that will soon have some stiff competition as former WWE games developer Yukes is currently working on their own wrestling IP featuring unique ideas and superstars.
Last Updated: June 3, 2020