2K's latest grappler is a largely miserable experience that even the most diehard wrestling fans shouldn't think twice about passing up.
Being a modern WWE fan often requires putting up with a lot of bad to enjoy the kernels of good buried underneath. Most diehards agree that a great wrestling match, for example, can sometimes supersede the terrible, nonsensical storytelling that predicates it. WWE 2K20 demands the same level of forgiveness from a fanbase conditioned to tolerating a lot of garbage; however, its shortcomings prove too severe to overlook. Whether it’s suffering the flawed gameplay that has plagued entries for years or enduring the myriad of technical bugs, playing WWE 2K20 feels about as satisfying as a Hell in the Cell match concluding in a non-finish.
The wrestling gameplay remains an unintuitive mess despite new tweaks aimed at improving the experience. Remapping reversals to the triangle/Y button, for instance, does little to fix a combat system in dire need of a complete overhaul. The core problem lies in an overwhelming layer of systems that make gameplay too complicated for its own good. Submissions still have various inane mini-games tied to them that aren’t fun and fail to capture the sensation of applying or escaping a hold. Movement and animations have a sluggish feel to them. Command inputs seem inconsistent with moves snapping off one minute and doing nothing the next. Simply performing actions at the desired angle requires more effort than necessary. Today’s in-ring product is crisp, fast-paced, and high-impact; 2K20’s wrestling is about as smooth as Bray Wyatt’s chin.
Gameplay this unenjoyable spoils everything that WWE 2K20 has to offer. New additions such as mixed tag matches sound great until you realize you have to actually play them. Taking Roman Reigns through a personalized version of the ladder-like Towers mode sounds daunting for all of the wrong reasons. It cripples the entire experience, and that’s not even touching this entry’s well-documented technical issues. While the hilarious, game-shattering glitches don’t occur quite as frequently as social media would have you believe (this review experienced no major catastrophes), you’ll still run into a litany of smaller yet still infuriating hiccups and poor graphics.
One recurring problem involved the pinfall mini-game freezing up, costing you a count or even an entire match. Referees sometimes fail to count pinfalls at all. A.I. opponents occasionally shut down entirely mid-match, passively standing around until they’re reset by a swift punch. Objects and characters enter regular bouts of physics seizures. A hard crash once occurred while queuing up an online match. Backyard wrestling has more polish than WWE 2K20, and it becomes less funny and more head-shaking with every ill-timed glitch.
Presentation in general has also taken a significant hit. Wrestler models, faces in particular, disappoint across the board. While only a few can be considered truly horrendous–Edge and The Rock specifically comes to mind– the majority look like so-so Create-a-Superstar versions of wrestlers instead of triple-A, one-to-one models. Hair looks awful and tends to behave like an angry sentient being. Beards and other facial fuzz looks either painted or glued onto faces. Superstars with multiple age iterations clearly sport the same facial models just with different hair assets. These shortcuts rob 2K20 of its premium feel.
One bright nugget can be found in this year’s Showcase due to the usual care and attention to detail paid to its packaging. The historical mode does an admirable job documenting the careers of WWE’s Four Horsewomen–Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Bayley, and Sasha Banks–and the rise of the Women’s Revolution. Gameplay aside, it’s fun to relive the foursome’s most pivotal bouts beginning from NXT to the main roster. Video packages and sitdown narrations with all four ladies wonderfully highlight one of WWE’s best initiatives of the last half decade. The latter half of the mode does feel rushed, however. Outside of WrestleMania 33, 2017 is largely glossed over. Furthermore, the Smackdown women’s title match from SummerSlam 2018 is surprisingly non-playable despite it being the star-making match for coverstar Becky Lynch. Regardless, when the game behaves, and if you can put up with the wrestling, Showcase delivers another neat example of a playable wrestling documentary.
The same praise can’t be said for 2K20’s take on MyPlayer. To its credit, this year tries to shake things up a bit by telling a rather corny cinematic tale of two best friends, Red and Tre, who embark on a journey to become WWE Superstars. Watching the player-created duo’s humble beginnings from the indie scene to NXT to the Hall of Fame is laden with eye-rolling dialogue and situations. At 18 chapters, many of which contain multiple matches and long cinematics, it runs way too long as well. The mode also suffers from a dated hub exploration system; some Superstars don’t even move their lips while talking. It can be enjoyable in spurts, but overall MyPlayer adds another tally to the disappointment column.
The various creation suites still provide entertaining creative outlets. Unfortunately, the popular Create-a-Championship has been cut for now (2K plans to patch it in at a later date). To obtain all of the parts needed to create your ideal grappler, you’ll have to purchase loot packs containing creation assets such as clothing, moves, and taunts. Grinding through MyPlayer to earn enough dough in order to hopefully score that desired finisher isn’t an attractive proposition, nor is buying Accelerator and Kickstart packs with real money.
If there was ever a year to skip the annual wrestling game, WWE 2K20 is that year. It plays miserably and functions just as well. Though not the game’s fault, it's already somewhat outdated too thanks to WWE redesigning its stage sets and TV presentations shortly before release. Longtime developer Yukes abruptly leaving the project mid-development and leaving Visual Concepts to pick up the pieces undoubtedly caused a lot of the issues here. While understandable to a degree, that’s ultimately not the fans’ problem. This game is an insulting mess that wouldn’t be fun to play even if everything performed smoothly under the hood. Vince McMahon has never been shy about scrapping a bad idea wholesale and starting again from scratch. Going forward, 2K needs to seriously consider taking the same approach with this series after this digital low blow.
WWE 2K20 is available for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Screen Rant was provided a digital PS4 code for the purpose of the review.