WWE 2K22’s release date gives me hope that we might finally get a great wrestling game

After months of speculation, WWE 2K22 finally has a release date – or more specifically, a release window of March 2022. 

Despite slipping to next year, I’m delighted to see that developer Visual Concepts is taking the time it needs to deliver what will hopefully be a great wrestling game. 

After all, WWE 2K22 can’t afford to be another flop that’s panned by critics and ridiculed by players alike. The bug-riddled WWE 2K20 and prompt cancellation of WWE 2K21 means that there’s extra pressure to get this one right. Should Visual Concepts fail to do so, it’s hard to see any way back for a series that needs more than just hardcore wrestling fans to buy it, if it’s to be successful.

WWE 2K22 has to “hit different”, then, just like the game’s marketing slogan claims. And from the gameplay trailers we’ve been shown, it’s at least easy on the eye. 

Thousands of new animations and the use of an all-new face-scanning technology should make WWE 2K22’s broad-shouldered superstars look like the real deal, but it’s the gameplay that will ultimately decide whether WWE 2K22 will be king of the ring or another botch job.

And wouldn’t it be nice to have a great wrestling game again? There was a period of time, particularly on the Nintendo 64, where wrestling games were some of the best titles available. From WCW vs nWo: Revenge to WWF: Wrestlemania 2000, wrestling games on the N64 provided a golden age for those who liked to knock the taste out of an opponent’s mouth – and it’s something that hasn’t been replicated since.

Aside from the odd Smackdown! title on PS2 like Here Comes The Pain and the unexpectedly brilliant Def Jam Vendetta, wrestling video games have consistently struggled to evolve as the generations have passed, culminating in the abysmal WWE 2K20 that only typified the problem.

Next big thing 

WWE Brock Lesnar

(Image credit: 2K Games)

Encouragingly, we’ve heard that WWE 2K22 features new controls that are “much cleaner” than previous titles, according to Forbes’ Brian Mazique, who also said that the game is “looking fantastic”.

But it’s Mazique’s quote that WWE 2K22 “feels like a wrestling fan’s wrestling game” that has me excited. I’ve always felt that, despite nailing the core gameplay foundations that underpin every wrestling game many decades ago, nothing has come close to replicating the excellent rock-paper-scissors style setup of developer AKI’s N64 games. The spirit meter, a mechanic that dictated the ebb and flow of a match, also hasn’t been implemented in quite the same way.

I’m quietly optimistic, then, that WWE 2K22’s overhaul of the controls and focus on pleasing core fans can only result in a positive outcome. The game needs to be accessible to those that are new to the series, of course, but deep enough to satisfy veteran players.

Strained relationship 

WWE

(Image credit: 2k Games)

WWE 2K22’s delay into 2022 should be seen as a positive, but it’s apparently put a strain on 2K Sports and developer Visual Concepts’ relationship with WWE itself (thanks, Sports Gamers Online). According to SGO’s sources, WWE hasn’t been too happy with the game’s slow development speed, and has reportedly gone as far as to threaten to cancel its contract with 2K Games and find another publisher. 

This has caused some tension between the development studio, who are desperate to get things right, and WWE who want to see a return on its investment sooner rather than later. Ultimately, though, the game was granted a delay, which should give Visual Concepts the time it needs to turn WWE 2K22 into a title contender.

It should also give the developer time to ensure the game’s roster is as up to date as it can be. WWE has released some notable superstars in recent months, including the likes of Braun Strowman, Bray Wyatt, Rick Flair and Lana, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear that these superstars were previously scanned into the game but are now surplus to requirements.

Like fighting on top of the hell in a cell, WWE 2K22 has no room for error. If the game fails to deliver, it's a long drop into obscurity.

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