When 2K Sports parted ways with Japanese developer Yuke’s – the key studio responsible for the WWE series ever since the original Smackdown! back in 1999 – there was a sense of “we’ve got it from here, thanks”, that a team with nearly 20 years of experience was no longer needed for these annual wrestling updates.
Alas, it seems that WWE 2K20, the first entry without any involvement from Yuke’s, is little more than evidence to the contrary: the WWE games may not have been perfect before, but they were a hell of a lot more stable than this one.
By now you may have seen the numerous glitch videos doing the rounds, with players sharing footage of fighters levitating, objects disappearing into the ring, faces falling off, bits of the ring flopping around and general jittery nonsense that usually happens when a game breaks with hilarious consequences. It’s worth pointing out that these are extreme examples and not as common as you may think: after about 10 hours of gameplay we haven’t experienced anything so severe.
That’s not to say we haven’t had our fair share of issues, of course, and while most are fairly minor compared to the more viral examples, they’re still evidence of an extremely sloppy product. Lighting is often a mess, with odd strobe and dithering effects passing over wrestlers during close-ups. Objects like ladders and chairs twitch around when dropped and continue to have wild spasms until they can find a place to rest.
At least in those occasions, you still get to see what’s going on. On at least seven or eight occasions the camera decided to point far too high, meaning it was completely missing the action. It’s hard to get too excited about the retro Undertaker’s entrance when he’s riding his bike underneath the screen, completely out of shot, and it’s a little tricky customising your created wrestler’s face when you can only see the tip of their head.
At the risk of sounding like a parent, we aren’t angry with WWE 2K20, we’re just disappointed. When it actually works like it’s supposed to, it’s as fun as the series has ever been. It’s got an obscenely large 218-strong roster that for the most part looks decent enough – though legendary alumni certainly look worse than current, scanned wrestlers – and if you can’t decide on who to play as the character creation is still gloriously in-depth.
“It’s hard to get too excited about the retro Undertaker’s entrance when he’s riding his bike underneath the screen, completely out of shot, and it’s a little tricky customising your created wrestler’s face when you can only see the tip of their head.”
The same can’t be said for the MyPlayer mode, however, which handles customisation in a strange way. When you first create your male and female superstars (the career mode this year revolves around the story of two new wannabes), you’re given the choice of some basic outfits and moves. To get more you need to buy ‘loot packs’, which unlock random moves, clothing parts, taunts, emblems and banners, or you can pay with a premium currency to unlock specific ones quicker.
Alarm bells may be ringing here as you await the inevitable microtransaction information – 2K is notorious for this with its NBA 2K games, after all – but oddly there are no ways to buy more virtual currency with real money.
This means you’re left with the bizarre combination of using loot crates to randomly unlock the game’s many hundreds (if not thousands) of customisable items, without the actual money-spinning element that’s sort of needed to make loot boxes relevant in the first place. If we were betting types, we’d imagine the ability to buy currency with real money will be added after launch when it’s no longer in the media eye.
Other odd decisions include a complete overhaul of the game’s controls for no apparent reason. Long-time fans will be more or less used to the button assignment by now, with only a few tweaks here and there per game. This year, however, things are wildly different, meaning it takes a while to learn how to pull off essentially the same moves you’ve been executing for the past two decades.
And yet, despite all these frustrating ‘what were they thinking’ moments, we’d be lying if we said we weren’t still having fun with this game (even if it wasn’t necessarily for the reasons 2K expected).
The thing’s got more bugs than the insect house at London Zoo, and for that 2K and developer Visual Concepts should be raked across the coals: this is nothing like a refined product and while it would be unfair to lay the blame with the five separate QA teams listed in the game’s credits, you do still wonder how all these glitches made it through to the final product.
- Creative director
- Lynell Jinks
An entertaining wrestling game buried underneath a mound of technical issues.
- An enormous roster and heaps of game modes
- Character models aren’t quite as bad as social media is claiming
- The thing’s more broken than Matt Hardy
- Loot boxes are a needless inconvenience