WWE 2K20 closely aligns with much of the current WWE onscreen product. It features the most promising roster in history, yet manages to squander it with incompetence, all while expecting fans to lap it up like they always do. After all, the fans are idiot marks that allowed WWE and its video game licensors to shovel excrement onto their plates for years. WWE 2K20 is a video game so bad that it should be Old Yeller’d and the people that allowed its release and encouraged folks to spend up to $99.99 on it should be ashamed (though one would likely have to be incapable of feeling shame to offer this garbage up for sale in the first place).
A buffet of crap
WWE 2K20 presents itself as a wrestling simulation and a celebration of all things WWE. It features a stacked roster of current superstars and well as a smattering of legends (many of which are locked behind a paywall). Much like the real-life roster, the level of talent on display is impossible to deny. Loads of match types are available, as well as a lengthy MyCareer mode, the return of the 2K Showcase mode, and an all-new 2K Originals mode.
The 2K Originals mode only has one event available at the time of writing, but 2K promises more on the horizon. These events stray off the conventional wrestling path and introduce fantasy environments and participants. If you’ve ever wanted to play some excruciatingly dull matches where you must rigidly follow the hazy directional text or be forced to restart, this could be your ticket. Take the fight to a foggy swamp area with a dilapidated ring while you take on a spooky version of Aleister Black with spikes, werewolf Roman Reigns, or zombie Randy Orton. While I can appreciate wanting to mix up the formula, the underlying gameplay issues and dull presentation prevent 2K Originals from being worth anyone’s time.
MyCareer is a solid representation of what WWE 2K20 has to offer. As a way to play through a WWE career, it misses the mark more than any career mode in any game that has come before it. The story it does offer is so goddamn stupid that it comes around to being endearing. You play as a pair of friends that make a pact to follow their wrestling dreams after getting beat up in high school. Both the male and female characters are full-blown idiots, though their stupidity manages to take the story some chuckle-inducing places.
The mode tasks you with creating each of these wrestlers at the beginning, allowing for an insultingly low amount of customization and then asks the player to come up with a name, an abbreviated name, a social media account name, and a 4-tiered announcer call out name. After this, WWE 2K20 literally tosses that work out the window and refers to the protagonists as Red and Trey from the first cutscene to the end of the mode. This attention to detail is indicative of all parts of the experience. Several WWE superstars offer voice over work for the mode, but it is wasted thanks to poor or entirely non-existent lip-syncing and some hideous player model glitches.
At one point in the story, the protagonists hit the road with all of their possessions and drive for days to reach Calgary, Alberta so that they can train under the legendary Stu Hart, who was famous for training wrestlers in his basement and, being the father of Bret Hart, and managing the famous Calgary Stampede wrestling territory. What the duo didn’t know was that Stu Hart had been dead for twenty years by that point and when they knocked on the door of the house, the current owner justifiably mocks them. This kind of thing happens constantly in the careers of Red and Trey, leading them through multiple WWE title victories and losses that they never really earned or deserved.
The leaps in logic are nearly indescribable to a non-wrestling fan and somehow manage to be even less comprehensible to a diehard WWE fan. Of course a 50+ year-old Samoa Joe would return to the WWE with a bionic arm after a decade-long hiatus in undisclosed mountain territory, choosing to be absent from his wife and children to get revenge on the protagonists for stuff set up by the girl who teased and tortured Red and Trey in high school (and who also became a WWE star). A twenty-years-in-the-making Mean Girls embarrassment plot from the antagonist leads to Vince McMahon booking the Wrestlemania 42 main event based on events from the night before. It’s stupider than it sounds, but it can be entertaining at times. If only the player wasn’t forced to endure the misery of the gameplay bits intertwined with the fever dream cutscenes.
What if all WWE superstars were born in Skyrim?
It’s hard to talk about WWE 2K20 without bringing attention to the quality of the superstar models. There are a handful of them that look like you would expect from a AAA video game, including Brock Lesnar, Triple H, and Randy Orton. For the other 98% of the characters on display, the results run from reasonable caricature interpretation to nightmare fuel. It isn’t even a case of only the top stars having the best character models, as cover girl Becky Lynch is one of the worst examples of the bunch.
The off-putting cyber representations of these wrestlers are bad enough when static, but once put into motion during entrances and matches, the results almost always worsen. Some arenas offer lighting that casts shadows on the character models, while others leave all participants looking like mannequins who wandered out of a PS2 game. Some people can blink, others, like Peyton Royce during a MyCareer visit to Calgary, seem to have had the top half of their faces pulled back into their scalp, unable to show pain or any emotion other than the look of a deer about to be hit by a speeding log truck. The Macho Man Randy Savage, god rest his macho soul, is presented as sporting the second-worst bowl cut in haircut history, only falling short of the disgraceful mop that 2K stuck on top of Savage’s Wrestlemania 3 opponent Ricky Steamboat.
All this bad news can get worse once the moving models start to collide with each other when wrestling maneuvers are attempted. Seeing Razor Ramon’s hair turn into a nightmare-inducing Cthulhu or Charlotte Flair’s mane warp into a cylinder and begin stabbing the opponent is a regular occurrence. Having a manager or partner at ringside is almost a guarantee that character models go rogue and slip into and out of time-space.
There is no diamond hiding underneath
These games have had glitches and physics issues for years, often resulting in hilarious memes and gifs. Things aren’t as fun when the glitches make any attempt to enjoy the game a tedious endeavor. The game will crash at random and it will crash often. Collision detection is a suggestion in the WWE 2K20 universe rather than a hard rule. Even though loads of the animations in the game are of high quality in a vacuum, getting hits and moves to actually land on your opponent can become as daunting as any Dark Souls boss fight.
Many of these animations and bugs have been around in the game dating back to the PS2 days and the folks who oversee production on WWE games clearly have no real interest in fixing them or moving off of the game engine that seems to have been in use since Stone Cold Steve Austin was a full-time roster participant. Yes, the character models (when the skin isn’t melting off of them) look better in 2019 than they did in 2001, but the core gameplay is largely unchanged. It was announced during development that longtime developer Yukes was off the project and Visual Concepts would be assuming command of the ship, but the same old Yukes issues continue to make up the foundation of this condemned structure.
As a simulation of WWE wrestling, WWE 2K20 only works if you have two people available under the agreement to carefully work through a match. Against the AI, getting a match that resembles anything you might see on WWE programming only happens about once every 100 fights. While gameplay sliders are available, they don’t meaningfully affect gameplay for sim-minded players. AI-controlled characters will simply never attempt certain moves or context-sensitive actions, an issue that has plagued the series for years.
The mechanics for kick-outs and submissions are dreadful holdovers from previous games. They were created in response to fan feedback against simple button mashing, but the end result is worse than button mashing and the mechanics themselves are nearly impossible for casual players to work with. If you mistime a button tap during the kick out circle, you can lose a match in 5 seconds, even if your wrestler never took a hit. The slant towards offering a simulation also makes WWE 2K20 unappealing to casual players or fans of the arcade and AKI-produced wrestling classics of yesteryear.
Online play continues to be a joke for the series. Assuming you can match up with another player, you are limited to basic matches and things like entrances are disabled. A set of friends have no way to play the game in any customizable fashion. The WWE Universe mode is fundamentally broken, while long-time fans will wonder why the simple and engaging GM modes from previous-generation WWE games continue to be missing in action. The suite of creation tools has been neutered by the removal of Create-a-Championship and the Create-a-Superstar has had many of the customization items removed without explanation. Where the Community Creations pages used to be loaded with great CAWs on release week, the section is now a depressing ghost town and the lack of cross-system CAW sharing continues to disappoint for another year.
Garbage: Then — Now — Forever
I had a rough time when reviewing Madden NFL 20 earlier this year because the game was another retread license cash-in from a publisher that clearly had no respect for its players. While it was a lazy dumpster fire, at least it was largely playable across its modes. The same cannot be said of WWE 2K20. 2K Games and Take Two should be embarrassed that this game was released in this condition. For more than twenty years, wrestling game fans have been begging publishers to offer an updated take on the AKI-produced wrestling game classics like WCW vs NWO: Revenge and WWF: No Mercy. Instead, the fans are expected to fawn over this dreck.
If you must. catch the cutscenes from the bonkers MyCareer mode on Youtube. If you need a new wrestling game to play, seek out Fire Pro Wrestling World or CHIKARA: Action Arcade Wrestling. This way, you have a chance at playing a well-made game and will be supporting publishers that don’t see their player base as mindless ATM machines. 3/10 shockmasters
This review is based on the PC Steam release. The key was provided by the publisher. WWE 2K20 was released on October 21 for PC, Xbox One, and PS4.
- Some of the character models look great under the right conditions
- MyCareer story is weird enough to be entertaining at times
- Lots of modes
- One of the buggiest games in recent memory
- Loads of bad character models
- Submission and kick-out mechanics still awful
- Matches rarely resemble actual WWE action
- Crashing issues
- Disappointing multiplayer when it works
- Removal of CAW parts
- Collision detection issues
Chris Jarrard posted a new article, WWE 2K20 review: Botchamania