2K Games’ WWE 2K20 just may be the biggest gaming letdown I’ve personally experienced in recent years.  Sure, I was really hyped for Fallout 76 and that continues to be a dumpster fire being doused in gasoline.. Yeah, Breath of the Wild and Red Dead Redemption 2, 2 critically acclaimed games, just weren’t my cup of tea.  Hell, I signed up for Microsoft’s Game Pass service to play Crackdown 3 at launch, and the 7 of us that played the game know how that turned out. However, all of that is pale in comparison to this game. If Crackdown 3 and Fallout 76 are the Tag Team Champions of Disappointment, then WWE 2K20 is the Reigning, Defending, Undisputed World Heavyweight Champion of Disgrace.  I was extremely hyped for this entry into the 2K Franchise. I’ve been recently watching wrasslin’ more than I think I ever have, and I’ve been itching to play a wrestling game and recapture the enjoyment I used to get playing them as a teen. However, after the hours I’ve spent with it (at least 25% of which spent at loading screens), I’m ready to take this game to Suplex City.  I’m ready to throw this game off the top of the Cell. I’m ready to turn this sumbitch sideways and stick it straight up 2K’s Candy Ass. And, lastly, this game clearly ain’t down with that, so I’ve got two words for it……

WWE 2K20 takes everything that you know and love about the long-standing WWE gaming franchise, ensures it’s under-cooked, and serves it to you on a flimsy paper plate with a side of moldy bread and wilted lettuce.  The game boasts a large cast of characters, with a slew of match types, customization (that you have to grind in-game currency for) and variety. The menus are easy to navigate and it’s pretty straightforward to get right into the action by yourself or with some friends; if the game decides to load, that is.  All of this sounds great, and if you’ve been a fan of the franchise in the past, you’ll feel right at home. However, as soon as you get past the base menu into the Character Select screen, MyPlayer/MyCareer mode, et cetera, that’s where it all goes downhill; hard and fast. WWE 2K20’s roster has over 200 playable characters ranging from all eras of wrestling and all of WWE’s flagship brands (RAW, NXT, SmackDown).  The problem with this huge roster is that some of the characters look like what I’d imagine their ‘Dollar Store Action Figure’ Counterpart would look like. The saddest part about this is that last year’s 2K19 looked leaps and bounds better, overall. If you don’t believe me, just look up a clip of Bianca Belair’s entrance or a screen-cap of Becky Lynch’s character models in 2K20. You’ll find a lot of angry Tweets about this game, justifiably so (look at the previously trending #FixWWE2K20), and many of them compare this to PS2/GC or X360/PS3 era graphics.  While, I will say that the in-ring action and character models mostly don’t look that bad, there are definitely some moments where I can wholeheartedly agree with this. Case in point, the over-hyped and under-delivered MyCareer Mode.

MyCareer Mode is one of 2K’s flagship Game Modes.  This has been a hit in previous year’s games, especially with the NBA franchise, and since I haven’t spent much time with any of the Story Modes in recent years WWE games, I was extremely excited to give this year’s MyCareer Mode a go.  Since there is a much bigger focus on the Women’s division in the wrestling world, rightfully the campaign in this game follows both a Male and Female Protagonist. Before you can even start the MyCareer Mode, you have to create a Male and Female wrestler from a limited selection of customization options and moves.  I had fun doing this, but I was confused because the character customization was so limited at this starting point, so I was worried that the Create-A-Wrestler was going to be extremely watered down It’s not, thankfully, but I’d say a good 80% (maybe more) of the Customization options that are available for creating wrestlers are locked and need to be purchased with the in-game currency.  Just to confirm, the in-game currency is not purchasable with real-world money.  Nothing screams immersion like having to grind to unlock a new pair of tights for your character.  Moving on… So, I’ve done it. My characters are finally created and I’m ready to embark on the MyCareer mode journey!  I select the option to start the first Chapter, and I’m greeted with a glorious loading screen (image below). 4-5 minutes goes by and I realize it’s still on the Loading Screen.  I left the room and came back; still there. I restarted the game and this happened again. I restarted the game a second time, played a 10-man Royal Rumble successfully, then came back to it. FINALLY, I am behind the wheel of the MyCareer mode.  Those cutting-edge graphics there are exactly what you can expect with the MyCareer mode. The character models all look equally as absurd, and any action or animation that occurs during the cut-scenes is terrible. There’s a moment where one of the antagonists squirts Ketchup all over your female Wrestler.  The wide-shot shows your character lying on the ground, looking clean as a whistle. Add to this, the fact that the dialogue is even worse than what we’ve come to expect from WWE Creative on the televised shows. In the first 15 minutes of playing the MyCareer mode, I heard the word “fart-bag” utilized as a legitimate insult (the commentary team then references it in a match) and the female Protagonist hugs a notebook and talks to it in a comforting fashion like one would to a small child or a puppy.  The dialogue walks right past the line of campy and cheesy and dives headfirst into the realm of embarrassing. If the writing team for this game had credit on any previous project that wasn’t something along the lines of an early 2000’s Nickelodeon show, it’d knock me out for the 10 count. After maybe 30 minutes with the MyCareer mode, I got stuck at yet another endless Loading Screen. This time, however, I can’t seem to get past it. Maybe the Video Game Gods are looking out for my best interest. I started writing the initial draft for this review about a week ago, and I still cannot progress in the story.  I have tried at least 10 times completely closing and restarting the game and restarting my PS4 Pro, yet I cannot get the MyCareer mode to successfully load the next segment.

The WWE Universe mode has made a return in WWE 2K20.  This is basically a spiritual successor to the GM Mode from the SmackDown vs Raw series, and has a lot of potential.  These modes have never really been my cup of tea, but I can say the Universe mode does offer a lot of potential playtime for those who enjoy it.  You are basically in control of booking the shows, setting your rosters, building feuds, etc. You can simulate the matches individually or an entire show, or you can play the individual matches if you are an absolute madman and want to be fully in control of your WWE Universe’s fate.  Although this mode is not my forte, it does have a lot to offer and I believe stands out as one of the strongest features in WWE 2K20 (especially since it actually works).

WWE 2K20 does have other good features and moments in it, but sadly they are mostly overshadowed by how impressively broken the game is.  As I mentioned above, I played a 10-man Royal Rumble and I have also played many of the other specialty Match Types (Hell In A Cell, Money In The Bank, etc) to give the game a fair assessment.  When the game is not glitching out and triggering match breaking bugs (characters getting stuck in an animation loop, mostly), the gameplay is relatively fun. I had fun with the Royal Rumble matches, which have always been a favorite of mine.  My only gripes here are that it doesn’t appear you can select who to control after being eliminated, and automatically get stuck with the next entrant, and also it seems like if your character is thrown over the ropes a certain way, it is seemingly impossible to recover; regardless of your health status.  The other match types were enjoyable as well. If it were possible to turn a blind eye to the half of the Roster that looks like melted clay models, the game-breaking and match-breaking glitches, and the rest of the seemingly never-ending list of issues, this just might have been a good game.

WWE 2K20 also offers modes that let you recap the Women’s Revolution and moments from Roman Reigns’ rise to stardom, as well as paid DLC titled WWE Originals.  All of these modes feel uninspired and/or unnecessary, for a number of reasons. For starters, the entrances are missing from these iconic moments. Instead, you get watered down, mission-style matches.  In my opinion, this takes away from the overall experience and makes it feel like you’re just working a highlight reel rather than actually re-enacting these moments. My second gripe isn’t WWE or 2K’s fault on the surface.  Dean Ambrose’s departure from the WWE, and really AEW’s existence take a lot away from the potential match pool for the Roman Reigns Tower Mode. Many of Roman’s best moments in WWE have been from his time with the Shield, and since Ambrose/Jon Moxley is no longer affiliated with the WWE, this makes all of these moments unavailable for use.  Lastly, thankfully the pre-order exclusive WWE Originals Pack, Bump in the Night, dropped before I finished this review, so I was able to get some time with that. Upon installing, the game and the mode open with live-action introductions from The New Day. This is easily the most entertaining part of the DLC pack, if that says anything. As much as I was hoping this would be the diamond in the rough, it is absolutely not.  Rather than any voice-acting, all of the dialogue is text-based, and the character stills do these cheesy poses as the conversation progresses. The character models and the arena look abysmal, even compared to the other problematic models in the game. Also, this may just be me, but the lack of audience cheering and booing really takes away from the experience. Since the Bump in the Night arena is in this hellacious setting, there is just a zombified ref, you and your opponent(s), and Bray Wyatt on commentary.  The Wyatt commentary is the only new vocal addition to this mode, and although it is cool to hear Bray calling the action in these matches, it gets stale rather quickly, and it doesn’t come close to replacing the experience provided by the audience and commentary team combo.

2K has always made an effort to have exciting soundtracks and realistic sound in their sports games.  WWE 2K20, however, seems to miss that mark. The original soundtrack in the game only has 12 tracks. The selection of songs is solid, but the repetition sinks in rather fast, given the limited number of songs  Thankfully, there is a redeeming feature here. You can remove any songs that you don’t want from the rotation in the options menu, which is a nice feature. Additionally, you can add any of the roster’s theme music to the rotation of songs!  They even feature music for some of the stables in the game. Despite having a underwhelmingly small in-game soundtrack, I do feel that it is somewhat made up for with the ability to add wrestler’s themes to the mix. The sound design for the rest of the game is passable, from my experience.  I’ve seen some posts on forums and some examples of really bad distortion in the sound and changes in volume between entrances and in-ring action, but I have not encountered any of these in my time with the game. In my experience with 2K20, the Sound Design is likely the most stable portion of the game.

WWE 2K20 has been a behind-the-scenes disaster since well before launch.  In August of 2019 (yes, less than 3 months prior to the launch of this game), 2K announced that Yuke’s would no longer be contributing to the development of WWE Games with 2K, and their studio, Visual Concepts, would be taking the lead on 2K20 and future titles. Yuke’s has been developing wrestling games for over 20 years, and has been involved in the WWE franchise since 2000.   I’m not sure if this announcement was a long time coming, or if the timing may indicate why this game is so unbelievably broken and buggy, but Yuke’s is not referenced on the box-art or in the title screens of the game (Not that I’ve seen. If I’m proven wrong, I will Edit this review). That being said, this game surely feels like it didn’t spend much time in the oven, so I wouldn’t rule out that Visual Concepts may have had to scrap part of the progress on the game following the Yuke’s/2K split.  So many signs point to 2K being well aware of this game’s shattered state prior to release. As eager as I was for this game, I was checking almost daily for news and content from the game. We hardly saw anything from the game until maybe September, and even when new footage was dropping it was limited to entrances or momentary glimpses at moves being executed by the top stars, and likely most polished models, in the game. If this is any sign of what’s to come, I’d consider being hesitant before investing in this or any future WWE 2K titles.  I will add that 2K has acknowledged the outcry and said they have a patch incoming within the coming weeks. However, based on pretty much every past instance of a game like this launching in such a horrid state, this game is unlikely to be fully functional or enjoyable for the foreseeable future, possibly forever.

WWE 2K20 contains fragments of the enjoyable elements this long-standing franchise has had to offer.  Sadly, these are grossly overshadowed by this under-cooked, buggy mess that managed to effortlessly slip through the greasy fingers of studio executives and into the hands of equal parts eager-to-play and bound-to-be-disappointed fans.  Even with the brief moments of enjoyment I’ve had with the game so far, the negative aspects outweigh the good so heavily that I almost feel like I am being generous with my score. If you absolutely feel like you need to get your hands on the latest WWE game, still don’t.  You’re better off buying WWE 2K19, which is far better, and using the Created Wrestler community to download any superstars you need on your roster. My sincerest hope is that this game will be patched in the months to come, and will justify a budget price when it gets to that point.  For now, however, even in a budget bin, I’d still recommend last year’s entry over this.

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