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WWE 2K20 review: A complete mess

When I saw the first trailer for WWE 2K20, I had a relatively simple question: will it be fun?

The reason is that the 2K series has struggled to deal with that answer with its last few entries and while some dismiss the series in total, I go into each new release in the series hoping key changes are made.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case this year.

2K’s rollout of information pertaining to WWE 2K20 was frustrating. In hindsight, it probably was a sign. The roster, downloadable content, and special editions were rolled out over time, but we didn’t get an official trailer highlighting gameplay until three weeks before launch.

The Glitches

WWE 2K20 is a broken, disjointed, buggy mess of a game. While other entries in the 2K series have had their share of bugs that have been shared on social media over the years, 2K20 takes these long-standing issues and cranks them up to 11.

Several times during gameplay, I had to restart a match because the characters involved got stuck in an infinite loop hitting each other with the same offense over and over. The game is prone to crash as well. In one example, I had spent about 30 minutes creating a moveset for my create-a-wrestler only for the game to crash when it couldn’t load the preview of one of the moves. I soured on the creative aspect of the game pretty quickly after that.

There were other weird technical issues I experienced as well. One time during an entrance, the camera panned to the crowd and half of one section didn’t load. Another time, a character's story mode came out looking like she had a skin disorder because the lighting was all screwed up.

There’s also this involving Finn Balor never breaking a pin and suddenly becoming impervious to interference. And really, this is just the tip of the iceberg compared to other glitches and bugs that have been shared on social media. 

Some of this can be attributed to Yukes, the longtime developer of the series dating back to the first SmackDown game on the PS1, not taking part in the development of this year’s game. I’m not sure if they joined development and left or just didn’t contribute at all, but it’s clear there were development issues as they are plainly visible for everyone to see.

2K is aware of these issues and released a statement saying that they will have an initial patch released in the next two weeks. I am hopeful that this fixes the more glaring problems that have been described.

The Gameplay

Beyond the glitches, the actual gameplay remains a mixed bag. Something that had been a thorn in my side for years was the reversal system as the game punishes you constantly for either hitting the reversal button too quickly or too slowly. That has been toned down considerably in 2K20 which is a welcome addition.

Still, much like previous entries in the series, playing matches in 2K20 tedious. Some match types, particularly multi-man ones like triple threat matches, take way too long to clear. The game’s AI doesn’t really help matters much either. Whenever I laid a wrestler out, they take way too long to recover. Sometimes, they just stand around and attack the air and other times, they suddenly become ultrasmart, reversing any offense and suddenly taking control for long portions of the match. To say that it is inconsistent is an understatement.

The Characters & Story Mode

One of the positives of the 2K series is that there are no shortage of wrestlers to choose from. There are well over 200 characters on the roster this year, including some that haven’t been in a WWE game in years like Chyna.

However, the character models this year look way off compared to previous games in the series. Take a look at some of the models. That looks nothing like Dusty Rhodes. And holy hell, what is with Kurt Angle? Are we sure that’s Molly Holly? The character models in these games are never 100% on point, but this year’s entries look far worse than last year’s release.

I do have to give praise to MyCareer, the game’s story mode. It follows the careers of friends Red and Tre as they recount the story of their career as they prepare to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. They start from the bottom, traveling to Canada for their first gigs to eventually joining NXT, getting to the main roster, and encountering all of the big WWE stars.

It’s definitely corny at times, and somehow despite taking place over a number of years, both Tre and Red never actually age. But the characters and story are endearing in their goofiness and it compelled me to play further. There's also a few cool cameos from past and present WWE stars that are a nice addition. If anything, this was the highlight of this year’s release.

Showcase mode, where you play and recreate matches from the past, focuses on the Four Horsewomen from their time in NXT to their individual runs in WWE. I think the idea and the topic are fantastic, but in execution, it can be kind of a chore. In order to advance, you have to complete a series of objectives, mostly those that relate to the actual real-life match. That structure (which is also in the story mode) can be suffocating at times, and, as mentioned earlier, can take a very, very long time to actually accomplish.

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to show bugs and glitches on social media and come to the conclusion that this is a bad game. Now that I’ve spent time playing it, I can safely say that WWE 2K20 is a seriously flawed mess that highlights all of the series’ worst problems. There’s actually a fun game deep down in here somewhere, but in its current state, it’s absolutely not worth the risk. On the Meltzer scale, it’s somewhere around the * range.