WWE fans are quite skeptical as to how WWE 2K22 will turn out due to 2K's current track record. If you consider how WWE 2K20 turned out, it's no surprise that we're a little hesitant to instill trust in 2K to make a decent wrestling video game. Let's take a quick look at the past to remember what great wrestling games look like.
The Smackdown vs Raw series on PS2 is arguably the best the franchise has ever seen. The innovation brought forth changed the series forever and 2K has yet to replicate the success of these games. The one I want to highlight here is Smackdown vs Raw 2006.
SvR 2006 introduced the most realistic-looking character models in the series. Trading the arcadey style of gameplay for more of a simulation style, the series became more immersive which appealed to a wider audience at the time.
Nowadays, simulation-style games just aren't cutting it as they all feel all too much the same. Understandably, there's only so much they can add to the series other than a roster update. However, when they hide so much content and superstars behind paywalls or a grind, it becomes less of an experience and more of an inconvenience.
Back to SvR 2006, the game also introduced the first iteration of a fully voice-acted season mode and a brand new general manager mode. While there have been rumors that WWE 2K22 may show a return of general manager mode, one can suspect there might be some sort of microtransaction system put in place that will hinder the experience. This is purely speculation but I wouldn't put it past 2K at this point due to them putting full-fledged commercials in their NBA game series.
WWE 2K20 was, without a doubt, the worst the series has ever seen. The game was buggy beyond repair and remained a mess far after the game's horrific launch. To this day, it was never fully fixed. It was as if 2K abandoned the game because they knew it was broken. If they give up so easily on a game like that, what does this mean for WWE 2K22?
After WWE 2K20, 2K made the right call to take a year off from their annual release to put some extra time into their next project to ensure it would be substantially better. This, however, has yet to be seen due to the lack of updates from the developers. These lack of updates are worrying because we don't know what kind of shape the game is currently in. We can only speculate that it may be far from ready and this is cause for concern with the release date approaching. The WWE 2K22 release date is sometime early 2022.
Let's be real for a second. The WWE series is dying; each iteration of the game seems to make more and more mistakes. This can be rectified and I believe the series has a chance to be saved from becoming irrelevant. It's going to take a lot of effort on the developer's part but it's definitely possible.
Firstly, bringing back the aforementioned general manager mode would bring back older fans of the series for nostalgic reasons. We crave the ability to manage finances and ratings and evaluate superstar contracts. The mode provided hours of fun, especially with friends playing against you to win over the fans from the opposing show.
Let's not forget to mention a season mode that actually has a compelling story. The career mode from 2K20 was an abomination; it was cringy and had lackluster character development. Adding a more fleshed-out story would drastically improve the experience of WWE 2K22. Taking notes from SvR 2006 would do the series wonders.
Lastly, bring back forgotten match types and superstars. While it's understandable that superstars are a little trickier due to expiring contracts, bringing back match types should be a no-brainer. Throughout the years, match types are taken out and brought back a couple of games later, pawned off as a "new" feature. It's quite insulting. Bring back I Quit matches, Buried Alive matches, Lumberjack matches, Slobber Knockers, etc. This would add to the plethora of current match types we already have and allow more variety into the mix.
To reiterate, I believe that WWE 2K22 can revive the series despite 2K20 single-handedly destroying the dying franchise. While it's possible to save the series, it would take a product that's quite exceptional. For now, we can only hope WWE 2K22 will surpass our expectations.