Over the past decade, 2K’s WWE games have been a blend of excellent and in need of improvement. Last year’s offering was a fresh start after a two year break and the first game developed by Visual Concepts, still using the core gameplay engine developed by Yuke’s, but revamped with more flexibility when it came to control options for the player and moves being done in matches.
The addition of a combo system enables things like high-powered strikes, grapples or even submissions to be done with a couple of button presses alongside either a forward, back, or neutral stick movement and is a game-changer when it comes to playing as superstars like Brock Lesnar or Karrion Kross who have a wide variety of strikes and submissions in their arsenal. Having this system in addition to the existing stick and button-based commands helps for a more authentic in-ring experience across the board and both WWE 2K23 and last year’s entry went to new lengths to craft an accessible experience for players.
Mini-Game Madness Made Simple
Last year’s entry debuted the ability to turn mini-games that normally require a lot of button presses to be adjusted to a single hold of a button – so instead of rapidly tapping a face button to escape a pin or submission, the hold feature would simulate a turbo controller in effect and auto-mash the button. This year’s installment keeps that the same, but adds in another mini-game type for pin escapes where the player just has to move the right stick when it’s in a certain zone. This mini-game is definitely better in some ways because it doesn’t involve ever holding or mashing a button, but is hurt by the screen shake during it that makes it very hard to see where it’s at during a longer match when the entry window is very small.
On-screen button prompts for the button-tapping mini-games actually change based on the version being played – which is a bit odd. On the PS4, the prompts show up with the PlayStation charm color represented, while on the PS5, they’re white on a black background. This means that only the shape and not its color on the controller are visible. This makes it a bit tougher to see which button one is supposed to press, especially for Circle and Square, which can look very similar unless you’re paying very close attention to it.
The Importance of Iconography
This goes hand-in-hand with things like having text color and text and icon size adjustments – which aren’t present, but would help with this problem. Having a larger icon to work with definitely makes seeing a button prompt easier, and the lack of any text size adjustment is something that can hopefully be remedied down the line. Some modes, like tutorial and MyFaction use fairly large text with stark contrast between the background and foreground text. Most other parts of the in-game text use a smaller typeface that can be trickier to see – especially in a match with a lot of competitors involved (like the new WarGames match) and a lot of people moving and causing a bit of a distraction when you’re trying to see a button prompt.
Fortunately, Visual Concepts including things like on-screen prompts for so many in-game actions makes 2K23 a very easy game to pick up and play on a surface level. Every major action like a strike or grapple is referenced in the pause menu and most advanced techniques like special attacks and finishers – including those onto tables or off of ladders, get an on-screen button guide making it a breeze for even new players to have a fun time with the game. While things like in-depth combos may be tough if someone has fine-motor issues, the player does still have light and heavy attacks alongside two-to-three button combos to perform if one can’t press a lot of buttons quickly.
Visual and Auditory Adjustments
From an accessibility point of view, WWE 2K23 is a solid option when it comes to fine-motor limitations, but has a lot of work for visual accessibility. Colorblind text options would be nice to see alongside larger text availability. The last-gen version having colorful button prompts makes that a good pickup, while the cross-gen version is nicer if you want the better framerates and increased detail on the PS5 version. The audio side of things definitely needs improvement to ensure that deaf and hard of hearing players have a more robust experience.
The inclusion of on-screen prompts does make it easy for players who can’t hear well to get the core information of how to play the game and go through its modes, but for things like color commentary and music, there is nothing done to indicate what is being said or the lyrics for music being played. Commentary would be tough to indicate with closed captions given the game’s HUD elements, but it would be nice to see an attempt made given that there are things like career information relayed in the commentary that the player can use to learn more about the roster.
Changing the Game with Sliders
One nice thing that Visual Concepts has done this year that can make the game more accessible is adding sliders for AI behavior. This is somewhat similar to the Fire Pro Wrestling franchise’s logic adjustment and can do things like ensure that certain members of the roster don’t do things they wouldn’t do in real-life – like dive off of ladders or the top rope.
For someone like Andre the Giant, it helps to replicate the era he’s represented here by not having him do any flying – although if one wants to make an alternate attire for him and base it on his younger days when he would do things off the top, they can. Having the freedom to avoid things like flying attacks does help cut down on the fast pace of matches and can make it a more accessible game experience for those who find it a bit too fast-paced.
Overall, WWE 2K23 is a good follow-up to last year’s game that improves the mode selection, but it has a ways to go when it comes to accessibility even with improvements made over prior games. The variety of options for button-mashing mini-games makes them much easier to deal with if you’re playing with arthritis or fatigued hands and want to avoid joint strain, while a lot needs to be done from a visual point of view. The ability to adjust text size and including things like text options for colorblind players would be nice and is something that hopefully gets patched in down the line.