After a bit of a break, the WWE 2K franchise returns this week with WWE 2K22, featuring Rey Mysterio as the cover star. We found out more about where it’s at from the game’s development team.

Dazzling presentation has always been a huge part of the WWE 2K experience. What are the hottest additions that we should expect this year in that department?
We’ve rescanned as many Superstars as we could to accurately depict likenesses. We’ve improved overall facial animations, hair, and Superstar performances. In addition to the Superstars, we’ve added in a wider-angle lens for gameplay cameras, and overhauled both the lighting and VFX engines. And this year, we also have 55 playable arenas, virtual crowd boards (this means we’ve added the Thunderdome), and new Championship titles.

What are the biggest gameplay improvements that players should expect?
We took the opportunity to completely overhaul combat from the ground up by redesigning gameplay and making it faster, smoother, and more responsive. We’ve expanded defensive options to include blocking and dodging, which offers a brand-new level of strategy. Characters now align more smoothly and reliably thanks to our new animation engine. We also gave players more freedom when using weapons and props to set up exciting spots. Fans can now place tables and ladders wherever they want. Our new breakforce system enables tables and barricades to break dynamically rather than relying on canned animations. As you attack your opponent with a chair or kendo stick, it’ll show visible damage and eventually break.

WWE 2K22

Superstars now have their own combos, in a kind of Street Fighter style. Who’s your favourite to play with?
I think we can all agree we love our cover Superstar, Rey Mysterio, but really, we love them all! There are too many to pick just one – don’t make us choose!

After more than a decade, GM Mode is back, as MyGM. How has it evolved?
One of the things we wanted to add was more of a strategic layer when putting together a match card – something a bit more involved than just putting your two top Superstars into a match together. Now there are a lot more things to consider. What are the alignments of the match participants? Are they good guys vs. bad guys? Do the Superstars involved have complimentary fighting styles? For example, Giants match up well against Cruisers, and Specialists can have solid matches against anyone. So, considering all these things and building a well-balanced roster adds a whole new level to MyGM.

Putting on great matches is only part of it. As a GM, you’ll need to consider the variety of a match card. Do you have enough women’s and men’s matches? Are you using tag teams effectively? Does my show start with a bang and build to a high point? A lot of these types of considerations were built into the game to give players a challenge when putting together a show.

Another fun mechanic we’ve added to MyGM are Power Cards, which are powerful items a GM can play during a week that will give them an advantage. Things like raising Superstar popularity, forcing the opposing brand to not put their champions in matches, or sending your Superstars to the health spa to regain stamina quicker. Players can earn Power Cards by fulfilling goals given to you by Triple H, the commissioner, or buying them from the store (assuming you have the budget).

WWE 2K22

Where’s the MyCareer mode at this year?
WWE 2K22 features a whole new career path narrative mode in the form of MyRISE. In this mode, players can take their own custom characters on a journey either through the Men’s or Women’s Division – each with a different storyline – from humble beginnings at the WWE Performance Center, all the way up the ranks to WWE Superstardom. And for the first time ever, this mode features a solo Women’s Division with unique content that separates it from the Men’s Division. Overall, players have the opportunity to make more choices than ever before. Between nine unique arenas, VO from more than 30 WWE Superstars, and over 1000 playable matches… we’ve tallied up playtime to over 50 hours!

What sort of influence do fans have on new feature additions?
Our players contribute really dope ideas and we’ve chosen to move forward with some of them – like MyGM mode, for example.

Is there anything else super-exciting that you want fans to know about?
It’s been a long journey to WWE 2K22, and our teams are stoked as hell to share this game with players and fans alike. Y’all, #ItHitsDifferent!

WWE 2K22 launches for PS5, Xbox Series X, PS4 and Xbox One on March 11. Pre-order now at JB Hi-Fi.