A generational leap usually whips up Stone Cold Steve Austin levels of excitement among fans of digitised wrestling, but that isn’t the case ahead of WWE 2K21. Its predecessor, WWE 2K20, endured a miserable launch, packing a catalogue of bugs and myriad gameplay flaws. Meaning there are widespread fan concerns around the current-gen versions on WWE 2K21, let alone its debut on PS5 and Xbox Series X. We’ll tackle some of those below, in addition to taking a first speculative look at the WWE 2K21 roster and release date. Here’s everything you need to know about WWE 2K21.
WWE 2K21 roster: Could CM Punk be set to return?
The big question surrounding the WWE 2K21 roster concerns CM Punk. The straight-edge Chicagoan last appeared in WWE 2K15, before a controversial departure from the company seemed to put him in exile for life. Yet he made a shock return in November 2019 as an analyst on internet show WWE Backstage, giving fans hope of an in-ring comeback. Even if that doesn’t materialise, videogame deals are made separately from wrestling contracts, so you can guarantee that 2K will have approached him to appear in 2K21 now bridges are being rebuilt. 2K loves to have a big star fronting its DLC offering each year – Ronda Rousey for WWE 2K19, Hulk Hogan for 2K20 – and Punk fits the mould as a main target for WWE 2K21.
Other new or returning names you can expect on the WWE 2K21 roster include John Morrison, who returned to WWE TV in January 2020, and main roster newcomers Riddick Moss and Angel Garza. Chad Gable’s new gimmick, Shorty G, will also be included for the first time.
WWE 2K21 release date: expect it in late October
Unlike FIFA 21 and NBA 2K21, WWE games’ release dates have been inconsistent in recent times. WWE 2K18 emerged on 17 October; WWE 2K19 came out on 9 October; and WWE 2K20 dropped on 22 October. Even then, the latter felt like a rushed release, given the decision to cut ties with long-time developer Yuke’s partway through the game’s annual cycle. As a result, you’d expect dev Visual Concepts to request as long as possible to fix and fine-tune this year’s edition, making the final week of October the most likely WWE 2K21 release date on PS4 and Xbox One.
PS5 and Xbox Series X release dates will inevitably be later given that those consoles are scheduled loosely for ‘Holiday 2020’. Even so, it’d be a huge risk for WWE 2K21 to be a launch title on those formats. An early 2021 release would seem less of a gamble, buying the studio a few extra months to clear up any PS4 and Xbox One issues and ensure 2K21 doesn’t tank on next-gen.
WWE 2K21 PS5 and Xbox Series X: What to expect
This is a series currently at a crossroads after the horrendous launch of WWE 2K20, so 2K and Visual Concepts are likely to play things conservatively as regards PS5 and Xbox Series X. That much appeared to be confirmed by Justin Leeper, a former writer on the Smackdown vs Raw video games. “2K and the people within it are trying to distance themselves from [the series],” he says in a Youtube video. “I’ve heard about double-digit people who were on the team who have quit. They haven’t left for other stuff, they just quit because, ‘Man, I don’t want this stink on me anymore'.”
“2K20 is selling poorly, it’s doing poorly all around,” continues Leeper. “That means the budget is going to be cut. It means 2K21 is gonna have to be made for less money. Less money to fix things, innovate, and now there are about 10 less people on the team. As you can tell, the outlook is not good for 2K21.” In short, expect the inevitable graphical upgrade - even with its problems, WWE gaming in 8K is an exciting prospect - but little else in the way of true next-gen innovation, for now.
WWE 2K21 features: what do the fans want?
“My only wish for 2K21 is for it not to exist,” writes jackblady on Reddit. Oof.
While that sentiment is echoed by many following WWE 2K20’s disastrous few months, some fans are kinder in terms of what they’d like to see next year.
CisWhiteFailson, for instance, sensibly suggests a back-to-basics approach. “Only focus on gameplay and create modes. I genuinely couldn't care less about what the roster looks like.”
“[With] gameplay,” he writes, “I’m talking more differentiation between AI opponents, some kind of dumbed down rip-off Fire Pro logic system. Make the weapons feel less clumsy. Fix hit detection (easy for me to say, and with 3000 moves and a zillion-year-old engine I get that it's not gonna be perfect), more damageable/interactable backstage environments like THQ WWE games and every fighting game, save and load sliders like I'm pretty sure you can in any real sports game. More customizable options for stuff like damage and momentum. It would be great if I could play a match that gave you twice the momentum for hitting diving attacks, [which in turns also makes] the AI try a lot more dives.”
Opponent intelligence is also the focus for RevyTheMagnificant. “Better AI. Have wrestlers recognise their allies and enemies, and then be biased towards or against them appropriately. I don't want to see AJ Styles teaming with Shinsuke Nakamura to put down Luke Gallows in the middle of the Royal Rumble. Also, the AI should go for OMG moves more in title matches and universe rivalry matches. I want to see the AI taunt more when their enemy is down. Basically, I want better AI that makes more sense to act how it does [based on a wrestler’s real gimmick].
We’ll share confirmed features for WWE 2K21 across all formats here, as soon as they are announced - most likely sometime around E3.