WWE 2K23 Showcase mode turns John Cena into a boss fight – First Impressions

The Prototype does sound like a Dark Souls boss.

Image via 2K

Since its introduction in WWE 2K15, Showcase mode has been one of the standout features in every WWE game released by 2K Sports. This historical mode gives players an inside look at a specific storyline or character — for example, last year, we played through some of the biggest moments in Rey Mysterio’s long career. The mode has put you in the shoes of the characters you’re learning more about, but WWE 2K23 takes a different approach. John Cena might be the focal point of the story, but you don’t play as the Doctor of Thuganomics. Instead, you’re trying to beat him.

Super Cena is here to ruin your day

Cena may be a 16-time Heavyweight Champion, but he’s also been dealt his fair share of defeats over the years. His “Never Give Up” mantra means that he’ll always get back up from that mat and never quit fighting. WWE 2K23’s Showcase mode puts that to the test. You’ll be stepping into the shoes of some of Cena’s most fearsome opponents and trying to recreate history while the computerized version of Cena uses his five moves of doom to open up a parallel universe where he really does always win.

I could only play the first two matches in the Showcase, and I won’t spoil them for you here, but what 2K delivers upfront is likely precisely what long-time Cena fans will expect. The mode was explained as a loose representation of what Cena says were his ten toughest opponents, and that’s definitely clear in the first two on offer. As with Mysterio’s Showcase in WWE 2K22, you can also expect to see plenty of cutscenes from Cena himself discussing these matches in great detail, with matches flowing between gameplay and archive footage relatively seamlessly.

Of course, there are still some of the classic Showcase mode issues that will likely be with the mode until 2K decides that it’s run its course. For example, in one of the matches, you have to set up Cena on an outside barricade so that you can do a specific move to him from the apron. However, you can only do this on the north or south barricades, and it has to be pretty close to the center, or else you won’t hit the correct move. On top of that, Cena can counter the move even though it goes into a canned animation when you successfully hit it to set up the next cutscene. It can be annoying for sure, but to keep the transitions seamless and the gameplay functional, it’s just something we have to live with. I’ve never really been bothered by that side of Showcase mode. It’s just important to note that if you are one of those players, it is still an issue.

The core idea of turning the main character of a Showcase into what is essentially a multi-stage boss fight is an inspired choice by 2K. Not only does it let them feed into the core of Cena’s everyman character, but it keeps things fresh because you’re not continuously playing the same as the same Superstar. Some players might take issue with “Super Cena” being billed as someone who’s struggled to win matches over the years, but the early rounds worked for me, and I’m confident that they have the goods to keep it up over the long haul. If nothing else, listening to Cena wax poetic about his Hall of Fame career in what amounts to a playable documentary remains one of the best things 2K Sports has to offer.