WWE and 2K are back with the newest installment of their annual wrestling title, WWE 2K24. After debuting the practically flawless War Games match in WWE 2K23, fans of the franchise have raised their expectations for what to expect from a new entry. Since playing a preview build of the game at a recent event, I can confidently say there are some major improvements in 2K24, but there are still some areas of the game that need serious attention.
The version I played included 10 playable wrestlers, a small selection of matches (Royal Rumble, basic bouts, backstage brawls, and the new Ambulance Match), as well as two matches in the new WWE 2K Showcase of the Immortals, which commemorates high-profile Wrestemania matches.
The addition of the Ambulance Match is a great one. While it’s not the sort of game-changer that the six- or eight-person War Games matches were last year, these specialty bouts are easy to figure out how to play and add a lot of drama to your battles, especially if you’re fighting against a friend.
The goal of the match is simple: Beat up your opponent to the point that you can throw them into the back of an ambulance. From there, you’ll encounter two minigames, which are similar to the submission minigame, to close the ambulance doors and finish the match.
Of course, you can also fight on top of the ambulance, throw your opponent off it, and then dive down onto them. There’s plenty of room for carnage here. And while the Casket Match, another new addition, was unavailable to play, 2K confirmed to GameSpot that it controls similarly to the Ambulance Match. So while they may not be entirely different match types, chances are if you enjoy one, you’ll have a good time with the other.
Another addition comes in the form of the Backstage Brawl. While the mode will look similar to the previous version of the match, there are far more weapons to interact with–and even throw at your opponent. Weapon-throwing is going to quickly become a player favorite, if only because it’s so hilariously satisfying to chuck a chair across the screen and perfectly hit your opponent in the face with it, all with a single button press.
Unfortunately, the Gauntlet and Special Guest Referee matches were not available to play in the build at the event. However, the matches I played did include male and female referees from WWE’s actual programming, which is a great touch that adds to the reality of your matches.
Another updated section of the game I got to try out was the new 2K Showcase of the Immortals. This year, instead of focusing the Showcase mode on a single superstar, like John Cena in 2K23, Wrestlemania is the theme. You’ll be able to play through 21 significant Wrestlemania matches from its 40-year history. Two matches were available in the demo, including last year’s main event match, Cody Rhodes vs. Roman Reigns for the WWE Undisputed Universal Championship.
If you’ve played the 2K Showcase mode in recent years, you know exactly what you’re getting into here. It’s worth noting, though, that this time 2K isn’t just recreating historic stages and rings for Showcase mode, but entire stadiums. Replaying the Wrestlemania 39 main event made it clear that the match was happening in California’s SoFi Stadium, right down to the massive wraparound video screen hanging high above the action. Little touches like recreating iconic arenas and stadiums help increase the realism of replaying these matches.
One last major improvement is the ability to move around the cameras. This expands on the basic functionality previously introduced in MyGM mode. Now, you can play your matches from just about any angle you choose. What’s more, there’s also a free-roaming camera that is a lot of fun to tinker with during AI vs. AI matches. However, the most useful part of this new functionality comes during Royal Rumble matches. There is a preset to shift the camera to looking directly up at the stage, making it much easier to see who is being introduced next and when they’ll hit the ring.
While there are plenty of exciting new additions to the title, there are other places where WWE 2K24 feels comedically outdated. This mostly comes in the form of some of the wrestlers themselves. Sami Zayn, for instance, still enters the arena with a years-old taunt that sees him remove his hat and throw it out of the ring. The only problem is Sami no longer wears that hat, hasn’t in quite a while, and his model doesn’t wear it in the game. So, he removed nothing and threw air at the audience.
Compounding the issue is the fact that Sami also had the worst-looking model in the build we played. His longer hair was in constant motion, while his much bigger beard was practically statuesque, frozen on a strangely bloated face. It looks like Sami Zayn on his worst day and does not make me want to use him very much when I finally dig into the new MyGM or MyUniverse modes.
Likewise, the Roman Reigns model in the game looks a couple of years old with an entrance taunt that is even older. Since the dawn of the Bloodline, Roman has walked to the ring in a very specific manner, raising his title above his head as a nearly endless amount of pyrotechnics explode around him. And while WWE 2K24 does include a pretty good entrance for Roman if he holds two championship titles, his single-title entrance is from at least five years ago. It doesn’t capture his current character at all and, given the popularity of Reigns, it feels like a massive oversight.
Of course, these models and animations could still be fixed before release. That said, there’s also no telling how up-to-date the animations and models we’ve yet to see are.
Since taking a year off following the disastrous release of WWE 2K20, 2K has taken huge steps to right the ship and give fans what they want. With 2K24, it’s giving us back Special Guest Referee Matches after several years, along with a few other notable and exciting upgrades. Now, though, should come the time for 2K to focus on making sure the game actually stays up to date with the on-screen product.
That’s not to say everything about WWE’s video games will always be current, but when you are using years-old animations for main-event talent featured weekly on WWE programming–especially talent that has evolved massively over those years–you need to evolve with them.
That’s my big takeaway from what I’ve played of WWE 2K24 thus far. I enjoyed what I played and will certainly sink a couple hundred hours into the game. I do it every year. And, while I appreciate the new match types and options 2K adds to the games every year, it can feel like it’s at the expense of the core experience. What’s an updated wrestling game without updated wrestlers?
We’ll find out when WWE 2K24 releases on March 8 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and S, and PC.