(Editor’s Note: The night before our WWE 2K24 preview event, WWE co-founder Vince McMahon resigned from his executive chairman role at TKO amid sex trafficking allegations. Ahead of the event, Digital Trends reached out to 2K Games to ask if references to Vince McMahon and any other parties implicated in the lawsuit would be removed from the game. We were directed to WWE’s PR team, which has yet to respond.)
The WWE 2K series has been on a comeback journey for the past two years. After hitting rock bottom in 2019, 2K Games decided to take the time and effort to rehabilitate the series instead of rushing into another entry with injuries. And boy, did that pay off! The 2022 and 2023 installments brought the series back to its throne, reigning supreme over the competition, especially the lackluster AEW: Fight Forever.
But the climb to the top is just the beginning. Staying there is a whole new challenge. WWE 2K24 is ready to face that challenge head-on this year, capitalizing on the series' newfound popularity and pushing the momentum even further. Can 2K Games keep piling on the content without crumbling under the weight of annualization? It's a question worth asking.
Based on the demo I played at this year's WWE Royal Rumble in Tampa, Florida, it seems like the championship reign is far from over. WWE 2K24 builds upon its predecessors, refining its core wrestling mechanics and adding even more modes. However, the best feature so far is a tiny change that saves the signature MyShowcase mode from the depths of frustration.
WWE 2K24 doesn't stray too far from its previous installment, and that's perfectly okay. WWE 2K23 nailed the fundamentals of wrestling, making matches more dramatic and engaging than ever. The 2024 version sticks to that winning formula with only slight tweaks. One notable addition is a new minigame that spices up one-on-one bouts, allowing wrestlers to trade blows by holding a button and releasing it at the right moment. It's a simple but effective addition that replicates the specific drama of a wrestling match.
If there are other major differences, they eluded me. The combat tweaks in WWE 2K24 feel less pronounced compared to the leap from 2K22 to 2K23. In my very first match between Iyo Sky and Rhea Ripley, I effortlessly picked up the controller and put on a dramatic, reversal-filled performance like a seasoned pro. It seems that 2K Games has reached a point of stability and is now focused on delivering fresh content this year. This includes a few new match types that, while not as groundbreaking as last year's WarGames match, make WWE 2K24 feel like a more complete wrestling simulator.
Among the new modes, I got to try out the updated Backstage Brawl and the brand-new Ambulance Match. The former is a notable improvement over the gimmicky mode from last year, offering more space to move around and creating a true arena atmosphere. The additional multiplayer options add to the chaos, making four-player brawls delightfully chaotic.
The Ambulance Match gave me a bit of a challenge. The concept is simple: it's a "No Disqualification" match where the only way to win is by throwing your opponent into the back of an ambulance and shutting the doors. As a dramatic touch, a button-mashing minigame decides whether you can close the ambulance doors or if your opponent dramatically bursts out. The only hiccup here is that winning requires knowing how to pick up an opponent, a complicated input sequence that isn't adequately explained in the menus. Series veterans won't have an issue, but casual players might be left scratching their heads.
There are still some familiar issues that shouldn't come as a surprise to seasoned players. Computer-controlled characters can still act quirky at times, occasionally freezing or getting stuck in strange animation loops. Multi-man matches can also be a headache, with constant pin break-ups making matches feel like they'll go on for an eternity. It seems the wrestlers stay stunned or immobile for a tad longer in those modes to compensate, but it might just be my imagination playing tricks on me.
The bottom line is that WWE 2K24 doesn't offer many surprises. Instead, it stays true to its solid foundation, ensuring that it's the best version of itself. While I had a blast rediscovering the familiar tussling system, one small change made me jump for joy. For the past two years, the MyShowcase mode had me tearing my hair out. The concept of a playable documentary, recreating iconic matches and integrating real footage, was fantastic. However, it left players guessing on how to execute specific tasks in the ring, leading to endless menu-dwelling frustration. But guess what? My prayers have been answered! MyShowcase now displaysclear objectives and provides on-screen prompts, eliminating the guesswork and streamlining the experience. It's a small improvement, but it makes a world of difference.
The demo only provided a glimpse of what WWE 2K24 has to offer, and it left me hungry for more. The expanded roster, the promise of new storylines, and the potential for surprises in the career mode are all enticing prospects. WWE 2K24 seems determined to keep players engaged and entertained throughout the year, delivering a steady stream of updates and events to keep the virtual WWE universe buzzing.
Of course, I can't talk about WWE 2K24 without addressing the elephant in the room. The recent allegations against Vince McMahon and the ongoing lawsuit certainly cast a shadow over the game's release. It remains to be seen if 2K Games and WWE will make any changes to the game in light of these events, but the absence of a response from the PR team is concerning. It's a topic that deserves attention and transparency, and I hope the companies involved address it appropriately.
Despite these uncertainties, WWE 2K24 shows a lot of promise. It builds upon the success of its predecessors, refining the core gameplay and adding new modes to keep things fresh. While it may not offer groundbreaking changes, it stays true to its formula and provides an enjoyable wrestling experience. As long as 2K Games continues to listen to player feedback and deliver consistent updates, WWE 2K24 has the potential to keep climbing the ropes with style and drama, solidifying its position as the reigning champion of wrestling games.