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WWE 2K24 Hands-On Preview

Annual sports games always face the same issue: What do you add to an already refined (and successful) formula for an individual effort to stand out from the pack? Countless series’ have had to tackle this problem, such as NBA 2K, EA Sports FC and now, following its recent revival, WWE 2K. Last year’s hugely popular WWE 2K23 is without question still an extremely good wrestling game package, so cynical players may just conclude that this year’s upcoming entry, WWE 2K24, isn’t an essential upgrade. But from what I’ve played so far, WWE 2K24 has added enough exciting gameplay-focused innovations that it's definitely worth your attention. Let me talk to ya…

Although the next game in this long line of releases will naturally update and modernise the roster and cosmetics of WWE, 2K24 still requires headline additions to hang its hat on. This year they come in the form of four brand new match types: Special Guest Referee, Casket Match, Gauntlet Match, and an Ambulance Match. Only the latter was available for me to sample during a hands-on demo, but if its quality standard is anything to go by then I’m very excited to play the others.

For the uninitiated an Ambulance Match involves two superstars pummeling the snot out of each other under hardcore rules until one is weakened enough to be loaded by the other into the back of an ambulance, concluding the match. At first, this plays out like any other traditional no-holds-barred bout, but concludes with furious button bashing in an attempt to close both ambulance doors, locking your opponent away and awarding you the victory. The ambulance is parked at ringside, which leads to the vehicle being used in the action; you can ascend the truck and then throw your opponent off the top to a rapturous reaction from the commentary team. It’s a simple spin on the formula of a WWE hardcore match, but one presented with an ever-present spectacle. And, at least from my experience, the mode consistently delivers a dramatic conclusion as you desperately fight to either close the doors or escape.

Although I didn’t get to sample the other aforementioned modes, the care the Ambulance Match has received (primarily in presentation) bodes well for the other new match types on offer. I’m slightly apprehensive about the casket match, though, considering it appears to be mostly just a slight tweak on the ambulance match design based on the premise (rather than being dumped into the back of an ambulance, you load your fallen opponent into a ringside casket).

Along with the new additions all previous modes from 2K23 make their return. The only notable returning match type I got to sample during my hands-on was an updated Backstage Brawl which, despite now offering four-player support, initially disappointed. The entire play zone of the backstage area at first appears unchanged; it was only when exploring that I discovered the all-new environmental interactions, such as a wacky working elevator, smashable glass panels, and – easily my personal favourite – a 20-foot drop into a giant, conveniently placed searchlight. The area is now littered with new interactable ways to punish your opponent, but it still feels like another step could be taken to enhance the mode further, particularly in how fights conclude (you simply just KO them, which rarely feels satisfying) and the intro and outro presentation, which is currently is non-existent.

Both the Ambulance Match and the updated Backstage Brawl are extremely hardcore in nature, and this gave me ample time to play with perhaps my new favourite feature: Throwable weapons. Reminiscent of the latest Hitman games, you can now hurl your ringside weaponry at fying thud worthy of Agent 47’s best improvised weapon shots. I heaved microphones, kendo sticks, trash cans, and even ringside steps at my opponents and always without fail legitimately laughed out loud. Considering wrestlers have been throwing ring steps and other such weapons for decades, I can’t believe it took so long for this to appear in a game, but it’s an extremely welcome and funny inclusion.

Hardcore rules aside, the core gameplay of WWE 2K24 is almost identical to not only last year’s grappling action, but 2K22 as well. It’s understandable though, because it really does feel like developer Visual Concepts managed to nail the perfect balance of sports entertainment in its first attempt post-refresh, and since then the studio has only needed to make small, smart iterations. This year the notable additions to the core wrestling systems are trading blows and super finishers, with the latter being a long overdue reward system for patient and dominant players. Super finishers are made available when you bank all three of your finisher slots, encouraging you to not only build to a dramatic, leveled-up version of a superstar’s finishing move, but also – due to the time it takes to build – create a better pace for your main event fight.

Super finisher examples I was able to execute included Seth Rollins’ springboard version of the Stomp, and a top rope, avalanche Riptide executed by Rhea Ripley. Enhanced and ‘deadly’ variations of iconic moves (regularly reserved for big occasions in WWE) now being available for patient players is a vital inclusion, as they not only replicate the drama and spectacle of WWE, but they also add a long-term risk/reward strategy for players, encouraging you to pick your spots and bide your time far more than anything else has previously. It's a very welcome addition, especially when the formula is so familiar.

Trading blows, the other previously mentioned addition, also furthers the agenda of replicating the drama of a WWE bout, but perhaps less successfully. At certain intervals (sometimes after a light attack, other times after a reversal - it was hard to get clarity on this) you and your opponent will enter a turn-based punching mini-game that requires you to hold and release a button within decreasing windows. This continues until someone fails three times, giving their opponent an advantage. This plays out as an extremely WWE-like exchange of blows that, on television, always encourages audience participation. In terms of presentation in the game, this again fits the agenda, but unlike super finishers, I never really felt satisfied or like I really achieved anything. Time will tell how this feels in terms of usefulness in the long term.

Presentation-wise, WWE 2K24 makes all the iterative steps you’d expect, with further improvement in replicating the sights, sounds, and superstars of WWE. Nothing particularly screamed out to me as a huge improvement, but from my small sample, it definitely felt like commentary was marginally improved, as were subtle details in object animations and interactions. There’s also now a second camera angle option, allowing you to point your perspective towards the ramp like you could in WWE games of yore, and the series’ recent competitor; AEW: Fight Forever. This might all seem insignificant, but again these are the iterative steps required to build on an already polished offering and move ever so closer to that goal of representing the ultimate WWE video game package.

Last year I said (perhaps controversially - especially to the purists!) that I truly believed WWE 2K23 was the best wrestling games had ever been. From what I’ve seen so far, WWE 2K24 builds strongly on that successful formula and I can’t imagine that opinion changing, at least not this time around. Ultimately these iterative upgrades will likely result in what I imagine will be a near-perfect wrestling game for fans of the series. It might just fall short of creating its own individual legacy, like No Mercy or Here Comes the Pain, but the series in its current state feels like it’s only one revolutionary feature away from becoming the head of the wrestling game table.

Dale Driver is an Executive Producer of Video Programming at IGN and a lifelong WWE fan/apologist who acknowledges his Tribal Chief. Be thoroughly bored by following him Twitter at
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