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Geek Review: WWE 2K24

Good things come to those who wait, but great things come to those who endure. Eager to recapture the form and nostalgia of THQ’s WWE video game franchise some two decades ago, it seems like current developers 2K have never quite hit the nail on the head. Its 2020 instalment was filled with glitches, bugs, poor gameplay and bashed by players. Bold enough to do what no other annualised sports video game title even dared to, the series took a year off and the result is a product of a much needed sabbatical and intervention. 

WWE 2K24 is a phoenix, rising from the ashes, finally ready to go toe-to-toe with its sporting counterparts. Though the game doesn’t feel like it’s in full fight mode, WWE 2K24 feels ready to go toe-to-toe with the usual sporting titles, incrementally refining its unabashed, arcade-like formula year-on-year.

Unlike real life, WWE 2K24 doesn’t have to worry about competition in the wrestling game department. Despite this, it’s comforting to know that the game still focuses a lot on how the game looks. Unlike previous editions which mostly focused on their marquee stars, most of the wrestlers in WWE 2K24 look good or even great. It actually makes watching the entrance scenes worthwhile – especially seeing Dwayne “The Rock ” Johnson’s massive pecs bounce up and down as he waltzes into view, with beads of sweat glimmering on his pristine bald head, Triple H’s steely gaze curtained by his long brown locks, and LA Knight vaulting onto the top turnbuckle in a black leather vest, calling out and emphatically pointing at the audience, with them shouting his name back in response. That said, much like other sports video games, getting their luscious locks right hasn’t been close to locked down. In stark contrast to the amazing lighting that bounces off these superstars, their hairdos flail around in a way that defies the laws of physics, and oftentimes clip through their flashy outfits.

Besides this hairy situation, WWE 2K24 still looks really good and 2K paid particularly close attention to the presentation of this year’s edition – referees resemble the ones you see on weekly pay-per-view, and announcers do have special quips and tones that they employ to introduce a myriad of WWE superstars. This is commendable considering a roster that ballooned to a selection of more than 200 past and present wrestlers.

Beyond this, a game will always be judged on how it plays, and WWE 2K24 has improved its in-ring action all across the board in terms of gameplay and mechanics, albeit marginally. There is more fluidity in chaining moves together, with a variety of kicks, carries, punches to choose from. An extensive move set that’s unique to each and every wrestler will stand out to every wrestling aficionado, supplemented by an intuitive and unintrusive control scheme and interface. If you’re aiming for a fight, it doesn’t matter if you have a background in fighting games and are more methodical in your approach in breaking down opponents, or if you’re simply slumped on a couch with a forte in button mashing – the game will feel great in your hands.

Pairing a deep move set and snappy arcade action, WWE 2K24 does well when it comes to contextual cues. You’d be surprised at the variety at your disposal. Did you know that you could balance a ladder in between the ring and crowd side barricade to act as a table? It’s fun knowing that the option is there, and the game doesn’t spoon-feed you said solutions but leaves you to your own devices. Art imitates life, and this extends to recreating iconic finishers, like Rhea Ripley’s title-winning Riptide on Charlotte Flair from the turnbuckle at last year’s Wrestlemania. It’s also good fun seeing a shot of fear on the faces of your opponents as they are just about to get hoisted into a painful chokeslam – which greatly adds to the realism and satisfaction.

However, what goes up must come down, and some niggling issues still persists. Fans of the series are all too familiar with the struggle of picking up objects in game, and unfortunately, with the addition of smaller objects like microphones, picking things up has never been harder for your burly, well-built superstars. And though having the ability to fling said objects right at your opponents sounds inspiring, it can come off as more comical than effective when you see a slipper curving and darting towards John Cena like a homing missile. Sadly, WWE 2K24 hasn’t quite perfected its aerial formula, which is a key element of the series. A big part of wrestling is the impressive in-air manoeuvres and death-defying stunts that the athletes train painstakingly for in real life, only for the game to make it look really awkward, where jumping off a ladder equals to you warping to the torso of your recipient, like opposite ends of two magnets connecting from miles away.

New to WWE 2K24 are over-the-top match types, including ambulance, casket, and special referee matches. The ambulance mode holds the most potential at the moment, with plenty of ways to interact with the vehicle – including powerbombing foes right atop it. As such, the coffin match pales in comparison in the interactivity aspect, as getting your opponent into the coffin is more cumbersome, triggering a run-of-the-mill minigame similar to those you’d get when executing a submission hold. The special referee mode holds the most excitement when it comes to online play, and one could imagine the friendship-breaking potential when witnessing one of your mates give you the fastest three count in WWE history, en-route to your undeserved defeat.

Shawn Michaels’ the ref? What could possibly go wrong?

Beyond new ways to fight, each of WWE 2K24’s game modes has seen granular improvements and additions. In particular – MyGM and Universe mode will appeal to those with aspirations to one day run the show. There’s no right way to run a wrestling show, and cool features that spice things up like growing your roster’s levels with constant training and booking, and ample opportunities to wheel and deal with your rivals by trading talent via post-PLE trades, makes for a MyGM mode that you could easily get lost in. For those more interested in messing around a sandbox instead of the business side of things, Universe mode has you covered, like a kid in the playground, the entire WWE franchise is at your creative disposal.

If you’re more of a blank canvas kind of gamer – WWE 2K24 has an extensive creation suite, with options to create a referee, and sign creation (which we imagine would be the main source of meme generation). You’re not alone in this endeavour, and the WWE 2K community has already been hard at work, dedicated to bringing every face that has touched the WWE universe back to life, even down to the details of custom championship belts for each era.

Zooming into narratives, MyRise doubles down on last year, with two enthralling storylines for your created superstars to embark on. The Undisputed and Unleashed arcs offer players a dive into both the men’s and women’s divisions respectively. Both stories are equally well thought out, but the women’s storyline might be more compelling as it tells a rags-to-riches story, seeing you start as the face of a lesser-known indie promotion before making it to The Show. Even though it’s an improvement compared to last year, with better and more convincing voice acting all around, there’s still a lot of work to be done in the animation department – seeing Randy Orton mouthing words at you with an absent stare isn’t the most engaging.

Everything alright Bayley? Your mouth’s moving like a sock puppet.

Where the true WWE storytelling shines – is in Showcase mode. In celebration of Wrestlemania’ big 4-0 this April, 21 matches across its four-decade history are playable – intertwining legendary archival footage with your gameplay. Narrated by WWE commentator Corey Graves, it’s a nice way to pay homage to wrestling greats, stories and kayfabe, which has paved the way for modern superstars. A small knock would be the lack of attention paid to the crowd – you’d often see the same person standing almost next to each other, some even donning a Cody Rhodes American Nightmare shirt way back in the 80s.

However, after spending hours learning about the rich history of Wrestlemania, it’s ironic that WWE also painstakingly spends a lot of time and effort to censor out things they don’t want you to see. – anything from old logos involved in million-dollar lawsuits, to nefarious and controversial figures with criminal implications that the organisation no longer has the rights to, or is understandably distancing itself from. As such, playing Showcase mode feels like the tip of the iceberg of WWE’s larger problems and as a fan who just wants to be showcased the best of the best WWE has offered ever since its inception, it’s a shame that there are many notable exclusions and overt censorship that puts a dull spot in an otherwise spotless tribute.

The all-time clash between the Hulkster and Andre the Giant…and a referee who can’t be named.

Distilling legends and hall-of-famers into cards, MyFaction returns as the live-service mode meant to keep players logging-in daily for rewards, enticing them to spend via microtransactions. However, it seems much like an afterthought, and is littered with uninspiring economies and mechanics that involves ridiculously high amounts of grind with little dividends. Thankfully, WWE 2K didn’t pay much attention to this, with features that are nowhere near as comprehensive as counterparts in other sports titles like EAFC’s Ultimate Team, or NBA 2K’s MyTeam. It was as if they knew that this was already going to be a cheap shot at gamers at-large, disillusioned with microtransactions.

Ultimately, WWE 2K24 feels like a step up, much like executing a frog splash from the top turnbuckle instead of the middle rope. It isn’t quite at “top ladder crashing down onto a table” level yet, but it’s on course to do so with slow but steady improvements year on year. Despite wonky animations, and an annoying MyFaction mode, the wide array of game modes are for the most part, well balanced and developed. Most importantly, WWE 2K24 seems determined to free itself from the shackles of audience fatigue and recent controversy, by creating a fun and engaging game that flexes the superstars of present day, while respectfully acknowledging the legends of years past – which keeps you coming back for more.

GEEK REVIEW SCORE

Summary

WWE 2K24 is the embodiment of the phrase, “It’s not a sprint, but a marathon”. Wonky aerial maneuvering and object handling, coupled with unconvincing dialogue animations and censorship that is hard to miss persists. Despite this – WWE 2K24 takes the foundation it set some four years ago, with new features and quality-of-life improvements littered across the board that makes it worth it to get back into the ring again.

Overall
8/10
8/10
  • Gameplay - 8.3/10
    8.3/10
  • Presentation - 8/10
    8/10
  • Value - 8/10
    8/10
  • Geek Satisfaction - 7.6/10
    7.6/10