WWE 2K has steadily climbed the quality scale over the last two entries. A strong comeback in 2K22 led to initiative, but also significant improvements in 2K23, and the series is arguably the strongest it has ever been. But a new year means another opportunity to keep the title for best wrestling sim or hand it to someone else. On the morning of Royal Rumble last Saturday, I was able to check out WWE 2K24’s notable new additions at a special preview event. These include the new Showcase mode documenting 40 years of WrestleMania, the new Ambulance match type, and additional features added to the moment-to-moment action.
The documentary showcase mode has been dubbed “2K Showcase…of the Immortals.” As Wrestlemania 40 approaches, Showcase is celebrating this milestone by allowing players to relive some of the most memorable matches from the event’s decades-long history.
The preview build featured three matches: Ultimate Warrior vs. Rick Rude (Wrestlemania V), Rhea Ripley vs. Charlotte Flair (Wrestlemania XXXIX), and Cody Rhodes vs. Roman Reigns (Wrestlemania XXXIX). Of course, there’s a lot more that I can’t talk about, but 2K promises to release the full list of showcase matches “soon.”
I’ll start with the main event of last year’s Mania, Cody vs. Roman. After watching the obligatory, well-produced vignette welcoming the players to Showcase (narrated by commentator Corey Graves), I – assisted by Paul Heyman and Solo Sikoa – take control of Reigns and begin the task of to replay the still-painful memory of the destruction of Cody’s championship dreams.
As in the previous Showcase modes, you have to complete a series of objectives that consist of executing moves that are used in the real game. However, a big and much-needed improvement is that targets now display the necessary button inputs to make the required move. This means you no longer have to constantly stop to look through the move list in the menu to remember how to perform a standing corner attack or figure out what positioning is needed for a teardrop suplex. Now that I always knew how to do what was asked of me, I was able to focus more on actually getting it done – and the enemy AI doesn’t make it easy for me.
At some point I start the new Trading Blows mini-game. Wrestling fans probably know this better than the back-and-forth “Boo/Yay” punches. When hitting, you must hold down the attack button to fill a meter and then release it within a highlighted area. Sometimes a thinner area of gold appears and stopping the gauge within this more difficult segment results in a stronger strike. If you’ve played a wrestling minigame, you know what to expect. If you lose a fight using the Trade Strikes, you will be stunned and vulnerable to the opponent’s next move. It’s a fun way to playfully depict one of wrestling’s biggest in-ring tropes.
From what I played, Showcase is the experience you expect. The mid-fight transitions to real footage are still cool, and the video packages provide an entertaining reflection or entertaining history lesson for die-hard wrestling newbies/newbies. I’m excited to see what the rest of the match lineup looks like, and hopefully Showcase will be a great taste of the real road to Wrestlemania.
Of the new match types available in 2K24, such as the Casket match, only the Ambulance match was available in my demo. Like the real version, the goal is to knock your opponent so unconscious that you can load them into the back of a real ambulance, close the door, and watch as they are wheeled into an ambulance
hospital local medical facility.
Before that, however, I decided to beat my opponent around and on the ambulance, which you can climb thanks to its ladder. While I was disappointed that you can’t physically throw your opponents off the top, you can perform moves on the roof or jump from it.
Opening and closing the ambulance doors is a necessary step, and the latter can be used to place a small obstacle in your opponent’s path if they have the upper hand. Once a Superstar is thrown in, a tough mini-game ensues, with one player fighting to close the door while the other fights to force their way out. This back and forth was fun and caused a lot of screaming from my co-op partner.
If the player outside the vehicle wins this battle, it will trigger a final battle, with the victim trying to make one last gasp to keep the door open just before you close it for good. I noticed that on this second attempt the game seems to heavily favor the player in the vehicle; Pressing the button on the opposing end was significantly more difficult. So it took a few more attempts and more insults before I stunned my opponent, which ultimately gave me enough of a lead to close the doors and send him away.
Ambulance matches are not my favorite type of match in real life; They are rarely great or memorable. 2K24’s interpretation accurately captures the thrill of the games’ final moments and is entertaining to a degree, but I don’t think I’ll be playing the game very often given more entertaining conditions.
The WWE 2K games are dense packages packed with modes and features, so it’s impossible to get a full sense of their quality in small snippets like this. My main takeaway is that 2K24 doesn’t feel like a step backwards. If you enjoyed the last few entries, you’ll probably have a good time here too. The presentation and Superstar models (at least the ones I’ve seen) look great, the gameplay retains the more intuitive controls of 2K23 and only minor additions, like the ability to throw weapons add instead of subtract. It remains to be seen how much of an iteration this year’s game will be compared to its predecessor, but I’m optimistic that it will at least maintain the same level of quality. WWE is having the best years it has ever had in terms of its TV product, and I hope that momentum carries over into 2K24.
The previous squad
2K will be releasing roster reveals in the near future, but I can reveal the playable Superstars in my demo.
- Becky Lynch
- Bianca Belair
- Charlotte Flair
- Cody Rhodes
- Dakota Kai
- Hulk Hogan ’02
- Iyo Sky
- Kevin Owens
- Kofi Kingston
- L.A. Knight
- Randy Orton
- Rhea Ripley
- Rick Rude
- Roman rule
- Sami Zayn
- Seth “Freakin” Rollins
- Shayna Baszler
- “Stone Cold” Steve Austin ’97
- Trish Stratus
- Ultimate Warrior
- Xavier Woods
- Zelina Vega
WWE 2K24 will be released on March 8th for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. Find out everything it has to offer here.