WWE 2K has steadily climbed the ladder of quality over the past two entries. A strong comeback in 2K22 saw initiative but meaningful improvements in 2K23, and the series is arguably the strongest it’s ever been. But a new year means another opportunity to retain the title for best wrestling sim or drop it to someone else. On the morning of the Royal Rumble last Saturday, I got to sample WWE 2K24’s notable new additions at a special preview event. That includes 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-style Showcase mode has been christened “2K Showcase…of the Immortals.” With Wrestlemania 40 close at hand, Showcase serves as a celebration of this milestone by letting players relive some of the most memorable matches from the event’s decades-long history.
The preview build offered three matches: Ultimate Warrior vs Rick Rude (Wrestlemania V), Rhea Ripley vs Charlotte Flair (Wrestlemania XXXIX), and Cody Rhodes vs Roman Reigns (Wrestlemania XXXIX). There are plenty more, of course, that I can’t speak about, but 2K promises to reveal the full list of Showcase matches “soon.”
I begin with the main event of last year’s ‘Mania, Cody v Roman. After watching the obligatory well-produced vignette welcoming players to Showcase (narrated by commentator Corey Graves), I take control of Reigns – backed by Paul Heyman and Solo Sikoa – and begin my task of reenacting the still-painful memory of spoiling Cody’s championship dreams.
As with previous Showcase modes, you’re given a series of objectives to complete, which consists of executing moves used in the real match. However, one big and much-needed improvement is that objectives now display the necessary button inputs to execute the required move. That means no more constant pausing to visit the menu’s move list to remember how to perform a standing corner attack or trying to decipher what positioning hitting a teardrop suplex requires. Now that I always knew how to do what was asked of me, I could better focus on actually pulling it off – and the enemy AI doesn’t make it easy.
At one point, I initiate the new Trading Blows mini-game. Wrestling fans probably know this better as the back-and-forth “boo/yay” punches. Striking involves holding down the attack button to fill a meter and releasing it within a highlighted area. Sometimes, a thinner gold area appears, and stopping the meter inside this trickier segment results in a more powerful strike. If you’ve played any wrestling mini-game, you know what to expect. Losing a Trading Blows battle leaves you in a stunned state, rendering you vulnerable to the opponent’s next move. It’s a fun way to game-ify one of wrestling’s biggest in-ring tropes.
From what I played, Showcase is the experience you expect. The mid-match transitions to real footage are still cool, and the video packages offer a fun reflection or entertaining history lesson for wrestling diehards and newcomers, respectively. I’m excited to see what the rest of the match line-up looks like, and Showcase will hopefully be a great appetizer on the real-life 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 beat your opponent senseless enough to load them into the back of a real ambulance, shut the door, and watch them get driven away to a
hospital local medical facility.
Before that, though, I chose to beat my opponent around and on top of the ambulance, which you can scale thanks to its ladder. While I was disappointed you aren’t able to physically hurl opponents off the top, you can execute moves on the roof or dive off of it.
Opening and closing the ambulance doors is a necessary step, and the latter can be used to put a small roadblock in the way of your opponent when they have the upper hand. Once a superstar is tossed inside, a button-mashing minigame ensues as one player fights to close the door while the other battles to force their way out. This back-and-forth was fun and elicited a lot of shouting with my co-op partner.
Winning this battle as the player outside the vehicle triggers a final struggle as the victim attempts one last gasp to keep the door open moments before you shut it for good. I noticed the game seems to heavily favor the player inside the vehicle in this second attempt; mashing the button on the opposing end was noticeably harder. As such, it took several more tries and dishing out more abuse before I stunned my opponent, which wound up giving me enough of an edge to close the doors shut and send them packing.
Ambulance Matches aren’t my favorite match type in real life; they’re rarely great or memorable. 2K24’s interpretation accurately replicates the thrill of the matches’ final moments, and it’s entertaining to an extent, but I don’t see myself playing the match very often in the face of more entertaining stipulations.
The WWE 2K games are dense packages filled with modes and features, so it’s impossible to get a complete sense of their quality in small slices such as this. My key takeaway is that 2K24 doesn’t feel like a regression. If you’ve enjoyed the recent entries, odds are you’ll have a good time here, too. The presentation and superstar models (the ones I’ve seen, at least) look great, the gameplay retains the more pick-up-and-play-friendly controls of 2K23, and smaller additions, such as the ability to throw weapons, only add instead of subtract. It remains to be seen how much of an iteration this year’s game is compared to its predecessor, but I’m optimistic it will, at the very least, maintain the same level of quality. WWE is coming off of the best years it’s ever had in terms of its TV product, and I’m hopeful that momentum will rub off on 2K24.
The Roster So Far
2K will be rolling out roster reveals in the near future, but I can reveal the superstars playable in my demo.
- Becky Lynch
- Bianca Belair
- Charlotte Flair
- Cody Rhodes
- Dakota Kai
- Hulk Hogan ’02
- Iyo Sky
- Kevin Owens
- Kofi Kingston
- LA Knight
- Randy Orton
- Rhea Ripley
- Rick Rude
- Roman Reigns
- Sami Zayn
- Seth “Freakin” Rollins
- Shayna Baszler
- “Stone Cold” Steve Austin ’97
- Trish Stratus
- Ultimate Warrior
- Xavier Woods
- Zelina Vega
WWE 2K24 launches on March 8 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. You can learn about everything it has to offer here.