WWE 2K24 Hands-on Preview – The Next Step Up The Ladder

WWE 2K24 Hands-on Preview - The Next Step Up The Ladder

If ever there was a franchise that was on the brink of oblivion it was the WWE 2K games. WWE 2K20 is still one of the worst games I have ever played and it tanked the series in a way that was unheard of in the history of annually released sports games. But after taking the year off, the development team returned with WWE 2K22 and while it didn’t nail everything, it certainly showed that there was still life in the franchise. WWE 2K23 maintained that trajectory with what was the best wrestling game in recent memory, effectively erasing the bad taste left by the 2020 edition. Now, on the edge of WWE 2K24’s release, it is easy to wonder if things are going to keep getting better. Well after spending a good few hours with it, it certainly looks like that is a very real possibility. 

WWE 2K24

Sitting down at a PC to play, I first noticed that Rhea Ripley was front and centre. Australia’s own “Mami” has taken the wrestling world by storm and it is clear she has been a big part of the promotion focus for this year’s game. Not only is she on the cover of the deluxe edition with Bianca Belair but, she is splashed all over the loading screens and main menu. It isn’t anything that improves the game in any real way, but it is wonderful to see not only an Australian featured so heavily, but also someone who hasn’t had that treatment previously. As much as I love them, I have seen The Rock, Stone Cold, John Cena and The Undertaker take centre stage a million times, it is time for some new blood.  

During my demo time, the focus was on three new modes for this year’s game. The newly upgraded backstage brawl, the Ambulance match and the Legends of Wrestlemania featured mode. The Backstage Brawl, a feature in WWE games since the dawn of time, has had significant upgrades. No longer is it strictly a one-on-one affair. You can have up to four wrestlers duking it out among the storage boxes, old tables and vending machines that litter the backstage arena. Speaking of vending machines, there is a host of new interactive elements that can be used to inflict pain on your opponent. My favourite of which is cans of soft drink that can be lobbed at your opponents. These changes make for a more lively and unpredictable battle and I can see this being a favourite for couch battles among friends. 

WWE 2K24
WWE 2K24

The Ambulance match is something brand new to wrestling video games and is a nice mix-up to the usual offerings. For those that don’t follow the WWE, this match involves one wrestler getting the other out of the ring, into the back of an Ambulance and closing the doors. The key gameplay elements that revolve around the Ambulance and its doors use button-mash mini-games to complete which, depending on your stance on the sort of things, maybe a negative, but for me it worked. I would have liked to be able to Irish whip an opponent into the Ambulance, but as it is the only way to get them in is to pick them up and throw them, but otherwise it is the sort of match that adds a nice bit of variety to proceedings, even if it is the sort of thing you wouldn’t take part in on a regular basis. 

The final, and most exciting mode I saw was the Legends of Wrestlemania. Taking the place of the single superstar-focused modes of previous entries, this celebrates 40 years of Wrestlemania by allowing players to participate in its most famous matches. I only got to see three of these, including Rhea vs Charlotte Flair and Cody Rhodes vs Roman Reigns from Wrestlemania 39. What was super impressive, was how this mode mixed FMV from the actual matches with gameplay. Hit a key event from the match and it seamlessly transitioned to video of the live match and then back again. It added a real sense of history to proceedings and I expect WWE’s fanbase to get a massive kick out of it. As for what other matches appear in the mode, I have no idea but I think it is safe to say that the big ones like Taker v HBK or Stone Cold v The Rock will make an appearance, they are too highly regarded not to. 

WWE 2K24

On the tech side of things, I was also pretty impressed with what I saw, especially as this is an early build. Animations seemed super smooth, the graphics looked nicer than the previous entries and the level of detail in the WWE superstars and venues was fantastic. There were still some instances of funny physics when the ropes got involved but I felt like it was much less noticeable than previous versions. With the game currently in this shape, I have high hopes for a bug-free, smooth launch for players when it reaches their systems. 

WWE 2K24
WWE 2K24

As my time wrapped with the WWE 2K24 preview I was left wanting more and, let’s be honest, that is what you hope for out of these sessions. The new Legends of Wrestlemania mode is a real highlight and I can’t wait to go through all of the matches and relive these exciting moments. The tech seems to have evolved from previous versions and the new matches are a welcome addition for variety. I am hoping that the career mode is a solid one and the create-a-wrestler systems are on point because if they are, I see no reason to not believe that WWE 2K24 will be a better title than last year’s entry. 

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