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WWE 2K24 review: staying on top

WWE 2K24 makes small improvements and welcome additions in almost every area

Ever since WWE 2K22 overhauled the series, the WWE 2K games have been stable. Now the series is settling back into the same pattern it had in the late 2010s where each game is about refining an already successful formula and adding some fan-pleasing new features along the way.

For WWE 2K24 this means four new match types – several of which haven’t been in the series for over a decade. Ambulance and Casket matches are the flashiest and definitely the most fun when playing with friends. While the button-mashing minigame can get a bit tiring over the course of a long match, the tension of slowly creeping toward the match’s titular object as you attempt to shove your opponent inside makes for a lot of close calls, which is exactly what makes wrestling matches so fun to play.

WWE 2K24 Cody Rhodes

Gauntlet matches are much deeper than expected and have surprisingly become my favorite of the new modes. There are three types of gauntlet. The first is a series of one-on-one matches where the winner stays on until there’s no one left; the second works like a Royal Rumble, but with pins and submissions for eliminations; and the last is a one-versus-all challenge mode. Add the fact that you can have up to 30 wrestlers in these matches, and you’ve got an endlessly fun and difficult series of matches.

Special Guest referee matches are good for messing about like they always were. Having the power to play as the referee – counting falls and calling matches down the middle (or not if you don’t feel like it) – is always a laugh. It doesn’t matter what your mindset is going into a match, you’ll always end up picking on one of the participants in the funniest ways possible, which can make it all the sweeter when the player you’ve been screwing over all match mounts a comeback for the win.

WWE 2K24 Gunther lifting Kevin Owens upsidedown

WWE 2K24 also has a new free-cam mode while spectating matches.

It tricks you into fun roleplaying scenarios where you’re using the mechanics to tell a match’s story. In-ring storytelling is a vital part of the sport. I’d even go as far as to say it’s the main reason I love it, and yet wrestling games of all kinds often struggle to inject that aspect into the basic gameplay, and this is a huge step forward in that regard.

The usual round of gameplay refinements are a big help for better storytelling too. The “Trading Blows” minigame is the most notable addition, which recreates the stereotypical (yet endlessly effective) spot where two tired competitors take turns slowly punching each other, while the crowd cheer and boo each wrestler’s strikes accordingly. It’s one of those features that seems obvious in hindsight given how often it happens in real matches, and its implementation – a risk-reward system where you can go for the easy return strike, or aim for a trickier big blow to end it – makes it wonderfully tense.

WWE 2K24 The Undertake vs Shawn Michaels in a Casket Match

Aside from that, everything feels just that little bit smoother. The transitions between moves are more streamlined, the grappling system is a bit faster-paced, and a couple of previously annoying aspects have been fixed. Rope rebounds are the best example in that last category. Before, when trying to hit someone rebounding from the ropes, your timing had to be incredibly precise otherwise your opponent would just smack into you and the move would fail. Now, the game properly buffers the input while waiting for the return, making landing (and countering) those moves much more consistent.

Everything is a bit better than it was last year, and this goes for all the other game modes as well. Showcase mode has a lot more variety and is more exciting as it takes us through the 40-year history of WrestleMania; MyRise has better writing than ever before, and more vocal performances from wrestlers like Roman Reigns make for a more thrilling tale; and MyGM has a whole bunch of new features including new GMs, match-types, and roster customization.

WWE 2K24 The Rock vs Stone Cold WrestleMania 17

The only mode I find disappointing is Universe, which just so happens to be the mode I play the most every year. This, to me, is the mode that captures what I love most about wrestling, where you can book your shows the way you want, and tell whatever stories you can think of with these characters. Unfortunately, it’s the mode that consistently gets the least attention. 2K24’s only additions were some new rivalry options like Money in the Bank cash-ins, and more details on how such actions will affect a match. These are most certainly welcome additions, but they’re nothing major.

It’s also the buggiest mode, and it’s so frustrating the amount of little things that don’t work – especially as some of them are things that worked perfectly last year. Faction entrances are an absolute mess this time out. For whatever reason, the “cast change” feature that lets you switch models and animations around in a three-person entrance just doesn’t work anymore, and sometimes I found trying to use it would result in characters not appearing during the entrance at all.

WWE 224 Rhea Ripley

If the dev team’s track record for the last couple of years is any indication, these will likely be fixed in early patches, but the fact that they exist in the first place when they were completely functional in last year’s game is a concern. In an interview with WWE 2K’s creative director last year, he told us that Universe’s codebase is extremely “fragile”, as it’s one of the only modes that hasn’t been completely rebuilt since 2K took over the series from THQ in 2013.

Given how all the other modes have a sense of forward momentum each year while Universe lags behind, I think it’s high time to give Universe the overhaul it deserves – if only to make it more consistent from game to game.

Still, that consistency exists everywhere else in WWE 2K24. As far as wrestling games go, this series is still the best there is at capturing the spectacle of these larger-than-life personas and turning the crazy, dangerous, and sometimes downright silly action we see on TV into a playable format. It ticks all the boxes you’d want for an annual sports series and comes with those loving touches that wrestling fans will appreciate.

Score: 8/10

Version tested: PS5

WWE 2K24 technical breakdown

Universe mode aside, WWE 2K24 is one of the most stable entries in the franchise yet. The framerate can still be inconsistent on PS5, but a lot of work has been done to make it smoother than ever, which pays off in chaotic multi-wrestler matches.