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WWE 2K24 review: the wrestling world gets its Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Cody Rhodes stands on a ramp in WWE 2K24.
WWE 2K24
MSRP $70.00
“WWE 2K24 finishes the wrestling series' comeback story with its best installment yet.”
  • Fine-tuned wrestling
  • Top-tier roster
  • Great Showcase mode
  • MyGM reaches its full potential
  • AI is still troublesome
  • Lacking fresh ideas

Though the annualized WWE 2K series shows no signs of slowing down, I can’t help but see this year’s WWE 2K24 as the last match in a trilogy.

In the wrestling world, there’s an art to that three-fight story between heated rivals. The first match showcases a feud’s potential, letting audiences see the competitors’ chemistry and leaving everyone wanting more. Match number two can be trickier to nail; you can’t leave it all in the ring ahead of a grand finale. That third match, though, is what really counts. That’s where wrestlers can finally go all out, taking every teased spot to its ultimate conclusion to get the crowd on its feet one last time.

That metaphor perfectly maps onto the last three years of WWE 2K games. Following a short break after a disastrous entry in 2019, WWE 2K22 set the stage for a more promising wrestling simulator with some room for growth. WWE 2K23 would offer improvements, but it still felt like there was much more the Visual Concepts team could do with its winning formula.

That’s all come to a head in WWE 2K24, which is the capper the relaunched series deserves. Every feature the team has built up over the past few years is at its best here, making this year’s installment the series’ best to date. Though just like many multimatch wrestling stories of this nature, the repetitious nature of the series’ well-trodden modes might leave you ready for a creative shake-up.

No ring rust here

Like last year’s installment, WWE 2K24 focuses on refinement over big changes. That’s fine, considering that WWE 2K22 introduced some rock-solid foundations that have only gotten better with each new entry. The core wrestling systems are largely unchanged. I control the action with a series of light and heavy strikes, combining them with grapples, submissions, high-flying offense, and more. It’s not new, but I’m impressed by how smooth it all feels at this point. There’s a tremendous number of moves I can do in any given match, from hitting a suplex-pin combination to diving on an opponent outside the ring. Some require some advanced knowledge of the controls, but I can hit plenty of flashy spots just by experimenting with button taps. It’s a healthy balance between casual and complex.

Matches still feel as dramatic as they were in 2K23, thanks to that installment’s tweak to reversals. While the 2022 edition gave players a generous window to counterattacks, last year’s game made those button timing commands much tighter. That continues here, making reversals feel a little rarer and more dramatic as a result. That drama is further heightened by 2K24’s only truly new feature, a new minigame that can pop up during fights that have players trading blows. That’s performed in a back-and-forth button-pressing game that perfectly captures the feeling of the real-world punch-outs it’s based on.

It really feels like WWE’s equivalent to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Rather than changing much, the emphasis seems to be more on widening out the roster of playable wrestlers. That focus goes a long way towards making 2K24 the series’ best entry to date. The supersized list feels more comprehensive than recent entries, featuring everyone from Cody Rhodes to Andre Chase. Anyone that’s missing, like CM Punk and Kairi Sane, is already confirmed for future DLC. Visual Concepts’ commitment to getting new talent from NXT in the game especially pays off here. Tiffany Stratton is having a breakout moment in real WWE programming right now after a lightning-hot debut. Previously, we would have had to have waited a year for 2K to capitalize on that. The future-proofed roster makes sure that 2K24 won’t feel totally out of date by next year.

On the other side, the roster also includes the series’ best selection of legends to date. That’s thanks to its focus on Wrestlemania history, which dictates that all the major players need to be included. George “The Animal” Steele and Harley Race join staples like Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock. It really feels like WWE’s equivalent to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: Everyone is here.

The Undertaker stands near a casket in WWE 2K24.
2K Games

That multi-generational roster isn’t just a nice back-of-the-box feature. It allows players to experiment with a wide range of wrestling styles, old and new, without changing the core formula. You get the fast-paced offense of Dragon Lee in the same game that features Andre the Giant’s heavy strikes. WWE 2K24’s fine-tuned action is flexible to support both ends of that spectrum, paying homage to the full breadth of WWE history.

It’s not lost on me that a lot of that success is due to the stability of the WWE product itself right now. When WWE 2K22 launched, it was in the wake of an enormous layoff wave that put several popular superstars out of work. The game’s roster was laughable as a result, filled with fired stars that highlighted the company’s mismanagement at the hands of Vince McMahon. With McMahon now officially out of the company amid a sex trafficking scandal, the company has found some much-needed stability under new leadership.

WWE is better off without Vince McMahon, and so too is the WWE 2K series.

Old modes, new tricks

WWE 2K24’s focus on refinement is further seen in its tweaks to existing modes. The wrestling simulator doesn’t add anything new this time, only bringing a handful of extra bout types like Coffin and Ambulance Matches. Otherwise, it features the exact same suite of core modes, each of which is the same at worst and significantly improved at best. MyFaction sees the least changes here, mostly getting tweaks to online play and its microtransaction-filled shop. It is what it is at this point.

Everything else gets some welcome bumps. The sandbox Universe mode, which lets players guide a wrestler through simulated TV programming, gets a host of new options that increase its storytelling potential. This year, I decided to play out the story of a lowly jobber with NXT’s Scrypts. I quickly found some great storytelling in a feud with Noam Dar, which kicked off with a disrespectful handshake fake-out and ended up with some post-match ladder beatdowns.

Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant face off in WWE 2K24.
2K Games

I can further book my dream TV shows with MyGM, which gets a more significant upgrade this year. The mode, where players manage their own rosters and put together weekly shows, has more creative options than ever. There are significantly more match types available, additional ways to build tag team feuds, and an entirely new superstar recruitment system that’s more in-depth than previous versions. Though the biggest update comes in a light RPG hook that allows superstars to level up and gradually gain new perks. My promotion is fronted by Finn Balor, who gets extra star bonuses in Ambulance matches and can switch between fighter and bruiser style with a promo. Details like that add more flexibility and strategy to the mode, making me think harder about what kinds of matches I book my stars in.

What I’m especially happy about this year is a revitalized Showcase mode. Like previous installments, this acts as a playable documentary of WWE history. This year’s game has an especially strong hook, looking back at the most iconic matches in Wrestlemania history. Each one, from Hulk Hogan’s clash with Andre the Giant to Roman Reigns and Cody Rhodes’ infamous 2023 showdown, does a fantastic job at contextualizing each match and telling its story using narration, real match footage, and documentary interviews.

A legitimately valuable wrestling history lesson.

One small change goes a long way here. In previous versions, the mode would ask players to complete a list of tasks throughout the match. It never showed how to perform them on-screen, though, often sending me to menus to remind myself how to perform certain moves. This year, Visual Concepts has finally put controls on-screen. That completely changes the flow of the mode, making it feel as immersive as it was always meant to be.

That’s not to say that it’s perfect. I found myself hitting lots of frustration in matches thanks to the series’ notoriously hit-and-miss AI. “Macho Man” Randy Savage’s big victory at Wrestlemania V was tainted for me when he won, thanks to Hulk Hogan wandering around at ringside until he was unceremoniously counted out. In other matches, I fought against uncooperative AI as I tried to perform back grabs or get them planted in the corner of the ring. I found myself giving up on objectives in moments like that, as getting computer-controlled players where they need to be is no easy task. Even with that quirk, this is still the most functional version of the mode I’ve seen yet and a legitimately valuable wrestling history lesson.

Superstar shake-up

While I’m pleased with the tweaks across the board, I can’t help but notice that I’ve been playing the same set of modes for three years straight now. I don’t have too much of a problem with that, considering that each mode is at its best here, but I’m arriving at the point where I’m curious to see what else the 2K team could bring to the table rather than constantly remixing something like MyFaction. Even the best modes risk getting stale at this point without some new blood to shake it up.

It’s hard to imagine that I’ll be as excited about next year’s game if it’s as short on fresh ideas.

I can especially feel that tension in MyRise, which has long been the series’ most hit-and-miss story mode. To 2K’s credit, this year’s pair of narratives are more creative than usual. The male-centric Undisputed mode is a highlight, telling the story of a dark horse champion living in Roman Reigns’ shadow. Rather than telling another rags-to-riches story, it’s a great little wrestling tale about a champ fighting back imposter syndrome after a tainted victory. (For the record, I created a 100-pound goblin named “Greek Steve” for the model who had an enormous tattoo of Reigns on his chest, and I love him dearly.)

The other story, Unleashed, is where I begin to feel a little exhausted by the concept of MyRise. Here, I take on the role of a hardcore indie darling who becomes a member of the WWE roster. Its well-trodden territory by now, once again showing off an outsider’s rise to the top. It’s a stale mode bogged down by classic MyRise problems, such as poor voice acting and occasionally cringe-inducing writing. One bizarre mission set-up in Undisputed involves an NPC complaining about “snowflakes” who can’t bear to wait in line to get their turkey burgers. When did turkey burgers become the new avocado toast!?

Rhea Ripley walks down a ramp in WWE 2K24.
2K Games

Part of me dreams of what the WWE 2K team could do if it didn’t have to pump out new versions of the same five modes every year. How long will it be until we get another great idea like MyGM if the team has to pull together new MyRise and Showcase stories each year? I wouldn’t mind seeing the suite switch things up now that its core modes have reached their full potential. Perhaps that’s a tall order in the world of annualization, but it’s hard to imagine that I’ll be as excited about next year’s game if it’s as short on fresh ideas.

That’s a creative problem for 2025, though. As far as this year goes, Visual Concepts has done the one thing that even its cover star, Cody Rhodes, has yet to do: finish its story. WWE 2K24 feels like the final step of the series’ comeback. It’s a richly detailed wrestling simulator with a suite of improved modes, an excellent roster, and the most powerful creative suite in perhaps any modern video game. This is what the top of the mountain looks like. Acknowledge it.

WWE 2K24 was tested on a PS5 hooked up to a TCL 6-Series R63570 TV.

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Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
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