The WWE and 2K have had themselves a nice little run of successful mobile titles, including card games, fighting games and just about everything except … well, wrestling games. Then all of a sudden, they announce WWE 2K, the first real WWE wrestling sim for iOS and Android, and bam! Like an RKO out of nowhere, it’s out. And it’s certainly a worthy effort for a first try, though it makes too many concessions to its console brethren to be called a champion right from the opening bell.
It’s quite possible that your first question when hearing about WWE 2K is going to be similar to mine: surely, there’s no way they can incoporate all of the different things you can do in the squared circle in a game with touchscreen controls, right? Not quite, as it turns out. The development team at n-space did a nearly masterful job, enabling you to pull off almost everything you’d expect with a variety of taps, swipes and other gestures.
Want to walk toward an opponent? Just tap on him to start, then tap again to start punching and striking when within range. A pinch intiates a grapple, from which you can swipe in any direction to pull off a move. Signature and finishing moves are clearly marked with the two-finger swipes needed to activate them when available, and there’s even a rudimentary reversal system in the mix. It’s a lot to remember, but when in doubt, you almost always do the most intuitive thing. For instance, you simply swipe toward the corner to climb to the top rope, and tap on weapons to pick them up.
Proper timing and knowledge are rewarded, but everything else about the gameplay is a step below what you’d find in a console game. That includes the pace of the action and the collision detection. The pinch gesture needed for several functions is a little more difficult for the game to recognize than you’d like when you get in really sticky situations too.
Mostly, though, it’s simply a case of WWE 2K offering you most but not all of what you’d like. The roster of wrestlers includes both current stars and legends like Hulk Hogan, but it only goes 19 deep. You can play No DQ Matches, but nothing more exotic like a Ladder Match. A Career Mode allows you to work your way up the ranks with created wrestlers, yet the options in both areas are much more limited than what experienced wrestling gamers have seen in the past. Also, no Divas, which could be good or bad depending on your personal tastes.
Graphically, there’s a lot more to like. All the WWE superstars look and move the way you’d expect, and the entrances incorporate the real life videos you’ve seen on WWE programming. The menus and other interface elements are crisp and clear, and the audio isn’t bad either, thanks mostly to the wrestler themes.
There’s also honest-to-goodness multiplayer, something you might not have have guessed in an era where so many dev teams try to make do with some kind of asynchronous head-to-head play. If you enjoy what the gameplay has to offer, you’ll definitely appreciate the opportunity to take a break from the AI and do battle with other human players.
In the end, WWE 2K is kind of like pro wrestling itself: simultaneously both more and less than what it first seems. It’s certainly an accomplishment to even have a functioning wrestling sim on mobile devices, but it makes more concessions to its form than other games we’ve seen as of late — even some from 2K, who managed to make the XCOM titles almost exactly identical to their console cousins. Hardcore WWE aficionados will want this, but my personal feeling is that with another year or two of iteration, this could really become a series that draws raves.