WWE 2K is a series of professional wrestling video games developed by Yuke's and Visual Concepts and published 2K Sports. The games in the series are based on the professional wrestling promotion WWE and feature professional wrestling match types, storylines and playable characters based on WWE programming.
Formerly SmackDown vs. Raw, the game was named originally after the company's Smackdown! television program, the series began with the release of WWF SmackDown! in 2000 and initially remained exclusive to Sony's PlayStation consoles. The series was retitled to include WWE's other flagship television program Raw with 2004's WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw and the series expanded with yearly releases for various seventh generation consoles as well as mobile devices. Yuke's had also released the games in Japan under the name Exciting Pro Wrestling. However, after SmackDown vs. Raw 2006, THQ took over as the Japanese publisher and the Japanese releases adopted the western name. The series was later renamed simply WWE for its 2011 and 2012 iterations.
After THQ's dissolution in January 2013, it was reported that the publishing rights for the WWE video game series were acquired by Take-Two Interactive. Take-Two confirmed the acquisition in February, saying that it would also retain the services of Yuke's and the THQ staff that worked on the WWE series. WWE 2K14 is the first game to be released under the 2K brand.
Reception of the series has been positive overall, and WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 was rated 31st and 28th (Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, respectively) in IGN's "Top 100 Games" list. It is among the best-selling video game franchises, with 47 million copies shipped as of 2009.
When WWE SmackDown vs Raw 2007 was released, new game mechanics were introduced, in which a new control scheme altered the grappling system of the game, called "Ultimate Control moves." Unlike the previous games, where the player pressed two buttons to perform a grapple or an attack, players were able to place their opponents into a grapple position and then choose to perform a move by moving the directional buttons of their system's controller. For example, the player could place their opponent in a suplex grappling position and then either perform a normal suplex or an inverted suplex slam. Before the release of WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008, in order for players to force a superstar to submit, they had to tap buttons to move a marker towards the end of the meter labeled "Submit", and the only way for opponents to escape was for them to move the meter towards "Escape". Included with the release of WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 was a new submission system, in which the player had to move the analog sticks of their system's controller in different directions to force the opponent to submit, while the opponent could do the same to escape the submission hold.
Every game in the SmackDown vs. Raw series used to have the amount of damage inflicted to the player's chosen superstar, measured with a meter on the HUD, where a design of a male figure presented the damage. As a move was performed against a superstar, the affected area of the body flashed—the more damage that is done to that specific body part, the more likely it is for the superstar to submit. Colors were used to represent the amount of damage done to a specific body area; yellow represented minimal damage, orange represented moderate damage, and red represented maximum damage. This was however taken out of WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2010. Now the only way to tell how damaged the opponent it is to watch their physical body actions that indicate how hurt they are. The more damage inflicted to opponents, the more likely it is for them to lose the match. There are four ways to win a match in every game: by pinfall, submission, knockout, countout; alternatively, the match could end in a draw. With the introduction of an on-screen referee in WWF SmackDown! Just Bring It, the ability to win by disqualification was also included.
Included with the release of WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw was the option of fighting "dirty" or "clean". When players select "dirty", the superstar is booed by the audience in the game; conversely, the "clean" superstar is cheered by the audience. With the "dirty" or "clean" option comes the inclusion of performing a special maneuver when playing. Players using a "dirty" superstar must direct their superstar into building up their "dirty" meter by performing "dirty" tactics, such as attacking the referee or taking the pad off the ring's turnbuckle. Unlike performing dirty tactics, "clean" superstars build their meters by performing "clean" tactics, such as an aerial technique or performing a taunt. When "dirty" superstars' meters build up, they are able to perform a signature low blow; likewise, "clean" superstars can perform their signature move at double it's normal damage.
With the release of WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2006 was the inclusion of a stamina system, which was a measure of the superstars' stamina. The stamina system was measured by a meter on the HUD; the meter decreased when performing a variety of moves. The meter increases, however, when the player does nothing with the superstar or holds down a selected button that increased the stamina, which varied depending on the player's system. When the superstar's stamina was low, the wrestler reacted by moving slower when performing moves, walking, and running. If the meter decreased completely, the superstar fell to the ground until the meter increased. This system is disabled by default since WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008.
The weak/strong grapple system from the past games was removed from WWE '12 onwards. Characters now perform different moves based on their opponent's current physical state. Players now have a window of opportunity to attack while still in a downed state and can also interrupt moves and Royal Rumble eliminations with attacks. Similarly, the pinning meter from the past games has been reworked to make it more difficult to kick out as a wrestler takes more damage. The game's artificial intelligence has also been adjusted to prevent players from overusing the same move. In addition, the ability to store finishing moves has returned. "Dynamic Comebacks" gives players on the verge of losing the opportunity to successfully hit a combination of moves to gain two finishing moves. New "wake up taunts" bring a downed opponent to their feet for a finishing move (such as Randy Orton pounding on the ground before his RKO finishing maneuver). Players also have the ability to target specific limbs during matches and perform submissions through a "Breaking Point" submission minigame. OMG! moments were introduced to WWE '13. These are moves than can be performed in certain situations with certain superstars when a finisher is obtained. An example of this is Mark Henry superplexing the Big Show, making the ring break and the match stop. Better weight detection was implemented to WWE '13, so the smaller Rey Mysterio can’t body slam the 500 pound Big Show. In fact, super heavyweights like Mark Henry or Show now have different frames to better capture their enormous size. Pinning is now not only influenced by damage, but the power of the move that was previously executed. In WWE '13 alongside selecting arenas, characters and the number of finishing moves available at the start of a match (a new option, which can range from 0 to Infinite), players will be able to adjust a setting called ‘Match Experience’. Three settings - “Quick”, “Normal” and “Epic” - will affect the overall pacing of a fight, independent of AI difficulty. Factors such as momentum, damage, enemy aggressiveness and even kick out and reversal rates will be affected.
In the WWE SmackDown vs. Raw series, the player was able to choose a "superstar" from a roster and compete in an arcade-like feature called season mode. In season mode, players direct their superstars through different career obstacles through a year of WWE programming to gain respect with other superstars and popularity among the fans. Like superstars from WWE, the superstars in the WWE SmackDown vs. Raw series season mode are involved in storylines that affect their career in some way. Beginning with the release of WWE SmackDown! Shut Your Mouth, the WWE Brand Extension has been included in season mode, and superstars are exclusive to one brand of WWE. A result of this feature is that the player's superstar may only wrestle superstars and compete for championships from the same brand on which he is a part of. In season mode, the player's superstar has the ability to earn and wrestle for a variety of championships based on actual WWE Championships. When superstars win championships, their respect and popularity increase, which also increases their involvement in main event matches. As the superstar's respect and popularity increases through the year of WWE programming, is becomes more likely for the player to achieve the main goal in season mode, which is to earn a World Heavyweight Championship match at WrestleMania, the WWE's flagship pay-per-view event and the final stage in season mode. After the final stage, season modes begins again with the same superstar chosen before, though the player has the option of switching superstars. The superstar is then a part of the WWE Draft Lottery and is assigned to a brand.
Season mode was replaced with Road to WrestleMania in WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009, and remained in the games until WWE '12. In this mode, players could choose from superstars to play as in single-player or multi-player storylines. The difference is that each storyline is tailor made for the superstar the player chooses. This mode is a more authentic experience and less arcade-like than the former season mode was.
Road to WrestleMania was replaced with Attitude Era Mode in WWE '13. This single-player mode is an abridged recreation of a memorable time in sports entertainment, allowing players to journey through various storylines as eight of the most popular superstars of that time, including “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.
The chapter-based saga moves through WWE’s struggle and eventual triumph during the “Monday Night Wars,” which saw the company on the brink of defeat at the hands of a powerful rival, WCW. Told from the perspective of the WWE during that period, matches and in-game cutscenes are supplemented by video packages assembled by WWE’s own editors.
General Manager Mode / WWE 24/7 Mode
Starting with WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW 2006, a General Manager mode (or GM Mode for short) was introduced. It allowed the player to act as the General Manager of the Raw or Smackdown brands (or ECW brand in WWE SmackDown vs. RAW 2008). After choosing a brand, and selecting to participate in the WWE Draft, or using a default roster, you then start a calender year of hiring and managing Superstar and Divas, booking matches, establishing rivalries, and other options to try and win WWE fans to support your brand. You must manage finances, contract or release Superstars & try to make better matches than your rival brand. At the end of the year at WrestleMania, Vince McMahon will give The General Manager of the Year award to the show that was able to hold the most fans.
In WWE SmackDown vs. RAW 2008, Season mode and GM Mode was combined into one game mode called WWE 24/7 Mode. This basically allowed Superstars to train, make special appearances or other actions between matches during full calendar years. After achieving specific goals through the game, a percentage will increase of becoming a WWE Hall of Famer / General Manager of the Year winner, and the mode does not end until this percentage reaches 100%.
This mode was discontinued in WWE SmackDown vs. RAW 2009.
The series has had a "WWE Universe" mode since SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 which replaces the career mode from previous games. The mode builds storylines, and integrates cut scenes and rivalries between wrestlers based on the matches that are wrestled. These cut scenes appear randomly before, during, and after the match.
Other than the season mode, every game features an exhibition mode, where different professional wrestling match types are available. Basic matches included in every game are "one-on-one" matches, where a player chooses one superstar to wrestle another bot operated or human operated superstar, or tag team matches, where a pair of superstars team together to face another team. These basic matches may also expand into six-man tag team matches or non-elimination type matches, which include four or more superstars. Besides basic matches, hardcore based matches are also included, such as the Steel Cage match, which has been included in every game, the Ladder match, the Elimination Chamber, which was first included with the release of WWE SmackDown! Here Comes the Pain, and ECW Extreme Rules matches, which is basic hardcore wrestling based on the ECW brand of WWE (which first appeared with the release of WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008). Also included in every game is the Royal Rumble match, which is based on WWE's actual Royal Rumble match, in which a player chooses to compete as one superstar, and must wrestle against twenty-nine other superstars. Two recently added matches are the Championship Scramble introduced in the 2010 game and the I Quit match from WWE 13. This mode was renamed "Play" in SmackDown vs. Raw 2010.
Starting with the release of WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw, online gameplay was made available for players who had a Sony Network Adapter and a Sony PlayStation 2. Online gameplay was kept at a minimum, as online players only had two game modes to compete in: one-on-one and a Bra and Panties match, in which a player competes as a WWE Diva and strips the opposition of her clothes, until she is left with only her undergarments. When WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2006 was released, the online gameplay was changed, and players were able to compete in more match types, defend created championships, and compete with up to four players in each match. With the release of WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 on the Xbox 360 console (PS3 would not see this feature until WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009), players were able to select music from their system's hard disk drive into the video game, where the music can be used in superstars' ring entrances.
Every game in the WWE SmackDown vs. Raw series includes a roster of "superstars" and "Divas" based on superstars who compete for WWE. Every year, WWE acquires new superstars and releases old superstars. As a result, every time a WWE SmackDown vs. Raw game is released, the new superstars are added into the game and the old released superstars are removed from the game to reflect the changes in the actual WWE. From the release of WWF SmackDown! to the release of WWF SmackDown! Just Bring It, superstars were not divided into brands. In 2002, the WWE split its entire roster into two brands of wrestling, called Raw and SmackDown!, which were named after WWE's television shows. The WWE Brand Extension was first featured in WWE SmackDown! Shut Your Mouth. In 2006, WWE launched a new brand, called ECW, which was named after the original Extreme Championship Wrestling promotion. The new ECW brand was first featured in WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008. WWE holds an annual draft lottery, in which WWE superstars switch brands. The games in production when the draft occurs include the changes that take place in the draft. For example, when WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 was in production during June 2007, the 2007 WWE Draft took place, and the draft changes were included in the video game. Another brand of wrestling included in the series is the legends program, which was first included with the release of WWE SmackDown! Here Comes the Pain. Popular WWE alumni or members of the WWE Hall of Fame have been included since then under the legends program. This was featured up until the release of WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008, as alumni and Hall of Fame members were not featured in WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 due to production of WWE Legends of WrestleMania. WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 was also the first game to feature characters as downloadable content.
As of the release of the most recent versions roster announcement (WWE 2K14), the only superstars who have been selectable characters in each installment of the game are The Undertaker, Triple H, Kane, and Edge. Vince McMahon has also appeared in each game, although he was not always a playable member of the roster.
The series features a create-a-superstar mode, where players are able to create their own wrestler, including their move set and ring entrances. The feature was introduced when WWF SmackDown! was released in 2000. As new games were released, the mode was altered; the first change came with the release of WWF SmackDown! 2: Know Your Role, which featured a mode in which wrestler taunts could be created and customized. This was further modified in WWE SmackDown! Shut Your Mouth, which enabled players to create the walking style of a wrestler. With the release of WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW 2006, the game first featured the ability for players to make an entrance for the created superstar. The feature was expanded with the release of WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2007, as players could place pyrotechnics and special effects in any part of the superstar's entrance. As an addition to SmackDown vs. Raw 2009, a create a finisher mode was introduced where the player chooses up to 10 out of 500 animations combined to make their own personalised finisher. On The 360 and PS3 versions of WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2010, it is possible to change the colors of a featured superstar's attire, this new mode is known as "Superstar Threads". In this game there is also a new creation mode giving players the ability to create their own storyline called "WWE Story Designer". A new feature was added to WWE '12 called Create-An-Arena, which allows the player to customize up to 50 playable arenas in which to fight.
Every game in the WWE SmackDown vs. Raw series has been developed by Yuke's and published by THQ. The game engine was originally based on the one used by the Japanese professional wrestling video game series Toukon Retsuden, which was also developed by Yuke's. Before the release of WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw, the only communication possible in season mode was through subtitles. Voice over, however, was included in season mode with the release of WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW. WWE superstars pre-record a script, which is then assigned to the voice of the corresponding superstar in the game. With the exception of WWE SmackDown! Here Comes the Pain, pre-recorded commentary by WWE commentators has been included in each game since the release of WWF SmackDown! Just Bring It.
Yuke's studios in Yokohama, Japan worked with WWE writers to create storylines for the season modes of each WWE SmackDown vs. Raw game. When WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2007 was released for more than one console, Yuke's had to port their original game codes that make up each game mode and graphic designs to a new game engine that supported the new consoles. When new features are added to WWE SmackDown vs. Raw games, developers have to create new gaming codes for the features. Along with the features, the developers have to test the game for any errors. An improvement done yearly by Yuke's with each release of a WWE SmackDown vs. Raw game is the polygon count for the 3D models of the superstars in each game.
The original WWF SmackDown! was one of the most popular games for the PlayStation console in 2000, selling over 975,000 units for the PlayStation, and selling over one million copies in the United States. The game lost appeal due to the failing of a well-established season mode that was deemed "disappointing." The season mode was criticized for the lack of in-depth storylines and the way superstars spoke in season mode, through "putrid lines" and "blocked text." WWF SmackDown! 2: Know Your Role received a better reception than the first WWE SmackDown game, as IGN stated that season mode "actually works properly", though the audio of the game was lacking as there was no commentary, and only generic music was included in the game. WWF SmackDown! Just Bring It, according to IGN, did little to improve the season mode of the game, while GameSpot stated that the addition of audio commentary detracted from the playing experience.
WWE SmackDown! Shut Your Mouth and WWE SmackDown! Here Comes the Pain received more positive reviews from both IGN and GameSpot, both of whom cited the expanded season mode as an improvement, although flaws were still visible in the mode. It improved from the previous three WWF SmackDown! games, as it was written by actual WWE storyline writers. Both games also featured generic music, though the quality of it had improved. Shut Your Mouth featured little improvement to the commentary, which was then removed completely from Here Comes the Pain. WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW received a more positive review than previous games, as GameShark stated that it was "a wonderful new edition to the SmackDown! family, serving up slick graphics, vastly enhanced gameplay, and lots of other bells and whistles that make the whole package shine." WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW 2006 received a positive review and a 9.2/10 rating by IGN due to the additions of matches, the General Manager mode, and the ability to defend championships in exhibition mode. WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 received more negative reviews due to lack of an appealing season mode and little improvement of features, with the exceptions of the "Ultimate Control moves," "Struggle system," and the ECW Extreme Rules matches.