Today marks the release of a new WWE game — but it's not part of the same lineage as the flagship WWE 2K series. Instead, it's WWE Immortals — a free-to-play mobile fighting game, based on the well-received port of Injustice: Gods Among Us from 2013 where WWE Superstars and Divas are transformed into larger-than-life caricatures in a no-holds-barred three-on-three brawler.
It's not the first time that WWE have dabbled with the free-to-play model; John Cena's Fast Lane was an early attempt at cornering the mobile market, and last year saw the release of WWE SuperCard. In SuperCard, players could choose from a 'deck' from the WWE's current roster and some legends of the past, and take it online to challenge other competitors.
In some ways, WWE Immortals carries forward that mechanic; you still pick your team, level them up and apply various buffs and boosts — but, rather than the card battling of SuperCard, the bulk of the gameplay here is a simplified touch-based fighting game familiar to fans of NetherRealm Studios previous mobile output. It's not particularly in-depth, but it's got just enough to it to keep things interesting.
However, the gameplay won't be the main appeal for WWE fans; the sheer novelty of seeing such an eccentric take on the already grandiose stars of the squared circle will make this an essential download. Seeing Roman Reigns take the oddly literal role of a Roman Centurion, or the Undertaker in full Necromancer mode gives a real sense of Mortal Kombat meets WWE — and it really works.
The best character treatment by far is given to John Cena. Most characters have two different forms available for purchase using in-game currency, and Cena's upgraded variant sees him sees him take the role of a superhero, with a finishing combination that nabs moves from The Flash and Superman as they appear in Injustice.
This sort of twist on familiar faces of the WWE makes up for the slightly limited core mechanics of the fighting engine. There, you're limited to light attacks, heavy attacks, blocking and a few easy-input special moves. Those techniques — largely over-exaggerated versions of the wrestler's own arsenal — are by far the most interesting aspect of the game's fights.
That said, this isn't meant to be a tournament-level fighting game; it's a time-wasting mobile experience that's as complex as a fighter can be on touch-based hardware. There's certainly a lot here for WWE fans to enjoy, but if you're not amongst that number you might find that Immortals doesn't have enough to stand on its own two feet as a fighting game.
WWE Immortals is available now for iOS, with an Android release scheduled to follow at a later date.