Professional wrestling games have been a mainstay on every console for well over twenty years now, with generally one released every year since around 1995. It is a genre that has always divided opinion amongst pro wrestling fans as to how the game should play out. Some want a complete sim of the world’s greatest sport (entertainment), while others just want something that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is just a bit of fun to play. There have been plenty of wrestling games over the years that have managed to balance the two or some that are just so good at doing one aspect that they are universally loved; WWF No Mercy, for example, still remains the greatest wrestling game ever made. Last year’s WWE 2K entry seemed to take itself a bit too seriously and wasn’t universally thought of as a great game. This year though, 2K was determined to try and cater to both sets of fans with a well-balanced mix of fun and serious gameplay. Massive flop or roaring success? Check out our WWE 2K19 review.
After spending only a short time with WWE 2K19, it was immediately obvious that this year’s 2K entry into the WWE video game collection is aimed at being a more fun experience. Gameplay has been sped up dramatically compared to the last couple of 2K games, and if you were a fan of the slower, simulation-style gameplay of those titles, WWE 2K19 will take a bit of getting used to. Generally, it is better, and I am one of the people who had to get used to the gameplay as, really, I quite liked 2K18’s slower, simulation-styled gameplay. Now, I couldn’t imagine going back to it as 2K19’s faster gameplay just makes matches a hell of a lot more fun. Some of the moves are sped up a bit too much to the point that they look borderline ridiculous (Canadian Destroyer, I am looking at you, bro!), but nearly all of the moves and strikes look great. One thing that takes the most getting used to is the timing for reversals. Anyone that had played 2K18 to death and up to a week before the release of 2K19, be prepared to get your ass kicked in the first few matches. Due to the gameplay being substantially faster, timing reversals takes a fair bit of practice as you will constantly hit the button too late or panic and mash it far too soon. It is not a steep learning curve and won’t take long to master again, but maybe just keep to exhibition matches for the first half a dozen or so to make sure you master the timing for reversals.
Also, in the spirit of fun, WWE 2K19 features a few modes that will give you a lot of laughs, but in all honesty, you’ll soon be forgetting them. The most publicized one leading into 2K19’s release is the return of Big Head Mode. This was a feature way back in the day on WWF Attitude, and twenty years later, it makes its triumphant return. It is a lot of fun and you’ll get a lot of laughs from it, but it is something I imagine will be dying out after a couple of months. Other aspects all in the spirit of fun include a zombie Triple-H, a pixel filter that makes the game look like an SNES release and the ability to create Minecraft-like characters in Create A Wrestler thanks to the inclusion of block bodies. The Community Creation page is already full of fantastic wrestler-inspired block bodied superstars.
Apart from Big Head Mode, something else makes a return to WWE 2K19, and this is a much-welcomed one. Showcase Mode returns after being excluded from 2K18 entirely and only featuring in 2K17 through DLC. To celebrate the return of one of the most popular WWE wrestlers in recent years, 2K19’s showcase is a celebration of the career of Daniel Bryan. Bryan had been forced to retire in 2016 due to brain injuries suffered from years of his hard-hitting style in the squared circle. He returned to in-ring competition at this year’s WrestleMania, and the “Yes! Man” is back on our screens every week on SmackDown. The Bryan Showcase Mode covers his whole WWE career in some of his most memorable matches. Before each match takes place, we are also treated to Bryan himself narrating what was going on in that time of his career in a mini-documentary-styled intro. How Showcase works hasn’t changed since its exclusion; you’ll have certain match objectives to fulfil., such as damage so and so in the ring or attack blah blah in the corner. Achieving some of these objectives will trigger a cutscene featuring action from that match. It is a mode I could never understand 2K cutting from 2K18 completely as there are so many more careers that can be covered by a Showcase show. The Bryan one is great fun, and fans of the “Yes! Man” will get a real kick reliving some of his greatest moments during his WWE run.
One thing I could never understand with previous WWE 2K games is why the Career Mode sucks so much. I mean, it’s not like the WWE create story-based wrestling shows, is it? This year, thankfully, 2K have actually put some effort into the Career Mode, and it is brilliant. Career mode is found in the MyPlayer part of 2K19, where you create a wrestler but are limited in terms of moves, entrance options, skill points and attributes, etc. The big issue with MyPlayer is how much is locked behind loot packs. 90% of all the usual content you’ll find in the normal creative suite is locked behind in-game currency loot packs. 2K19 does reward you with currency for pretty much every game mode you play, so it is easy enough to earn currency to unlock the packs, but there is just so much locked behind them. This means that at the very start, your wrestler will be weak with a limited move-set. Thankfully, because the creation suite is so good, even with the limited options at your disposal, you can at least make your wrestler look the part. MyCareer overall though is a blast to play, featuring voice acting from the likes of Triple H and Kurt Angle, and it actually sounds pretty decent. There are some brilliant storylines featured, and for the first time since, well, I can’t really remember when, you’ll be desperate to keep on playing. The one thing about Career Mode that is just downright stupid is that there is no option to be a female wrestler. WWE are deep in the Women’s Evolution (ahem, Saudi shows), so not giving us the option to go through the Career Mode as a female superstar is just bizarre.
WWE 2K19 features the biggest roster yet, which to be fair, is something they say every year. Depending on if you pre-ordered the game and on which version you did get (I plumped for the Woo! Edition, and I do not regret that decision as I sit here wearing my Hall of Fame ring), you’ll also get some bonus wrestlers to add to the already stacked list. There are a few questionable exclusions from this year though, like Mick Foley, for one! Like, WTF, 2K?! But Nikki Cross, Brian Kendrick and, most notably, Tomasso Ciampa, are all missing but were in 2K18. A lot of the new additions this year are made up of the different models from Showcase Mode (there are six versions of Daniel Bryan!), but I guarantee you not playing as 2014 Eric Rowan would be a worthy sacrifice to fit in Ciampa and everyone else that’s missing. There are some brilliant new additions though, and the highlight for yours truly is the Bruiserweight, Pete Dunne. Peter is one of the best wrestlers around at the moment, and being able to play as an official version of the Bruiserweight is great.
The creation suite is still marvellous, as it always is, and allows you to create literally anything you want from wrestlers omitted from this year’s roster to movie characters, wrestlers from your own imagination or just create your mates (Marks and Smarks stable inbound shortly, boys). If you are not the creative type, then head over to Community Creations and download to your heart’s content. It’s not just wrestlers you can create, oh no, sir; arenas, shows, belts can be created, and you can now even customise the Money in the Bank suitcase! Uploading your own images is nothing short of simple, just go to the 2K website, link your Gamertag or PSN name, choose an image and upload, BayBay! This simple process is how you get your own face into the game so you can finally live out your dreams as a WWE Superstar.
Graphically, not much has changed from 2K18. There are a couple of newer character models, and some get a much-needed makeover, but mostly it’s still very much the same. What has changed though is the lighting used in WWE 2K19, to the point where sometimes you have to do a double take and make sure you’re not accidentally stuck on the WWE Network instead (which is £9.99, don’t you know?!), especially during entrances. One thing that is still quite laughable is the hair, surely it’s not hard to create hair that actually moves as it does in the real world? Hell, the hair in 2K19 is still so bad I’d take hair that sort of moves like it does in the real world over whatever the hell is going on here. Just as bad as the hair is the commentary. This is by no means a problem solely with WWE games as most sports games feature dire commentary. There are some decent bits during Career and Showcase Mode, but these were specifically recorded for those aspects of the game, and the general Universe Mode and Exhibition commentary is as dull as ever.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 5th October 2018