Story - 75%
Graphics - 85%
Presentation - 85%
Audio - 81%
Gameplay - 88%
Replayability - 90%
WWE 2K19 enters the virtual arena, marking the sixth release since 2K Sports acquired the publishing license, from the now defunct THQ, and fifth year of collaboration between Visual Concepts and Yukes on current gen consoles (& PC). While many gameplay improvements have been made over the years which have greatly enhanced the flow of matches and strived for more of a simulation of the action we see on actual WWE televised shows, many have felt the series has been coasting and not reaching its true potential. While WWE 2K19 is much more of what we’ve become accustomed to from the franchise, it does take some steps in the right direction.
Presentation wise, WWE 2K19 continues the recent trend on the current gen consoles by delivering slick looking menus (this year with a white aesthetic) and really good looking character models. While looks have been updated from year to year, the basic proportions and facial likeness of many of the models look on par with last year, with some who needed a little extra work, like most of the women’s roster and some of the lower card Superstars, receiving just that and looking better than ever. Lighting has received a slight upgrade too, which is especially noticeable during many male and female Superstars and Legends entrances, which also overall look as good as any WWE game to date due to better motion capture on the part of whoever is enacting the entrance motions. Some still are noticeably recycled from past years and others could use work on the timing and finer movements, body language, and facial expressions to truly make the entrances and victory motions indistinguishable from their real life counterparts; but as an overall effort are much better this year. Another aspect of entrances that has been greatly improved upon is the commentary of the three man team of Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton. Much effort has clearly been made to give them more conversational banter to discuss during entrances and some lines like Michael Cole declaring it “…boss time!!” whenever Sasha Banks makes her entrance mirror the real life product to a T. Commentary returns to more of the same as we’ve been used to during matches with some minor conversation lines interspersed between singular sound bites of a move being performed or information about a wrestler in the ring. Commentary still has a ways to go before reaching the natural flow of the NBA 2K series but the efforts during entrances to show that Visual Concepts is aware of fans’ concerns and taking small steps to address that.
Gameplay remains nearly identical to last year’s game, with some slight tweaks and additions for good measure. Anyone familiar with the control configuration and gameplay of any game from the last handful of years will be able to jump right in. Countless new animations will help the action flow better and A.I. aggressiveness seems to have been bumped up. The A.I. is now more opportunistic and employ a wider range of offense than before. While before one could easily beat the A.I. blindfolded, you’ll need to play more cunningly this year to keep pace. Strikes and matches pacing has been sped up a little and new strike reaction animations trigger varied and contextual response animations based on fatigue, placement and size. A Big Head mode has also been included for those wanting more oldschool arcade fun. The introduction of the new Payback mechanic also helps players to even the odds and add an extra element of strategy into matches when being beaten down to a certain degree. Each playable Superstar has a level 1 and level 2 Payback available which players are able to freely edit for each Superstar before every “Play Now” match. Level 1 Paybacks include being able to add one an extra reversal stock, jumping back up to your feet with slightly buffed stats, receiving a speed boost and being able to play possum from different positions on the ground or in the corner to get the jump on an opponent or try score a quick pinfall out of nowhere. Level 2 Paybacks include stealing your opponent’s moves, dimming the lights and appearing behind your opponent like Bray Wyatt or the Undertaker, receiving an extra finishing move, and being able to use dirty tactics like hitting low blows, using brass knuckles or spraying poison mist in the face of your opponent. These last few were previously standard moves in earlier years but now can get you disqualified if seen by the referee and help mirror their use in WWE more accurately. These actions can help change the tide of match and give you a fighting chance if used wisely and choosing when to use a level 1 or level 2 Payback. This is definitely a welcome addition to the gameplay.
Additionally, minor improvements have been made to Hell in a Cell matches and greater improvements have been made to Steel Cage matches to give players the option for the first time to escape through the door, battle atop the ropes during a climb and battle more atop the cage and when attempting to climb out.
2K Showcase returns after being loudly requested by the wrestling gaming community for the past two years. This time focusing on the underdog career of beloved fan favourite Daniel Bryan. With WWE documentary quality videos of Daniel Bryan narrating is career journey in between each match, you’ll play through 12 important matches and moments in Daniel Bryan’s career (including one bonus match), completing a set of objectives in each match to mirror famous moments or trigger cutscenes and aid in unlocking all the classic attires, playable characters, belts and arenas. The timing of choosing Daniel Bryan as a focus couldn’t have been better and includes his courageous comeback from forced retirement as seen earlier this year. Watching Bryan narrate his career journey will help you discover why he is such a likeable figure is you’re unfamiliar with him or reaffirm your love for him even if you’ve been following him from the beginning. You need to win or fulfil main objectives in order to advance and at one point one might almost want to throw their controller at the screen when facing a certain Cenation leader. Your replay value from this mode will depend on how much you enjoy Daniel Bryan and the matches selected as part of this year’s 2K Showcase.
MyPlayer mode features a brand new cinematic and narrative driven MyCareer more in line with what players would expect to find in NBA 2K. Featuring a story spanning 14 Chapters and a voice recorded MyPlayer (as well as voiced WWE Superstars, except John Cena…which also helps that voices, announcers and commentators don’t sound bored and lacking energy in the recording booth and sound more natural as one would expect), you will follow your MyPlayer as an emerging start in the independent BCW promotion all the to the WWE Main Roster with plenty of intrigue, twists, turns, up and downs along the way. With the emphasis on a tight 14 chapter story that will last about 12 – 20 hours, the inclusion of a skill tree system to level up your MyPlayer archetype and the ability to choose from two different sub-styles of specialisation from the established wrestler types (Striker, Technician, Powerhouse, Giant, Cruiserweight) and new challenges included in the online Road to Glory mode that helps further levelling up your MyPlayer and earning you VC and Style Points, this is definitely the best MyCareer effort in the WWE 2K series thus far and makes for a very enjoyable MyPlayer experience this year. While there is VC earned in game, it doesn’t include micro-transactions as seen in NBA 2K and you’ll earn 2 Style Points for every level increase that you can use to upgrade attributes via the Skill tree. Whenever you level up, you’ll earn prestige point which can be used to purchase Loot Packs that you can use to take unlock creation parts and clothing, moves, taunts, entrance and victory motions as well as boosts to expand your MyPlayer past the initial barebones creation. Loot Packs as sub divided this year are a better system than the all encompassing Loot Crates last year and give you a chance to try and earn the things you want easier than relying on chance from several different categories all together. It can at times be frustrating if there’s a certain clothing part or face paint or move you want and don’t find via Loot Pack (the alternative is a hefty amount of VC to purchase said part) but your odds are much better this year. Road to Glory is fun, provided other players don’t play dirty or cheese their way to victory by spamming exploitable moves, and even a slow ADSL connection won’t experience much, if any noticeable, lag during these matches.
This year also sees the inclusion of the new 2K Towers; a series of gauntlet style matches (or ladders) that will see players control either a pre-defined character or choose your own as you progress through either Step Towers which allow you to progress at your own pace and resume at any point, or gauntlet towers that have to be completed in one sitting and any attempt to exit the mode will reset the tower back to the beginning. The difficulty of these towers vary and can net players different VC amounts depending on the amount of point accumulated at the end based on the number of stars earned during each match. There are also special MyPlayer towers that net prestige points and VC and also count towards gaining XP to level up your MyPlayer, plus update with daily, weekly and monthly towers to keep things fresh.
Universe Mode returns largely the same but with more cutscene options; one can now assign six championships to a show instead of four and be able to determine the extent of these championships. No longer being forced to include one of a certain category, every championship can be a singles, tag team or women’s championship or mix of the above and even makes provision for assigning a Money in the Bank briefcase to each show. New matches tables determine the frequency of any match type in your Universe and how often they are used for big events and feuds. Managers can now be assigned to Universe and promo battles take into account recent events. Not major changes but nice additions that add to the mode.
Rounding things off is the trusty Creation Suite which builds on the last few years with more parts past clothing options to provide more options than ever. The inclusion of the new Randomiser tool allows you generate and number of random clothing and body combinations if one doesn’t want to agonise over every last detail, with the ability to randomise specific parts if one wants to casually fine tune something they aren’t happy with or try something new without any clear idea in mind. A new colour match tool allows one to generate matching themed and coloured clothing without having to set each part individually. In addition to Create a Move-Set, Create an Arena, Create a Championship, one now has the option to create their very own Money in the Bank (MITB) and customise its colours, designs, material, championship the holder can cash it in for and the holder as well as the ability for the A.I. to cash in automatically and randomly or if you wish to do so manually.
WWE 2K19 features nice new additions and steps up the MyCareer experience for the first time in a major way since its inclusion in the WWE gaming franchise. It doesn’t rewrite the wheel but adds some solid new gameplay and presentation additions that move things along more where they need to be (and arguably should already be) while providing another solid and dependable entry into the series. Universe Mode and Play Now will give players many house of fun arguably be the backbone of the series longevity for most when combined with community creation downloads to supplement people’s Universe modes. I’ll personally be spending more time with MyPlayer and Road to Glory but one’s replayablitiy and mileage from the mode may vary. If you’re a WWE fan this is a good investment and especially if one hasn’t played any of the games for several years or looking for something to play between other AAA releases, this is a solid choice.
Reviewed on: PS4
Available on: PS4, XBox One, PC
Genre: Sports, Fighting
Age Rating: Pegi 16
Publisher/Developer: 2K Sports/Visual Concepts/Yukes
Estimated RRP: R899
Release Date: 9 October 2018
- New gameplay touches and animations
- TV Accurate and conversational entrance commentary
- MyCareer story and MyPlayer mode
- Aggressive and opportunistic A.I.
- Reversal timing seems off at times?
- Forced objectives for advancing through MyCareer story
- Customising MyPlayer should be less restrictive