Step inside the latest release from the annual WWK 2K franchise which has steadily been on the rise the land handful of years. However, with long time series developer Yukes stepping away from the franchise into the development cycle and taking the bulk of their code and assets with them, have 2K Sports and their development team at Visual Concepts been able to carry the load in what is now their first solo game of the series?
A special thank you to 2K for providing an early access copy of WWE 2K20.
The most notable change this year from the start is the reconfigured control scheme. Reversals which have been assigned to R2 (PS4)/Right trigger (Xbox One) for years have been switched to Triangle/Y while Signature/Finisher and OMG moves which were previously Triangle/Y for many years have now switched to Square+X/X+A while OMG moves are now Circle+Triangle/Y+B. While much has been made of this move by long time fans of the series, there’s not much to it all. In the span of about 2 or 3 matches it becomes very easy to mentally adjust to the new control layout and after several more matches it’s hardly even a thought. This is being done to help players avoid hitting the wrong buttons and reduce the input time between button/trigger presses and the change is evident and very welcome. Reversals have been hit and miss regarding timing for the last few games of the series whereas now they are immediate and rarely an issue so reassigning it to a face button was a wise decision, leaving players to no longer worry about performing a minor or major reversal properly and just focus on the match and remaining available reversal slots. The new button combos for Finisher, Special and OMG moves also seemed like it might be cumbersome but in execution is very easy to trigger when required. Some other changes include Trigger and face button combinations for performing submissions from several different positions (which is feels more natural than waiting to position in a grapple first), engaging in a grapple, performing rollup pins out of nowhere (if that skill is equipped) and initiating chain grappling. The pace of the match seems like it has also been slowed down slightly, which when combined with some new animations and feed-in animations, results in a more natural looking match flow.
This year also see the introduction of a new assist mode which is largely designed for new players to learn and experience the variety in the wrestler’s move-sets. When landing a strong strike or grapple move, the AI-system will choose a specific attack for the player. I haven’t used it much as it canbe turned on and off but it is a nice option to have nevertheless.
With more emphasis on the women this year (more on that shortly) the Mixed Tag Team Match makes its debut in the series which has been popularized on WWE programming over the last year or two with shows like Mixed Match Challenge. This match features a variety of new dual attacks and finishers which look great and are satisfying to execute, involving all 4 Superstars in a singular attack animation as striking or grappling an opponent of the opposite gender (EG: a man striking a woman) results in an immediate DQ. The weapon wheel previously only available in Extreme Rules matches is now available in all regular and No DQ match types as well as the new option to customise the weapons wheel with several new foreign objects to choose from. Several new non ring environments for Brawls have been added and provide a nice aesthetic change to the action as well as new interactive objects and weapons, especially locations from the new 2K Originals DLC.
Much been made about the graphical problems and visual glitches in this game but from my play throughs with it, this has been greatly exaggerated. While likely due to the departure of Yukes (although many complaints have persisted for years now despite the added attention this year), while there was some stiffness with some hair movement (such as Bianca Belair’s distinctly long ponytail) as well as some object clipping, and one instance of a referee floating in midair during one portion of a Showcase cutscene, I didn’t experience anything that was so egregious or graphically “broken” as many others have attested to, most of these issues which have already been attended to with the release of a new update file. Visually the game still looks fine and many characters pop on a HD Ready screen, so one can imagine how much more so they look on a full HD or 4K screen. Some models look better than others (Visual Concepts clearly hasn’t smelt what the Rock is cooking as the unscanned face model could still use additional work…1999 Rock with the same face looks a little better with his hair and $500 shirt) but everyone is clearly visually distinctive and looks like who they are meant to look like, even some who were not scanned.
Showcase Mode returns this year focussing on the Women’s Evolution and 15 matches from 2014 until this year’s Wrestlemania 35 featuring the rise of the WWE’s Four Horsewomen (Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks & Bayley) and recreating some of their major milestone moments from the last five years, with special mode exclusive commentary aided by WWE’s Renee Young (who is always a treat) joining the other commentators. It is a clear that a good amount of time has gone into the development of this mode as all cutscene are very faithfully recreated with many impressive small details included. The number of match objectives to trigger multiple cutscenes per match and unlock all the available items has been increases from prior years and most matches will take longer, as well require more effort to complete compared to Showcase Modes of prior years, especially the final Triple Threat match from this year’s WrestleMania which will require multiple attempts to fully complete.
2K’s signature MyCareer mode returns, following the template created last year, with an expanded story and scope. This year will see the introduction of a female MyPlayer that we can control alongside our male MyPlayer. We follow the journey of Red and Tre as they encounter multiple WWE Superstars, Legends and Hall of Famers on the day of their own Hall of Fame inductions, recalling and conveying the events of their meteoric careers that unfold over the course of 18 chapters and over 20+ hours of gameplay. The journey spans their careers through high school, the “indies” through to NXT, RAW and SmackDown and even across the multiverse which included cameos and dozens of speaking roles from WWE Superstars and Legends such as Ronda Rousey, The IIconics, Adam Cole, The New Day and X-Pac among others. This year sees us track Red and Tre’s progress via checking their list of career goals, forming the roadmap of their Hall of Fame careers and with guest podcast cameos from last year’s MyCareer protagonists Buzz and Cole Quinn. There’s a new class to choose from when creating our MyPlayers and customising our look and moves sets have been greatly expanded this year, no longer requiring the random luck of getting the parts you want by opening loot packs (which return) but proving players with more options from the start which will please many…it certainly pleased me. The Skill Tree has been redesigned as well and will be up to players to determine if this is for better or worse and this year each MyPlayer (male & female) has their own unique skill tree and customisation options and can each be used in the MyPlayer Towers and online Road to Glory.
With minor upgrades to Universe mode and some creation modes (like Create-A-Championship) set to be added in a later update file, with the remainder of the creation suite remaining the same, the only other addition is the return of the Mortal Kombat style 2K Towers where we take Superstars through numerous step and gauntlet style towers to earn VC; as well the incorporation of new 2K Originals content that included its own set of 2K Towers and Showcase modes to play through and the ability to unlock new weapons, locations, arenas and altered versions of WWE Superstars with their own unique entrances and abilities.
With the exception of MyCareer and the return of Online lobbies and adding of Mixed Tag Team matches, there isn’t that much new about WWE 2K20; but despite a rough first week of launch, still holds its own and provides a good escape for those who want to experience the action of being inside a WWE ring without ever having to actually step inside it for real. Visual Concepts has plenty of room for growth and now the unimpeded room to take the series in whatever direction they choose not just next year, but into the next-gen of consoles so it should be exciting to see if they’ll be able to do to WWE 2K in coming years what they’ve done to NBA 2K in past years (hopefully without the forced inclusion of Micro-transactions for additional VC of course).