The most recent offerings of the WWE 2K series have been incredibly disappointing in terms of technical issues, with not much to shout about for the career mode either. One thing you can always rely on though is an authentic experience and it delivers by including a ton of your favourite Superstars, official arenas and title belts. Given how all the build up for the latest instalment, WWE 2K19, has been so promising due to news of a returning mode and an overhaul to many other areas, wrestling fans have reason to be hopeful that this year’s game is much better, right?
Well, they say it’s the hope that kills you. But before you turn away in disgust, WWE 2K19 isn’t all that bad, there’s just a feeling of two steps back and one step forward, which is maybe what’s needed to lay down the foundations for a greater future.
And that’s prevalent the most in MyCareer, which has seen a rather condensed approach brought into play. First though, you’ll need a created wrestler known as a ‘MyPlayer’ to call your own and use across a number of modes. Once more, players must decide on what to call the character, pick a specific fighting style to determine the desired move-set and base attributes, and choose from an initially limited selection of appearance options. Your Superstar will begin life with an overall rating far lower than anyone else on the roster, with you needing to level up to earn XP and then spending the acquired Style Points on the new MyPlayer Tree.
The MyPlayer Tree is a much more in-depth way of improving the attributes and skills that are suited to your character, ensuring you can focus on the areas that matter the most. Whilst Style Points can easily be divided equally between the Attack, Body and Defense branches, there’s nothing preventing you from piling the majority into one of those. Then there are sub-styles to ply points into, so for example, a Striker character could gain attributes and such that fit the role of a Brawler or a Strong Style performer. Additionally, an Overcharge Tree allows the player to assume an extra special Payback ability and increase its power, but more on that shortly.
The character growth is a well-thought out development process for anyone wanting longevity from building up a rookie towards the upper echelons and becoming a real force to be reckoned with. Sadly, whoever conjured up the ideas for the MyPlayer modes certainly wasn’t kept in the loop, especially for MyCareer, where everything is a bit rushed and you’ll escape the independent scene whilst still severely under-powered. That makes the enjoyment levels take a hit as even within the first few chapters, you’ll need to beat Superstars that are streets ahead of you – I got legit beat up by Jinder Mahal in an optional match, but that’ll be the least of your worries. When match objectives come into play, like one requiring you survive and win a Battle Royal, it’s a nightmare to grind out that victory.
In recent years, the WWE 2K games have had a mindless slog of a career, that offered freedom at the expense of narrative profundity. WWE 2K19 takes it back to basics and apart from the issue outlined above, MyCareer is full of bonkers situations, twists, turns and triumphant moments; everything wrestling fans know and love about their pastime. There’s more to it than simply standard 1vs1 matches; there’s actual storylines, proper voice acting and differing objectives within each chapter. The overall aim is to get noticed while part of BCW, an indie company, make it to WWE and stick it to anyone who stands in your way on NXT (too briefly), SmackDown Live or Raw – be it Braun Strowman, Bobby Roode or the wonderfully ‘Woken’ Matt Hardy, to name but a few.
Gone are the days of running around backstage with insurmountable amounts of horrendous lag to deal with, for that option has been axed. It’s a case of: choose who to talk to, take on the main objective, partake in a few side matches and keep the momentum going. Certain situations allow for you to make a choice that’ll slightly alter things, but the experience is more of a linear one. If only there could be a middle ground between this MyCareer and previous efforts, because that’s what’s needed going forward to encapsulate the masses in my opinion.
Another way to throw your custom guy into the action is via the Road to Glory online mode, which pits you in regularly updated one-off match-ups against other MyPlayer characters. Participation is in the hope of earning enough Stars over time to qualify for special PPV events that provide exclusive rewards. The matchmaking is utter nonsense though as it constantly constantly presents opponents that are way, way ahead in terms of overall rating. Couple that miss-match alongside the input delay during bouts and it’s pot luck if any offensive manoeuvres are pulled off by you before tasting defeat.
Sure there are boosts to obtain from Loot Packs, which could increase specific stats for a limited amount of matches, but I have yet to equip enough to get myself on a level playing field. On the topic of Loot Packs, it seems a tad easier to afford them this year and there’s a chance of becoming addicted to opening them using in-game currency. You’ll be unlocking new attire parts, moves, profile banners and all sorts in no time, giving you something to work towards.
The last opportunity for your MyPlayer to shine is via the MyPlayer Towers, which include a variety of gauntlet type situations that see you needing to defeat a pre-determined selection of Superstars to succeed, usually with some kind of theme. It’s great to see new ones added daily and weekly to keep folks busy. Those of a gauntlet nature mean that any losses lead to failure, whilst the ‘steps’ type Towers allow for mistakes and you can come back to try again from the same spot later. These can be fun and, equally, frustratingly challenging, just as they are in the standard Towers mode – the one that enables the use of your favourite wrestlers – but the assortment throughout means that there’s a choice of difficulty to suit everyone.
Outside of the created character focused options, there’s the utterly pointless WWE Online section for, unsurprisingly, online matches. Firstly, there are too many match types to choose from and this leads to even less chance of finding someone to play against. That issue then forces you try Quick Play to get any match at all, which leads onto the second point of people quitting out repeatedly and connections dropping, meaning you end up fighting A.I. opposition. Lastly, I don’t know why anyone would even bother with online matches unless playing privately, because it’s not worth the currency it bestows upon you for completion.
On a more positive note, WWE Universe is still one of better ways to enjoy everything that WWE 2K19 has to offer, enabling extra control over how the weekly shows and PPVs play out. You can decide what occurs, which wrestlers are feuding and now it has the added bonus of letting you simulate and choose the winner. Alternatively, sitting back and allowing the whole Universe to develop organically is also a viable option. As always, it’s a great excuse for playing as your favourite wrestlers, whilst bringing the freedom to incorporate a ton of custom characters, events, title belts and such at the same. All of the improvements here appear to be for the better, no matter how minor they are and in this year’s game, Universe is the best of the bunch.
That’s even taking into account the return of 2K Showcase, which focuses on the pioneer of the “YES” movement, Daniel Bryan. This mode provides 11 matches – and a special bonus one – from Bryan’s storied career to recreate, starting way back with a spritely ‘Bryan Danielson’ taking on a young chap named John Cena, before covering a bit of NXT (when it was a different format to now), his stint in Team Hell No, the magical night at WrestleMania 30 and that triumphant return at WrestleMania 34. In each one you’ll have to complete a number of objectives in order, which then triggers the memorable moments of that match.
I’ve been an advocate of this mode since its incarnation, mainly due to nostalgia, and was gutted when it initially got removed from the series. Now though? I think many could take it or leave it, and for me personally, the storytelling style in between matches that’s been used here leaves a lot to be desired and doesn’t make that connection to draw me in. There’s nothing wrong with the match choices though, because there’s no perfect set-list that’ll please everyone and so these cover nearly all bases. It’s great to see a man who’s overcome immense adversity in the spotlight too; he deserves it.
For anyone who comes into WWE 2K19 and is happy to simply jump into a one-time match against the A.I. or with friends locally, there are no complaints on the plethora of match types to delve into. A whole host of multi-person bouts have been brought in to bolster an already impressive selection, including a Women’s Royal Rumble, whilst changes have happened to the likes of Steel Cage and Hell in a Cell matches – in regards the mini-games and ways to win. Throw in the humongous roster of Superstars of NXT, 205 Live, SmackDown Live and Raw, and there are endless possibilities; without even considering the Legends!
Arguably the most important aspect of any game is the gameplay itself, and there’s a fresh new system that adds even more excitement to the hard-hitting antics – Payback. Essentially, making the most of the Payback mechanic can turn a contest on its head, with the useful Level 1 abilities helping matters by allowing you to pull off auto-reversals, instant recoveries, play possum etc. The second tier of abilities are where the real game-changers are though, granting finishers, low blows, make the lights go out akin to one of Bray Wyatt’s tricks. There’s an element of risk to some of these, like hitting below the belt, punching opponents with brass knuckles and spraying mist at them, but it’s worth it. To earn any kind of Payback means taking damage, so its biggest rewards are only really felt by those being punished, a lot – ensuring no fight is ever too one-sided, unless it’s in MyCareer of course.
That’s where my power of positivity runs out for the gameplay sadly, because almost all of the strange collision mechanic flaws, glitches and generally weird goings on, return to put a real damper on the potential fun. Credit where it’s due, there’s been no slow-down during times when lots of characters are in play, however I don’t believe it’s fair that the rest of the problems still exist. In every single match there’s been times in which my character tries to action moves the wrong way, misses a finishing move completely for no apparent reason, and every so often gets into a mess with the ropes.
The commentary is also a problem, and it’s one that’ll grate on anyone who dislikes line repetition within seconds and the nonsensical dialogue – like pretending the match is almost over, when in fact it just began – will be very annoying. There is praise for the rest of the audio though; I’m alluding to the actual soundtrack which fits really well and the entrances themes. Moving onto the visuals and, well, it’s that age-old issue of some character models looking phenomenal, whilst others seem like a half-assed effort. Just don’t get me started on the terrible hair aesthetics.
WWE 2K19 promises so much, but only partly delivered – some would say like a Brock Lesnar appearance. Whilst there’s a ton of Superstars to play as, lots of different match types and a tremendous customisation mode, the modes that should carry the game to success just don’t quite hit the mark – mainly 2K Showcase. MyCareer takes a more structured and linear approach to a career offering and regresses in a couple of ways, however the storyline is enjoyable and engrossing. The online side still needs a massive overhaul, as does the gameplay to iron out the issues. But hey, at least the Universe mode can always be relied upon!
I’d argue that wrestling aficionados will still find WWE 2K19 to be joyous in short spells and it’s definitely an improvement, so it’s worth a look. Maybe, just maybe, wait for a sale if you’re not entirely convinced.