WWE, or back in my day WWF, is the largest wrestling movement in the world. Most people can remember atleast one main character from their childhood era and although we (may) have left our childhood of performing moves onto mattresses draped across the living room floor (do not copy me), the constant new wrestling arrivals and revolving storylines captivate both wrestling fans both old and new.
WWE 2K19 developed by Japanese based Yuke’s and Visual Concepts located in the home of WWE, USA, is the 6th instalment to be published by 2K Games onto PC, Playstation and Xbox. Releasing a new version of a game each year can lead fans of franchises to question whether it is worth buying each time, for instance I find myself only buying Fifa games every other year to keep the gameplay feeling fresh.
So taking it that you are reading this review as a) a fan of wrestling and b) having played past WWE games, let’s see what is new to entice you into departing with your hard earned cash!
Ok lets start with the biggest and best revamp to the gaming series, MyCareer mode. Previous attempts at the career mode have not been that great and you have started halfway through career progression in the NXT championship. In WWE 2K19 you start off weak and fairly basic when it comes to stat levels however you find yourself right at the beginning of your career competing in an Indie league called BCW that takes part in High School gyms. During your career progression from Rookie to Hall of Famer you get to upgrade your character stats which are Attack, Body and Defense through the skill trees using Style Points that are earned through taking part in matches. Once you hit level 10, your skill tree options widen as you can select between one of two paths to perfect the Superstar you are aiming to become. A third skill tree allows you to select buffs such as Beast mode, Charged Fury and Electrifying that once more can be upgraded during your progression. There is a lot of scope for customisation from the standard appearance and attire menus through to selecting your entrance, fighting style and signature finishing moves however many of the items are found within loot packs that require in-game virtual currency to be opened, sometimes at an extortionate price (think Plants Vs Zombies GW2). To enjoy the career mode you do not necessarily need to purchase loot packs however it can help when matches begin to feel a little one sided later on.
When fighting in the ring the Payback system is a new defence mechanic that has been introduced to turn the tables on your opponent during matches. Simply select from a range of level 1 and level 2 abilities at the start of a match and if you’re unlucky to get beaten to a pulp you will be able to initially use the level 1 ability that you chose. If you last longer you will unlock the level 2 ability and away you go! Bewarned you may find that you use this system a lot as the reversal button press prompt appears very quickly on the screen and you need the timing of the flash to execute the move reversal effectively!
There is a great storyline brought to life by an Indie wrestler named AJ Kirsh who along with other WWE wrestlers helps voice act the cutscenes to keep the momentum going. There is certainly a genuine sense of achievement as you make your way up through the ranks and eventually onto the WWE main roster.
Aside from the MyCareer mode there is a new Showcase mode that features in WWE 2K19 focusing on the career of past wrestler Daniel Bryan. Acting a bit like a mini documentary, the showcase plays in chapters that allows you to play parts of historic matches and pull off the same moves that Daniel Bryan actually used. A helpful objective list appears in the top left of your screen as you play so that you know what you need to do next during the match, however, although it feels awesome to finally pull off that requested grapple or throw you must remain focused on winning the match as should you lose you will have to replay the entirety of the match again.
Other game modes that have been added to this years edition are 5, 6 and 8 man matches that feature an array of rules and objectives such as Ladder, Table, Hell in a Cell, Battle Royale, TLC Tag, Triple Threat and even a women’s Royal Rumble. The Hell in a Cell cage has been tweaked to reflect the real size of the cage that you see when watching it on TV where the previous versions had an over the top sized cage. In return, more interaction with the cage has been added to allow you to have more realistic encounters and have enormous fun when slamming the likes of The Undertaker through the mesh ceiling.
One feature of WWE 2K19 that I really enjoyed was the new Towers mode. Here you select your character from either the WWE Superstars or your very own MyPlayer creation and compete in a battle challenge against a string of WWE Superstar opponents a little similar to the old Mortal Combat campaign. Each tower has its own unique theme and selection of opponents. Don’t worry, you will not get bored as each match can vary in match type and stipulations such as player/opponent buffs or starting the match with low health bars. There are two types of tower mode that can be played, one is Gauntlet where you must play through all of the challenges in one session, there is no saving progress halfway through! The second mode is called Steps (no you don’t play as a character from the pop band) which allows you to climb your way up the tower at your own pace, allowing progress to be saved. The ultimate tower to take on is the AJ Styles Million Dollar Tower featuring extreme difficulty and no player health regeneration between matches. There is a big incentive to this game mode however. Once you have completed the Million Dollar Tower you can submit a video to say why you could beat AJ Styles in WWE 2K19. If you get through to the semi finals you get to take on the remaining semi-finalists in a match and then play against AJ Styles in a one on one for a chance to win….(In a Dr Evil voice) One Million Dollars! yes, that’s real money! All submissions have to be in by 31st January 2019. If you have what it takes good luck!!
As ever there is free downloadable content created by the public so that you can play as The Joker or Batman and there is also WWE add-on packs that can be either individually bought or included via a season pass. There is the Accelerator that unlocks all of the virtual currency purchasable locked content, giving you access to buy characters, arenas and championship titles which are usually unlocked through playing the game. The Accelerator also allows you to tweak the rankings and attribute levels of all the playable characters throughout the game. The MyPlayer Kickstart package allows you to unlock and boost your character ratings and attributes as well as unlock all of the clothing options. A New Moves pack will be available giving an extra 50 in-game moves to a whole host of superstars such as the Atomic Drop into Double Leg Combo by my favourite, Jeff Hardy, as well as brother Matt’s Assisted Twist of Fate move. A Rising Stars pack for all you die hard wrestling fans brings into the ring Superstars from 205 Live, NXT and WWE such as Candice LeRae, Lacey Evans and Ricochet to name a few. A Titans pack can be purchased that gives you the mighty Bobby Lashley, EC3 (Ethan Carter III) and the devastating War Raiders comprising of Hanson and Rowe. Finally there is a Wooooo! and a Ronda & Rey pack that give you access to additional characters.
WWE 2k19 features an awesome Creation Suite that has been enhanced from the previous years offering. Here you can take the level of detail to the extreme by customising the sideplates on the championship title belts as well as adding your own touches to the Money in the Bank briefcase. Create An Arena features new environmental features and when creating a Superstar there are some lovely little touches such as the ability to mirror accessories across the body.
WWE 2K19 has amazing graphics with no frame rate issues despite the mass on-screen brawls and the introduction captivates you from the moment the game starts. Are you really playing a game or are you watching a real episode of Raw/Smackdown? The entrances of each of the wrestlers are spot on and the animations are very fluid. Each of the wrestling Superstars have a high level of detail down to their tattoos, freckles and scars. When compared to 2K18 the graphical changes are slight however the most noticeable differences are the light rendering and shading details. This is evident in items such as shadows of the ropes on the canvas ring and clearer looking signage around the arena. The bodies of the wrestlers has been somewhat improved with better body shapes, muscle definition, hair movement and they are also showing some signs of ageing.
The WWE 2K19 soundtrack is pretty amazing with all of the WWE Superstar’s entrance songs ready to blast through your speakers as they make their way through the arena to the ring, exciting both the crowd and the player. On top of the wrestler’s entrance songs is a background playlist of tunes from the likes of Slipnot, Eminem, Metallica and Fall Out Boy to name a few. Needless to say, the music certainly gets you ready for fighting in the ring! The voice acting is pretty good for the wrestlers as is the excitable but on occasion random commentary from Corey, Saxton and Cole. The crowd chants fill your living room creating an atmospheric roaring sound that makes you believe you are indeed in the arena as the ring announcer welcomes the wrestlers to the ring. There were a few times that the crowd performed random chants during a match however this did not detract from the ass whooping I was receiving from my son at the time.
With MyCareer, Showcase, Towers and all of the other glorious game modes and customisations that are available, WWE 2K19 has enough variation to keep you going for a very long time. You can easily spend days perfecting your very own arena, wrestler entrance and character. Oh and you must discover the Big Head Mode, it’s hilarious. A tutorial is available for the most basic of player, however mastering all of the move combinations is almost a full time job if you want to be the best you can, essential if you want to be a contender for the $1 Million Tower competition! Personally I would not buy the Accelerator add-on and prefer to unlock all of the in-game purchasable content through being rewarded for winning and progressing in the game as it does take away some of the fun and sense of achievement.
For all you wrestling fans out there I would seriously consider having WWE 2K19 on your Christmas list as it is great for both solo and multiplayer gaming, just what you need in the festive period.
I award WWE 2K19 the Thumb Culture Gold Trophy.
Disclaimer: A review code was received in order to write this article, why are my children better than me at a gaming franchise that I first played before them?