In the past games that came out on a yearly basis, the likes of FIFA, Pro Evolution Soccer, Madden, and the NHL and NBA franchises, were often tarred with the same brush. A fresh coat of paint and a couple of new features, but essentially the same game as the previous year. Perhaps it would even be fair to level that criticism of the WWE franchised games from 2k in certain years. However, this year for WWE2k19 it feels as though much more thought has gone into how gamers would enjoy the game, getting more longevity out of it than perhaps in previous years. That extra thought has made for a much-improved player experience.
In terms of gameplay, not much is wildly different in 2k19. There have been a few minor alterations to the way in which grapples are applied and some optional changes to the settings which allow you to filter who can be selected for matches. However, it’s the subtle changes that make the biggest difference, for example making rolling out of the ring when down an option for all characters rather than a special ability. Adding pinning combinations as an option with more moves, but it’s the payback mode that I was most impressed with, where you can turn things around using a one-time special skill when things look worst which helps even things up in multi-player scenarios, which is great. While the gameplay hasn’t been exactly overhauled the small alterations 2k have made definitely improve the enjoyment of the overall game.
WWE 2k18 was a very enjoyable game, but after playing it for a while the longevity of the career mode started to diminish. It wasn’t bad by any stretch but it wasn’t spectacular either. However, 2k19 absolutely deals with that issue by adding several new modes. Firstly, the My Player (AKA career mode) function is much improved with the created player starting in an indie federation called BCW and playing out a storyline of how they reach WWE before launching into the traditional main roster storyline. In addition, the much-loved Showcase mode that was popular in previous editions of the game, this time allowing players to play through Daniel Bryan’s WWE career, including a match against a young John Cena, and his debut on NXT. This is tremendous fun, and the segments with Bryan between the matches describing his story, while clearly scripted, are still pretty enjoyable.
There is also the new 2k Towers mode, which allows players to work through gauntlets of opposing wrestlers to unlock them as playable characters, reveal rewards and generally add more depth to the game. You can even take part in an online version to unlock further rewards. It’s a nice addition and makes for an extra layer of playability in the long-term.
Graphically, 2k19 feels like an upgrade on last year, as it should be. The character movements feel more fluid and closer to the real-life equivalent than previous outings, and the facial features and details seem to be more on point, which helps make the game seem more immersive. The roster depth is huge, with a whole range of unlockable past and present superstars and items as well, with Ronda Rousey, Rey Mysterio and many others available with the deluxe edition (and presumably as DLC at a later date as per the usual set up). The only downside is the use of Loot Crates in order to gain access to certain customisable character outfits, moves etc. for the creation suite, but for anyone who has played Fifa in recent years with the Ultimate Team set up, or really any major franchise video game you’ll be familiar with how that works and you star with a very generous balance to pay for certain items from the off.
Most importantly, WWE 2k19 feels like a fun game. It’s less focused on simulation and more on playability. The various challenge modes, the additional narrative elements to the career mode and the improved gameplay make for a fun, more arcade-style experience. WWE 2k19 is a definite improvement on its predecessor and well worth picking up.