I will openly preface this review with the fact that I am giving this game a full score of 5 out of 5. WWE 2K19 proves what I have been saying about the WWE 2K series to anyone who would listen for years. WWE 2K15 was the first step, and that we will eventually get to the realization of what Visual Concepts and 2K Sports wished to achieve with this series. WWE 2K19, as I played the game over the weekend, gave me the feeling that while the game isn’t going to be what everyone wants it to be, it doesn’t need to be.
This feels like a brand new game, no longer just a step in the right direction.
Game Name: WWE 2K19
Platform(s): Steam (Reviewed;) PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Publisher(s): 2K Sports
Developer(s): Visual Concepts; Yuke’s Co. Ltd
Release Date: October 9, 2018 (Early Access – October 5)
Price: $59.99/$89.99/$129.99 (Standard/Deluxe/WOOOOO! Edition)
One of the standout things about WWE 2K19 that people will like right out of the gate is the MyCAREER story that is part of the MyPLAYER experience. MyCAREER encompasses fourteen chapters of what might be the best, as well as the strangest, story since SmackDown vs Raw 2007 or SmackDown vs Raw 2009 (depends on how insane you feel between Candace Michelle turning you to a girl or Zombie Santino.) The story has elements of many different real-life storylines, such as the rise of Daniel Bryan and the House of Horrors feud between Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt, surrounded by a unique story that has all sorts of moments surrounding it. You begin as a budding indie star who receives a tryout with WWE, only to have that opportunity yanked from him when he is attacked by a masked assailant after his tryout match with WWE Superstar Braun Strowman. The twist and turns that the story takes incites laughs, shock and more as your MyPLAYER, nicknamed “Buzz,” makes his rise to the top of the WWE mountain to claim the ultimate prize: the WWE Universal Championship. The story mode is fully voiced, with your player voiced by indie wrestler Broseph Joe Brody (neé AJ Kirsch,) and featuring the voices of WWE COO Paul “Triple H” Levesque, Randy Orton, former SmackDown GM Daniel Bryan, RAW GM Kurt Angle, Acting RAW GM Baron Corbin, The Miz, The B-Team (Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas,) WWE Champion AJ Styles, Bayley, Sasha Banks, Finn Balor, Bray Wyatt and “Woken” Matt Hardy. Honestly, I think my favorite part of MyCAREER’s initial story has to be “Woken” Matt Hardy, and that’s just because it’s Matt Hardy being Matt Hardy. It’s DELIGHTFUL! John Cena is involved in the MyCAREER story but is voiced by a fill-in voice actor, presumably due to filming conflicts with either Bumblebee or the Jackie Chan movie that Cena is in. Luckily it’s only for two very specific scenes, so it’s not too much of a minus.
As alluded to in my previous piece concerning MyCAREER, you upgrade your character through the MyPLAYER Tree, which unlocks higher ranks as you prestige up. I found myself getting at least to the Main Eventer prestige as I played through MyCAREER and MyPLAYER Towers, leveling up and earning XP and Style Points to increase my stats and unlock more nodes on the MyPLAYER Tree. Not going to lie, being able to take a break from MyCAREER before some of the tougher matches during the story to play MyPLAYER Towers to give me a boost felt really good. I’ve put in 49 hours of game time since beginning the game on Friday Morning, something I’ve never done for any other WWE title in my recent memory, most of these hours logged playing MyCAREER, not counting Road to Glory.
Truthfully speaking, I cannot sing enough praises about MyCAREER, as I honestly feel that this is the realization of the dream that Visual Concepts aimed for when Take-Two Interactive picked up the license in 2013. The story is just so engaging and the objectives aren’t overbearing. Most of the objectives are simply “Player must win via pinfall or submission,” with a few key matches having extra objectives leading to cutscenes mid-match of some fun moments. MyPLAYER Towers are a fun and quick way to enhance your experience in the main story and beyond with Pay-Per-View, daily and weekly Towers, as well as the standard constant Towers, especially since they contribute to not only the core MyPLAYER experience, but to Road to Glory as well, allowing players to qualify for the PPV event. Everything ties in pretty well and it doesn’t feel as arduous and boring.
I’m also extremely glad that they removed the perks and the T-Shirt sales, as they added more work for little benefit, honestly. The loot pack system works just as well as it was expected to work, especially since the tokens needed to buy the packs can be earned through MyPLAYER Towers as well as MyCAREER, both in the main story and side matches. I didn’t mind opening a ton of packs to get boosts for MyPLAYER Towers and Road to Glory or even for Entrances, Taunts and Moves. Hell, the ability to grind side stories at the end for more prestige XP and VC is a smart move in it of itself. MyCAREER is the complete package this year, and I honestly can’t see – at least not right now – how they can enhance this experience. A solid 12+ hour core experience that is enhanced by so much post-game content – something that was lacking in previous years.
The 2K Showcase – The Return of Daniel Bryan – is pretty similar to previous showcases. It was undoubtedly fun going through a quick cut of Bryan Danielson’s career leading up to his return at Wrestlemania 34 with Shane McMahon going up against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. It’s the same objective-based gameplay that we have had in WWE 2K15, WWE 2K16, and WWE 2K17 – so nothing has really changed.
Remembering moments such as Bryan Danielson’s first high profile match against an up-and-coming John Cena on Velocity leading up to Cena’s first WWE Championship match against Brock Lesnar, or his classic on the original incarnation of NXT against current IWGP Intercontinental Champion Chris Jericho, or even his saga with the Authority after beating John Cena for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. It was even loads of fun re-living the time when Team Hell No won the WWE Tag Team Championships from R-Truth and Kofi Kingston. The Showcases are always good for a quick nostalgia trip, and this is no different. It’s an interactive documentary, something that I would love to see next year with John Cena, Randy Orton or Triple H…or hell, up the ante a bit and let’s do a Trish Stratus, Lita, Mickie James or Nikki Bella showcase. I’m very serious about the Nikki Bella showcase. VERY. SERIOUS.
WWE Universe Mode has also seen some solid improvements – when it comes to booking matches, feuds and shows. I really love this year’s systems regarding frequency of matches booked, the frequency of Money in the Bank cash-in attempts, as well as the ability to pre-determine the winners of matches without having to set the controller to that specific Superstar. It increases the immersion so much more when you can actually feel like you’re Vince McMahon, Joe Koff, Lexie Fyfe, Gedo, Eric Bischoff, whatever booker you feel like being in your Universe. It’s truly your Universe this year, finally living up to the credo that they set years ago when this game mode debuted. This is finally a mode where your imagination can be set free in any way you wish. Granted, we still have the Promo Engine – albeit enhanced by events of the previous week – and not create-a-story, it’s still working for what we have been given, and that – to me – has proven itself to be aesthetically pleasing.
The actual combat in-game feels so much better opposed to previous years and you can feel it. The animations for a significant chunk of the moves in the game have been sped up, and strikes hit their mark a whole lot more accurately than in the past. The transitions feel better than they ever had, and even the reversal system doesn’t feel like a punishment anymore. You didn’t get the reversal in time? Take the move, then try again. The Payback system is also a ton of fun, especially for MyPLAYERs. MyPLAYERs gain three exclusive Level 2 Paybacks, known as Overcharges: Beast Mode, Charged Fury, and Electrifying. Beast Mode speeds your grapples up and increases grapple move damage, Charged Fury gives you a devastating punch and Electrifying – the one I chose for my character – charges your momentum, stamina and health (dependent on how far up the Overcharge Tree you filled.)
Let’s just say that it’s some kind of ridiculous fun turning the tables with the Electrifying Overcharge. The other Paybacks, a lot of which have been moved from both abilities and skills, are fun ways to turn the tables on an opponent who is dominating the match. Everyone has preset Paybacks, but they can be changed depending on the matchup. This gives the game a bit of an arcadey feel, and that’s not a bad thing at all. That’s a good thing.
Speaking of Big Head mode, it’s levels of ridiculous that cannot be explained. It’s just your ordinary regular match, but with big heads, like NFL Blitz or NBA Jam. It’s all in good fun, and I couldn’t get enough of it.
Hell in a Cell and Steel Cage matches see some much-needed improvements as well. I love all of the new mini-games that come with Steel Cage matches, especially the cage door escape mini-game, where you have to mash your way out of the door to escape. The mini-game before it, the one that triggered off of the top-rope superplex was unrealistic in nature and was all too easy to exploit. Another thing I enjoyed was being able to attack while on the cage wall, as well as sitting on top of the cage wall. There’s also a climbing mini-game that’s really fun to do when both climbing up and down the cage. It evens out the playing field a bit, which was – in my mind – necessary to keep the experience fresh.
Hell in a Cell was rescaled, and the ringside area has been narrowed out, limiting your movement and striking. Opening the cell also doesn’t absolutely require a finisher, however, you have to do a significant amount of damage to your opponent first before you can toss him through the corners of the cell. It’s a wonderful first step into a new system, and as with any new system, there’s going to need a few things fixed in future iterations, such as your opponent going just too far out of reach of your shortened grapple range. It’s definitely not a deal killer in the least, so no real worries there.
The Creation Suite is robust this year, especially with the introduction of mirroring and the randomizer. Again, creativity seems to be the focus for this year’s title, and they offer it in spades. Custom Matches are fun to put together. I haven’t made any matches yet, but I have quite a few ideas for custom match types that I would love to execute in my personal Universe. Create-An-Arena is much the same, but with a little more in the way of creative options, such as tweaking the way a show looks through custom filter settings, as well as adding small specifics such as a spotlight or a cel-shaded look. Create-A-Superstar had me truly investigating where my creativity could take me. I still have yet to create a block superstar, but being able to randomize my character’s outfit to find parts that match what crazy look I wanted to go for was amazing, to say the least.
Commentary, I’ve come to realize, will never be the best that it could be, and that’s largely due to the dynamic nature of wrestling. The commentary this year is leaps and bounds better than it was last year, and I can never get enough of Michael Cole and Corey Graves clowning Byron Saxton (we all do it.) The little tidbits tied to certain matches are really cool, such as the history lesson of Roman Reigns vs AJ Styles or Bayley vs Sasha Banks during Extreme Rules Matches or hearing about Charlotte Flair vs Natalya Neidhart when participating either in NXT or in Submission Matches.
There are even fun little moments when performing certain moves, such as Cole, Graves, and Saxton getting excited when the Three Amigos (triple vertical suplexes) are performed, or hearing Cole yell BANG! when you hit the Diamond Cutter. Did I mention I love the clowning of Byron Saxton? I can never get enough of that. I laugh uncontrollably every time.
Since I’ve reviewed the PC version of WWE 2K19, the recommended specifications ask for an Intel i7-3770 or an AMD FX-8350, 8GB of RAM and a GTX 970 or R9 290X. My computer, outfitted with an Intel Xeon E3-1231v3, 16GB of RAM and a GTX 1060 saw no issues running the game on Ultra settings, achieving 30fps during cutscenes (standard across the board for WWE 2K19,) as well as a consistent 60fps, with frames dropping to 58fps at the lowest. I only experienced a crash while in the late stages of MyCAREER, a quick re-validation of my game files fixed the issue in no time.
If I had to give WWE 2K18 any real knocks, it would have to be some of the glitches that exist during matches, but for me, it’s so few and far between, and you would almost have to be intentionally trying to trigger them in order for these glitches to show up.
Review Disclosure Statement: The Digital Deluxe version of WWE 2K19 was provided to us by Take-Two Interactive for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
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The culmination of four years’ hard work, WWE 2K19 is like Daniel Bryan’s initial run in the WWE: four years of ups, downs, triumphs, failures, criticism, praise. But one thing truly stands out, and that is the hard work that it took to get to this point. WWE 2K19 is the best WWE game since SmackDown vs. Raw 2007. The necessary changes to gameplay that were made this year truly help this game to stand out the way it was supposed to. MyCAREER is now a complete mode, and WWE Universe is fun again. When push comes to shove, WWE 2K19 could be considered the magnum opus of the WWE 2K era of games and is indicative of what’s to come in the future.
- MyCAREER is the full realization of the efforts that started 4 years ago
- 2K and MyPLAYER Towers are so much fun
- The Daniel Bryan Showcase presentation is a fun nostalgia trip
- Creation Suite is a creative person’s Valhalla
- Gameplay feels a lot smoother than in previous years
- Hell in a Cell and Steel Cages got necessary fixes
- Small non-game breaking glitches during gameplay