Wrestling games follow closely behind the FIFAs, Assassin’s Creeds, and Call Of Duties of the world by being a yearly release for PS4, Xbox One, and PCs. One can’t really expect much innovation between yearly releases, especially with sports titles. While opinions on whether wrestling is a sport is a whole other debate, we can definitely say that this year’s WWE title definitely does a whole lot to improve from its predecessor, but also adds a few things that hinder the experience completely.
In regards to WWE 2K19, it does add a few significant changes to the established formula. Highlights include a revamped MyCareer mode for you to make your own wrestler and strike it big in the WWE, a Tower mode that will be familiar with Mortal Kombat fans, Showcase Mode that lets you be in the shoes of pro wrestler Daniel Bryan, and whole new additions to the overall roster of wrestlers.
WWE 2K18 sets the bar pretty low as it is, with last year’s game being filled with bugs, glitches, and a lot of slow loading times between matches. While not as bad and prevalent as it was with the ill-fated WWE 2K16, it still hampered the overall experience. Thankfully, the fine folks over at 2K put improving all these slowdown issues in the forefront and so far WWE 2K19 is the smoothest wrestling experience yet. Creating your own wrestler is a fast experience, compared to the slow load times it took between choosing different outfits that occured in previous entries.
All these improvements also translated in a faster, more responsive gameplay when you’re actually in the ring. Wrestling games are filled with flashy moves and fast counters between fighters, so tight and responsive controls are an absolute must. The controls have been greatly improved since 2K18, with very little margin of error and a much needed tweak to the counter system.
The right trigger initiates the counter, pulling it at the right time before your opponents move lands can make or break a match. The previous games had players being able to counter indefinitely between each other's moves, making matches just a bunch of wrestlers countering each other’s moves over and over. In 2K19, they made counters capable of going stale, meaning after a while players can’t counter as much, leading to more exciting fights and players thinking more on their feet rather than relying on their counters throughout the match.
The revamped MyCareer mode can be a hit or miss with some people, with the allure of making your own wrestler that rises through the ranks being what attracts many people to this game. The character creation is definitely improved as there are less load times between trying out different pieces of costumes for your character. The older games made it a slog to try out different clothes as it never loads fast enough between outfits. Once you make your dream wrestler, you can start your journey through the story mode.
There are 5 chapters, with your character being an indie wrestler from the BCW that works his way into entering the WWE. Of course the game poses wrestling as being a real sport, rather than the sports entertainment that it actually is. You play as a character named “Buzz”, a down on his luck indie wrestler trying to make it to the big time with your Gary Oak-ish frenemy, Colin Quinn. There’s drama, intrigue, Triple H, all the hallmarks of a great WWE storyline. It’s a fun 10-hour ride, though it can overstay its welcome.
What overstays is the unskippable cutscenes, the game is determined to give you all the story antics that WWE is known for. Your character will go through the ups and downs of a wrestler, just not in the ring though. There are only a handful of fights between the myriad of unskippable cutscenes; you could go for 15 minutes of cutscenes and only be in the ring for 5. It’s really a slog. Not to mention that they try to pad it out with really long fights in the final 2 chapters. First they don’t give you enough fights, then they shove it all in. The fights end up being gauntlets, with your character fighting multiple waves of enemies and none of your health regenerating in between. Even on easy mode, these battles can take a toll on your virtual wrestler.
The biggest sin WWE 2K19 makes is the inclusion of lootboxes; it is just egregious with the way it’s implemented. As you play the game, you’ll receive in-game money, with which you can either buy individual characters, moves, and cosmetics for your custom wrestlers, or you can buy packs that will unlock a random move or cosmetic. Thankfully the unlockable wrestlers don’t come in lootboxes, but if you really want to make your dream wrestler have a specific moveset or look a certain way, you’re going to have to spend a whole lot of time grinding for money or cough up the cash to do so. Heck, it made me think it’s better to bring back the long load times if it means we wouldn’t have to succumb to all this lootboxing.
Overall, despite most of its shortcomings, WWE 2K19 does a lot to improve on the problems its predecessor had in terms of gameplay. For a yearly release, you could do a lot worse, that is until the next one comes out. Pick it up if you’re a huge fan of WWE, as who knows when a better wrestling game will ever come out after this one. Just don’t get yourself too hung up on the lootboxing. Keep up with Gamehubs on Facebook and Twitter to be up to date on all things gaming.