WWE 2K19 Review
Almost Ready For The Main Roster
Over the past year or so, I’ve found myself surprisingly getting back into professional wrestling. Now, a lot of my renewed interest stems from excitement over New Japan Pro Wrestling, but the WWE Network has played a role as well. Revisiting the content I grew up with, as well as current NXT and 205 Live, make it easy to see why I was once obsessed. In a way, though, WWE 2K19 reflects my thoughts on the former WWF. There’s good stuff to be found, you just have to sift through a handful of baloney in order to get there.
As the 20th entry in Yuke’s long-running take on the organization, WWE 2K19 is a continued work-in-progress. After rightfully drawing criticism over the last few years for their tired engine, the developer was committed to bringing some change to the series in 2018. Ultimately, what’s here, though, is not that much different from the previous year. It’s a little faster, which was the right move to make, even if it came at the expense of realism. There’s still a lot to take in, though. Specific controls for dragging, carrying, climbing to the top rope and using weapons threaten to make the gameplay a little too convoluted. It’s fine once you get a handle for everything but jumping in blind can be difficult.
The biggest addition to the engine this year is the Payback system. Each of the 200+ wrestlers included in WWE 2K19 are outfitted with a pair of perks that reflect their character. A cowardly heel can play possum to trick their opponent, while a resilient fan favorite can get a sudden burst of energy back. Again, these tricks make the brawler seem more arcade-y, but the good thing is that they don’t overwhelm the action. They can’t be abused, and even the more useful ones, such as Auto-Reversal, have their limitations. It’s a smart addition that I would love to see expanded upon in next year’s release.
While the gameplay is definitely improved, it still doesn’t feel quite there yet. It can feel shockingly clumsy at times, and minor actions such as placing someone on a table feel tougher to pull off than they should. There are also just weird quirks such as the fact that you have to run into the corner in order to climb to the top rope that don’t make a ton of sense. And while it’s not as rampant as it has been in the past, there are glitches still lurking around the edges. For example, in one match my opponent got stuck in a part of the crowd he shouldn’t have even been able to get into. When he needed to leave, he just phased right out of there, as well. It’s better, yes, but still very much far from perfect.
Yuke’s franchise has never been short on content, and WWE 2K19 is no exception. Dozens of multiplayer variations, a full creation suite for wrestlers, belts and arenas and two decent-sized single-player campaigns just scratch the surface of what’s here. Multiplayer is once again the star of the show for me. Whether it was online or, more preferably, local play, I had a blast wrestling. Since the actual company forgot how to produce them, it’s fun being able to put on entertaining Elimination Chamber and Hell in a Cell matches. You can’t ignore the gameplay jank, but it’s better to suffer with others than it is to do so alone.
Unfortunately, that jank does make the single-player options a bitter pill to swallow. MyCareer is back again and brings a strangely weird tone along with it. As always, your goal is to take your created superstar to the top of the biggest promotion in the world. An honorable goal, but one that isn’t pulled off successfully here. The writing is amateurish, with terrible jokes and often pointless conversations peppered in. Not helping matters is the voice acting from the actual superstars that feels phoned in, to be kind. MyCareer also can’t decide if it wants to break kayfabe or not. It’s tonally all over the place, and if it was done on purpose, was not the smart thing to do.
Faring a little better is the Daniel Bryan Showcase. As in past year’s editions, Showcase takes you through the biggest moments of a specific wrestler’s career. For Bryan, this means rising to the top against all odds, losing it all due to injury and then triumphantly returning. The goal is not always to win, but rather relive all the most memorable moments of each match. Outside of being an excellent wrestler, Bryan is a delightful presence, and his pre-match vignettes are great. While the mode is largely great, there are some issues that arise, specifically due to licensing problems. Bryan has a storied indie career, and it's understandably absent due to copyright, it’s hard to tell his story without his Ring of Honor days being mentioned. The whole CM Punk debacle also means that a lengthy portion of his WWE career is glossed right over. There’s still a lot of great content here, but it doesn’t feel as complete as past Showcases.
Although it lacks the story of both Showcase and MyCareer, the new 2K Towers are great for getting some single-player action in. Each Tower you take on has a unique theme, such as UK Wrestlers or AJ Styles’ brutal Million Dollar Challenge. Some of these Towers must be completed in a single run, while others can be taken step-by-step. Completing these challenges will give you VC that can be used to get legendary wrestlers or create-a-wrestler parts. I had fun attempting to complete the available towers, and they’ll definitely challenge you regardless of how familiar you are with the game.
Finally, there’s the WWE Universe mode, which continues to underwhelm. You are given the role of producer, as you can book RAW, SmackDown!, NXT and 205 Live as you see fit. Want Drew Gulak to rise to the top? Give Harper that much deserved push? Get Roman Reigns off TV? You have the power. Alas, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of consequences for what you do. Everything carries on as normal, which makes playing through the mode seem kind of pointless. There’s a good idea here, but it still needs to be fleshed out.
I don’t consider myself the creative type, but the sheer size of the creation suite in WWE 2K19 is impressive. We’ve evolved from simply being able to create new wrestlers into being able to customize everything from Money in the Bank briefcases to ring aprons. Since I can’t make anything on my own, I found myself returning to the community portal to download the latest creations fans have whipped up. How else are you gonna get reigning NXT champion Tommaso Ciampa in the game?
WWE 2K19 feels stronger than before in the presentation department, which was a nice surprise. The majority of the large roster look accurate to their real-life counterparts, and little traits they have are carried over to the game. Having touches such as Aleister Black’s unique entrance, or Rick Rude berating the crowd being depicted accurately make the product feel more true-to-life. Non-superstar character models, such as the crowd and announcers, still need work, though. The commentary also remains as dreadful as it ever has.
In many ways, I’m torn on WWE 2K19. The gameplay is still frustratingly clunky, and the single-player options, while plentiful, aren’t always enjoyable. However, I can’t deny that I have a genuinely enjoyable time playing the game. The multiplayer is excellent, and I can see myself repeatedly booting it up when I have the company. I’m also impressed by the options afforded to you creation wise. It’s one of the best character creation systems found in any game, even if the fact that you have to work to unlock items is annoying. It’s still likely a product only for fans, but it’s nice to see that Yuke’s can improve things if they want. Now, they just have to make sure that it doesn’t return to the status quo next year.