Let me be clear right from the start, I didn’t expect to enjoy WWE 2K19. This isn’t because I don’t like professional wrestling. I’m a WWE fan. I do enjoy watching, but I tend to yo-yo between being a massive fan and watching everything I can, and burning out and not paying much attention.
At the moment, I’m in the latter phase, but I know that the switch could flip at any time without warning, so I’m always primed for WWE content.
However, when it came to the games, I’ve never really enjoyed them. I found them too complex. Too slow. Too boring.
In some ways, not much has changed. WWE 2K19 is just as complex as the previous titles in the series. Most of the Superstars’ facial expressions look ridiculous and knowing what to do at a given time can sometimes be overwhelming.
However, like any complex games, you need to give it time to sink in and for your muscle memory to learn the minute movements required for play. When you do, I’d have to say that it seems to replicate the highs and lows of a WWE match fairly accurately. Of course, I say that as someone that has never wrestled professionally.
WWE 2K19 Review
There’s no shortage of game modes in WWE 2K19, although I’d have to say some of the best stuff is buried in an imperfect UI. It LOOKS fantastic, but it’s just not clear as to what needs to be done.
Take it from me, Showcase and MyPlayer are where you want to focus initially. Showcase gives players the ability to play through Daniel Bryan’s WWE career, with interview footage in between. For WWE fans, this is fantastic.
Not only can you play through Daniel Bryan’s career, but you also get to hear the story being told by the man himself every step along the way.
MyPlayer is the career mode. Create your character, assign them some basic moves, and take them into a fully voiced campaign, replete with a story structure that sees players going from wrestling in small school halls to the big time.
This is voiced by both professional voice actors and professional wrestlers.
Soap Opera for Rednecks
The story is no slouch, either. It’s no War and Peace, but there are twists and turns and standard wrestling tropes that will keep players engaged throughout.
Not only that, but you’ll be able to work with many of the big names in the business. It’s as close to actually working with Triple H as most of us will ever get.
There are plenty of other game modes, to be clear. You can play local matches, or you can set up matches against the AI, across virtually any kind of wrestling match you can think of.
And of course, you can do this online as well. Not only this, but you can also play through RAW and Smackdown shows, choosing to play either all of the matches or just some of them, but I never found this to be much more than an amusement, myself.
All of this has a single thing in common, you’re just playing a wrestling match. The difference comes down to who it is you are using, the arena that you are wrestling in, and the ruleset that applies.
From my perspective, it’s just not interesting enough to keep me coming back to create my own matches. This is why I recommend Showcase and MyPlayer/MyCareer initially. At least you get to enjoy the game with some kind of story thread that is leading you along.
Beyond this, though, WWE 2K19 also introduces Towers. These borrow heavily from other fighting games, reminding me very much of the similarly named challenges in Mortal Kombat.
In brief, you choose a Tower, and you are tasked with using a specific Superstar to take down a number of matches in a row. If it’s Step Tower, then you can save your progress, but if it’s a Gauntlet Tower, then it has to happen in a single playthrough.
This provides a guided and yet somewhat randomised challenge, and more of a reason to play.
Rising to the Top
But why would you play, I hear you ask? Well, there’s plenty to unlock and every mode has either specific items that can be unlocked or will provide players with a currency that can be used to unlock different moves, costumes, and so on for their own character design.
Showcase, for example, will unlock certain Superstars as they looked at different points during Daniel Bryan’s career, while My Career will unlock different venues, among other things.
There’s a lot that can be unlocked, and most of this is locked within a randomised card system. The problem is that there are SO MANY things that can be unlocked that you will occasionally find yourself wasting far more time than you’d like to, simply buying card packs and opening them.
Surely there was a better way.
When it comes to the gameplay itself, it’s a bit hit-and-miss. Once you understand how the complicated controls actually work, you can pretty much do anything you want, both in and out of the ring and with all sorts of ringside items.
Yes, of course, there are ladders and chairs.
This can be quite enjoyable and the back and forth between Superstars can be a bit of a blast. Getting knocked down removes control from the player, and instils a sense of anxiety as you try to will your player to get his butt up off the mat and fight back.
Looking a Million Bucks
However, there are a few systems that don’t always seem to work in your favour.
For example, players can parry if they time a button press accurately. I feel as if this only happens 50% of the time, regardless of whether your timing is on point or not. Of course, AI characters don’t seem to have this problem, which means sometimes you can receive a really underserved beatdown after dominating for an entire match.
In a similar way, there are some Quick-Time Events (QTEs) for other actions, such as submissions and pin kickouts. Again, these QTEs are occasionally more difficult than they should be, and this difficulty scales with the damage that you take. As you take more damage, they become more difficult.
Again, the AI doesn’t have the same issue, so you’ll often find them kick out 3, 4, 5 times in a row, all the while slowly damaging you making your pin kickout virtually impossible when they inevitably pin you.
It’s not a massive issue, in some ways, it feels more faithful to the “reality” of professional wrestling. However, when you’re playing a match that requires you to perform certain tasks in a certain order, it becomes a real problem.
For example, because you are replaying historical matches in the Showcase mode, you will often need to perform a bunch of set tasks. Damage Superstar in the ring, damage Superstar outside of the ring, perform a specific move, win by submission, and so on.
But it’s not always easy to position the opposing Superstar so that you can simply smash through the steps. In fact, by the time you get to that final step, you’re often both almost completely depleted of energy, and whoever gets that final pin will get the win, sending you right back to the very start of the match.
Often this feels extremely unfair, and you can find yourself replaying the same match over and over again, simply because the game wants you to tick some boxes. Still, it’s usually worth it for the framing, and it’s awesome to see some of the moves you pulled in-game so closely representing the real match when shown the highlights afterwards.
WWE 2K19 Review – WOO!
When it comes to presentation, WWE 2K19 really shines. It really feels like you’re playing out a WWE match, with fully stylised Entrance music and announcements, TV show pre-roll, and commentary from the actual WWE commentary team.
It all meshes together perfectly and at first, is simply amazing, but the commentary does start to grate after a while. I guess there’s only so much that can be recorded, and eventually, it all starts to repeat. Again. And again. And again.
It’s also pretty buggy. At one point I was playing a Women’s match, and one of the commentator’s mentioned “How will he ever come back from this?”
Overall, this is a solid offering in the franchise. The Showcase and MyPlayer modes on their own are worth the price of admission, in my opinion, and the Tower mode just adds a cherry on the top.
Did I mention there’s also a Tower mode for your own created character?
Sure, it all has its moments that can be frustrating at times, but the feeling of being part of the WWE is just so pervasive and only gets stronger the more you play the game. And there are just so many Superstars that you can play as.
If you’re a WWE fan, you’d be silly to miss out. However, you’d probably have to be a WWE fan to actually get some enjoyment out of the game.
WWE 2K19 was reviewed on PS4 using a digital code provided by 2K.
Game Title: WWE 2K19