2K’s wrestling franchise is up to its 2K19 edition. We took a look at WWE 2K19 on the Xbox One, although the game also came out for Playstation 4 and PC – the Switch version (which I hear was horrible) was dropped for this year’s edition. It’s a definite upgrade from last year’s edition, though not radically different.
It always takes me a while to get into the WWE games that 2K puts out. They’re very different from the other fighters I play like Tekken or Street Fighter, and not too much like EA’s UFC series either. The biggest reason for that, of course, lies with the source material. Like with the WWF that came before it (which is really the last time I regularly watched the TV shows), WWE is all about the spectacle and personalities and much less about the fighting. As a result, a match in WWE is more like a series of high adrenaline moments rather than a constant flurry of attacks – and this is where 2K19 improves upon last year’s version.
Last year, matches would regularly gravitate to relatively boring and prolonged grapple and slugging sessions before a takedown was scored. I exaggerate of course, but the fact is that the game needed more of those high adrenaline moments and WWE 2K19 introduces a few with Paybacks and Overcharges. Much like in the TV show, Payback allows you to unleash special attacks and boosts when you’re taking a beating – mimicking that “just when you weren’t expecting a comeback!” feel that gets the crowd on their feet. Overcharge moves are for player-created characters only, and can be upgraded as well – they supercharge your fighter and give you extra attacking strength, giving you another option to turn the tide of the battle.
Focused more on entertainment and adrenaline, I never thought the fighting system in the WWE games was anywhere near as deep and intricate as that in, for example, Tekken – or even the UFC games. It’s complicated to become comfortable with though – sometimes frustratingly so. You’ll learn subtle nuances as you play more, which includes the effects that your positioning and a fighter’s stance has on a move. Button mashing goes a long way at first, but being successful in the longer run does require you to learn more about what works in which situation and what doesn’t. If you don’t, then your best tactic in a royal rumble (8 player) match is probably to run around and try to avoid fighters for a bit – hoping they’ll tire each other out.
What WWE 2K19 does well is offer a bunch of different modes. Aside from the usual exhibition matches (in all shapes and forms) and online play, there are also short series of fights called Towers (a ladder system) for you to compete in. Universe mode is back as well, and the MyCareer mode has been well done too. With your own custom character, you can play though a story mode that emphasizes plenty of that flair and personality I mentioned earlier, making it fun to play for fans of the WWE and its general vibe – fighting that doesn’t mind having a little fun with itself. If you enjoy a story, but don’t want to bother creating a character of your own, you can also follow the Showcase story paths – which this year focus on Daniel Bryan’s career.
Visually, WWE 2K19 looks good, though the engine does show its age. I wish that a game like WWE would take some visual cues from the likes of Injustice 2, which is isn’t just gorgeous but also spectacular to look at with its camera changes and dramatic mid-fight scenes. WWE 2K19 doesn’t come close to that level, but it does feature better/smoother animations than last year’s edition. The audio commentary needs an update though, as it’s not as diverse and dynamic as I would have liked, with a lot of lines being repeated. It fits with the arcade-like flavor of the classic WWF games, but we’re used to better commentary in sports games these days.
WWE 2K19 adds enough to make this year’s version an improvement over 2K18, but it doesn’t improve the core gameplay much – and it definitely doesn’t improve the commentary and graphics engine even though both need to be updated. Having said that, the game does a decent job at portraying the essence of what WWE is all about, and that’s probably more than enough for the fans.