WWE 2K19 is here and members of the WWE Universe can now partake in one of the most extensive WWE games ever made. WWE SHOWCASE mode is back featuring none other than the leader of the “Yes Movement” Daniel Bryan, the new 2K Towers mode creates iconic experiences including hall of famers such as Rey Mysterio, Bret “The Hitman” Hart and The Undertaker as well as UFC-turned-WWE Superstar Ronda Rousey and the WWE 2K19 cover is blessed with none other than WWE Champion AJ Styles. This year, WWE 2K19 can be summed up with just one word: phenomenal.
WWE SHOWCASE is back with a vengeance and Daniel Bryan takes the front seat to give you a guided tour of his illustrious career which has definitely had its fair share of both ups and downs. Fans of D-Bry will enjoy a lot of his big matches but we found it skipped over parts of his career, even showing footage of certain matches during the promos that we would have liked to experience. While the Daniel Bryan story is entertaining, it is short-lived in WWE 2K19 and unless you’re playing it on one of the harder difficulties and you’re happy to repeat the same matches over and over again as you fail for one reason or another, the mode doesn’t last more than a few hours. We’re still glad WWE SHOWCASE mode is back and hope next year it will be more elaborate.
The new 2K Towers mode is where you will find plenty of new content. At launch, WWE 2K19 has the AJ Styles Million Dollar 2K Tower challenge where you can win actual prize money for participating, but 2K Towers at its core is a gauntlet-style mode where you can work your way through a series of matches to claim the tower. We expect new towers to be added over the coming months and old towers to be removed, and it’s a great way to keep the content fresh throughout the game’s lifecycle. Towers range from repeating real-life history to fantasy matches and everything in between, so experienced fans and newcomers will both find something that tickles their fancy here.
The premise of MyCAREER this year has been simplified, but the story sees some major improvements. MyCAREER mode works by chapters and has you starting as an up-and-coming wrestler in fictional indie wrestling company BCW. As you fight with bitter rival Cole Quinn, you’re soon noticed by WWE scouts and embark on your journey to the top. The best parts of the MyCAREER story are towards the end, and without spoiling anything we can say we had a lot of fun with WWE Superstars such as Bray Wyatt, Finn Balor, Randy Orton and more. In fact, the latter half of MyCAREER was the most fun we’ve had in that mode in WWE games for quite a while.
Each in-game week in MyCAREER mode you’re presented with the options of talking to a select few characters to enhance the story. You don’t have to talk to them most of the time and can just go straight to the ring but speaking to the characters often unlocks side matches and backstage brawls which will increase your character’s XP and skill points. This year your MyPLAYER creation has an absolutely massive talent tree, and as you unlock branches you are also given Overcharge Points which are used to unlock a special tree which – yep you guessed it – overcharges some of your abilities. Better yet for the hardcore WWE 2K players you can now prestige your MyPLAYER just like in Call of Duty and other popular online games, thereby banking your talents and starting again to make your MyPLAYER even stronger.
All the usual customisation is in WWE 2K19 although a lot of it is locked at first. Playing matches gives you the currency (VC) required to unlock what you want though, and although it may take hundreds of hours to unlock every last thing in the game (you might have to give the WWE Velocity arena a miss), you’ll find it’s not too difficult to get the items you might want to create your own character, or even your own Pay Per View show in the WWE UNIVERSE mode. VC can be earnt in multiple modes such as PLAY (Exhibition), MyPLAYER, WWE Universe and online modes, so you’re never too far away from unlocking new Superstars, Arenas and Championships. Purchasing the Deluxe edition of WWE 2K19 will also unlock a fair portion of the content via the store too.
The core gameplay in WWE 2K19 is where we found our biggest grievances. Not much has changed since last year, and although the reversal system is getting more realistic, the submission and pin mini-games are still horrendous. Submissions have two different minigames which can be switched through the options menu, and both are pretty much pointless when you’re on the offensive as the game will literally not let you get anywhere near making your opponent tap out if it’s too early in the match. Worse yet, if you don’t simply let go of the hold then you could suddenly be getting pinned and miss your marks in the pin minigame and lose the entire match. The whole system really needs a rethink, and we totally preferred older games where you’d just button mash the hell out of your controller to try and break a hold or pin.
WWE 2K19 introduces a new payback system which works quite well in changing the flow of a match, particularly if you’re playing on harder difficulties. Your wrestler will have default paybacks, but you can change them at the start of any match. Paybacks include things like stamina boosts, taking less damage from finishers, spraying your opponent’s eyes with mist and even low blows. A lot of the achievements in WWE 2K19 focus on using your paybacks at certain times, so it’s clear that the developers at Yuke’s want players to know they’re there and use them to your advantage.
After last year’s graphics overhaul, we weren’t expecting any massive improvements, and aside from some new hair physics and new choreographed WWE Superstar animations there’s not much else separating WWE 2K19 from its predecessor. Unfortunately, the facial animations during dialogue are still atrocious. Not only do the mouths move strangely and not at all realistically, but often they aren’t even synced up to the voice acting. We even experienced some seriously bad glitches where there was either no speech at all or a 5-10 second delay.
Speaking of speech, the commentary in WWE 2K19 is not what we would call up to par. After just a few minutes in a match we noticed lines being repeated, and after playing through MyCAREER, SHOWCASE and some towers it became clear that the commentary was basic at best. It’s a shame because the work Daniel Bryan put in to WWE SHOWCASE mode and a lot of the voice acting throughout MyCAREER mode is great, but the overall game is one big mixed bag of speech. Other than that, all the other audio in WWE 2K19 is great, albeit the crowd is quite generic. It would be nice to hear more chants and perhaps for WWE to accept some of the chants that happen for superstars like John Cena and Roman Reigns, but that’s wishful thinking. Also when moving around the arena and wrestling in the audience, we’d like to see the closer audience members pulling out their phones and start filming or at least looking in the direction of the action instead of always towards the ring. Once again, wishful thinking.
We’re big WWE fans here at Rocket Chainsaw, so each year when we get our hands on the latest WWE 2K game our hopes and expectations are high. We look forward to new features, enhanced graphics, updated rosters and hope that this year we’ll get something amazing. WWE 2K19 has the foundations for some pretty amazing things such as the return of Showcase mode and 2K Towers, but overall the physics and gameplay let the whole game down. When a limb gets stuck in a cage wall and the wrestler glitches around the ring, or when you completely destroy your opponent only to mess up a simple submission mini-game, WWE 2K19 can be both mouth-frothingly fun and heart-frustratingly sad. We want so badly for WWE 2K games to be in the same league as the FIFA’s and the NBA 2K’s but they’re just not there yet. Hopefully Yuke’s can pull something special out of the bag for the big WWE 2K20 next year, and with some finely tuned physics and core gameplay changes we could start seeing some 4 to 4.5 star ratings.
We reviewed WWE 2K19 on an Xbox One X, and it is also available on PlayStation 4 and Windows PC platforms.
- New Towers mode and Daniel Bryan Showcase provide entertaining new options for single-player - The roster is absolutely huge with almost every superstar you can think of - New payback system works well, but pins and submissions are still a struggle.
- Facial animations are horrid - Ring physics are still broken, particularly around the ropes - Commentary quickly gets repetitive and bland and doesn’t follow the flow of a match.