The mainline series of WWE games has been a major part of my entire life. From the original Smackdown released back in 2000 all the way up to now, I have owned and played these games extensively. There have been some major ups such as Smackdown 2: Know Your Role, Smackdown: Here Comes the Pain and Smackdown vs. Raw 2011. There have also been some major downs as well such as Smackdown: Just Bring It, Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 and WWE 2K15. The less said about WWE 2K15 the better. Ever since 2K games have taken over the series, the fans have been pretty split down the middle. Some like the new direction of making the game more simulation based while getting rid of the arcade style of gameplay. Others would rather have the arcade style return. As for myself, I always wondered, “why not both?” That seems to be what 2K was going with for WWE 2K19, the latest entry in the long running series of WWE games. Now I have been pretty critical of these games for years because there have been some long standing issues that have plagued the series for a while. So what about WWE 2K19? While it is still rough around the edges, WWE 2K19 is the best wresting game released by 2K games so far.
This year 2K has finally fixed some of the long standing issues in the game and has made some huge quality of life improvements. It may not seem like much, but for people who have played these games for a long time some of these updates are a godsend. Things like being able to mirror parts on your created wrestler or being able to save updates across multiple game modes is a huge time saver. In previous years if you created a tag team or stable, you would have to re-create them if you wanted to use them in WWE Universe mode. This year you can choose to save and changes you make to created wrestlers, tag teams, championships and more to both exhibition and Universe mode. You can mirror created attire parts. For instance if you put elbow pads on someone’s right arm, you can then choose to mirror those parts to the left arm as well. This year also sees a focus on making the games more fun by adding arcade style game modes like big head mode and the 2K Towers. If you have played Mortal Kombat X's Living Towers mode then you will know what you are getting into. 2K Towers features various fighting game arcade mode style towers where you have to beat a number of opponents in succession. There are two types of towers. Gauntlet and Steps. In Gauntlet mode you need to defeat every opponent in one session. If you exit the mode or if you lose a single fight, you start back at the beginning. Steps lets you leave and finish the tower at a later time and your progress won't be reset if you lose a fight. There are a large number of towers available to play and each one has their own signature opponents and modifiers. For instance one tower may have you facing all Legends or all UK superstars. There is a variety of match types in the mode as well. For instance in one fight you may have a Cage match where you can only win by escaping or a Falls Count Anywhere match where you must win by Submission. You can also be hindered during the towers as well by restricting what you can do. You may have a match where you can't go to the top rope, you can't run or you won't acquire finishers. Towers are fun in small doses but I didn't see myself returning to this mode that often. Mainly because in some towers you are forced to play as a certain wrestler.
The game also features a number of updated animations and entrances. Wrestlers flow in and out of moves and reversals much more naturally now and there are a number of new selling animations as well. Probably the biggest update is the entrances. Finally after a number of years wrestlers who have been in the games for years have brand new entrances. No more horrible robotic Bayley entrance and Chris Jericho has a brand new entrance as well which represents his current look despite not being in the WWE for quite some time.
Speaking of WWE Universe, this game mode which has been untouched for a long time has finally gotten some quality of life updates as well. The amount of championships you can have on a single show has been increased from four to six. There also aren’t any restrictions on what titles you can use either. In previous years you were forced to pick a main title, tag team title, women’s title and a secondary title. This year you can pick whatever you want so you can have all kinda of wacky created titles on your show if you wanted to. Personally I have never been a fan of the Tag Matches in these games so I axed the Tag Titles completely and brought back the Hardcore and European Championships. You can also assign Money in the Bank briefcases as this system has gotten a complete overhaul.
Money in the Bank briefcases can be assigned to championship slots in your Universe and can be customized to go after any championship you want. There are also new options for cashing in the briefcase. You can announce you are going to cash in, which will make a match at the end of the show for that title. You can also cash in during matches or after matches end as well. This means you can re-create Seth Rollin’s famous cash in from Wrestle Mania 31 by turning a one on one match into a triple threat match. Another cool addition is the ability to customize each show in terms of match types. This means that if you want to run a hardcore promotion like ECW you can then program each show to only include hardcore match types like tables matches, no DQ matches, falls count anywhere matches, cage matches etc.
WWE 2K19 also features the long awaited return of the 2K Showcase mode and focuses on the WWE career of Daniel Bryan called "The Return of Daniel Bryan". Like years past, Showcase mode has you play through actual WWE matches and features match specific cut scenes of memorable matches from those matches. There are also match specific goals which when completed can unlock arenas, wrestlers and attires for Daniel Bryan. From Daniel Bryan's WWE debut against John Cena on Velocity to his triumphant return of Wrestle Mania 34, . Between matches you can watch video packages featuring Daniel Bryan talking about what led up to those matches. Now, I love Daniel Bryan and the mode itself is good, but list of matches here is kind of weak and the mode itself just doesn't flow as well as the old ones did. Previous Showcase modes felt like a history lesson where you would go through the years and re-live classic feuds. Daniel Bryan's showcase kinda jumps all over the place, skipping years of matches in the process. It's somewhat understandable as they wouldn't feature matches with wrestlers who are no longer in the company, but some of Bryan's best and most memorable moments came from those matches. Perfect examples would be the Team WWE vs. Team Nexus match from Summer Slam and his series of matches with CM Punk.
The game is still simulation based at it’s core but the gameplay has been sped up a touch from previous entries. Fans who have played the game for years will definitely notice this. The action and the gameplay feels much smoother and more quick than 2K18. There is also a new mechanic in the game called the “Payback System”. Much like the Momentum Shift system in the Day of Reckoning games, the Payback System almost acts like an EX meter from a fighting game. Before the match starts, you can select a Level 1 Payback and a Level 2 Payback. As you take damage during the match, your payback meter will start to fill up. The Level 1 Payback always fills up first and when activated will get you a boost to help you swing the momentum back in your favor. Some of these boost include giving you an auto reversal, increasing your speed or the rate at which you regenerate reversals. Using a Level 1 Payback will completely reset the meter but if you save it long enough, you can earn a Level 2 Payback which can give you a huge advantage or even lead to you winning the match outright. Level 2 Paybacks include automatically earning a finisher, being able to automatically break out of pins or submissions, or even the ability to teleport behind your opponent like the Undertaker or Bray Wyatt would in matches. There are also three Level 2 Paybacks including a Low Blow, Poison Mist and Brass Knuckles which are almost as powerful as a finisher, however if you use these in normal matches and the referees see it, you will be disqualified. These are fantastic additions to the game as hitting these at the right points in the match will turn it into a back and forth battle. I have had more matches in this game that actually look and feel like matches you would see on TV than any other WWE game.
In terms of match types, this year sees the long awaited reworks of the Steel Cage and Hell in a Cell matches. Steel Cage matches for the longest time were pretty much boring and unplayable. This year they are finally more fun to play. Now when you want to escape the cage, you will have to complete a button matching mini game to climb the cage, and then another one to escape the cage. You also have the ability to freely maneuver around the cage and even on top of it. These leads to some pretty fun battles where you and an opponent are both sitting on top of the cage, punching each other back and forth until one of you falls back into the ring. You can also win the match by escaping out of the cage door whenever you please. This way of escaping is easier said than done as you also have to complete a button mashing mini game to escape but it takes forever and unless your opponent is completely beat down, they will easily pull you back in.
Hell in a Cell matches have also been updated. The Cell itself has been made smaller, making the space between the Cell walls and the ring narrower. To breakout of the cage, all you have to do is Irish whip your opponent into the one of the four cell walls at the bottom of the screen. Doing so enough times will break the cage wall allowing you to exit the cage. Since the cage is smaller, you can now battle outside the cage and around ringside. Of course you can still fight on top of the Cell. Like cage matches you now have the ability to freely move on the side of the cage and fight with an opponent if they are next to you. This allows you to recreate some classic Hell in a Cell moments where you can send someone flying off the side of the cage and through the announce table. Finally the roof of the Cell has been updated and finally, after years of begging for it to return, you can now freely break through the roof of the Cell. The four middle panels of the Cell are breakable. Slam your opponent on either of those panels enough times and the roof of the cell will break, sending them crashing to the mat below. One downside is that all weapons have been removed from the Cell match and you can't even use the steel steps which is quite unfortunate since almost all Cell matches these days utilize weapons in same way shape or form. Finally brand new match types include the Women's Royal Rumble and the long awaited return of Triple Threat tag matches and even Fatal Four Way tag matches.
One game mode which has been borderline unplayable since 2K took of was My Career. To put it bluntly, it was awful. Finally, My Career is actually worth playing. For years fans have been asking for the return of a story based career mode like Day of Reckoning or the Road to Wrestle Mania story mode from the Smackdown vs. Raw games. This year’s My Career starts your created wrestler off in a fictional indie wrestling federation called “BCW”. After earning a WWE contract after a tryout, your character is caught on camera trashing NXT and the WWE locker room while also getting beat up by a mysterious masked man. Well that video goes viral and Triple H buries you and rips up your contract. It’s at this point that you decide to stage an nWo style raid on NXT and the WWE to get back at them. Each week you will usually have a match and various objectives that must be completed. They are pretty easy for the most part but the really annoying ones are when you are placed in gauntlet or handicap style matches. Some of these just go on forever and can be extremely frustrating. Expect to replay these numerous times. Between matches you can talk to Wrestlers who may be wandering around in the locker room, listen to podcasts discussing your journey so far and you can compete in bonus matches that will earn you bonus VC and skill points. This years My Career is fantastic and I really hope they expand on it and continue the story in next years game. Another positive about My Career is that the voice acting is really good, which was my biggest concern because the voice acting in older story modes was atrocious at best. Even the fictional characters have tons of personality and you will find yourself caring about them as well. While playing through My Career or the other My Player game modes like Towers or Road To Glory, you will accumulate currency and skill points which can be put into the new skill trees. The skill trees basically allow you to decide what kind of wrestler you want to be. If you want to be a high flyer, then you can put all of your points into attributes like climbing speed and damage increases from flying moves. If you want to be a brawler you can put your points into attributes that increase weapon damage and fighting at ringside.
Now let’s address the elephant in the room. Loot packs. Yes, once again, despite the community overwhelmingly expressing their displeasure with these cursed things invading our WWE games, they have returned once again. There are various loot packs you can purchase with VC which include items such as clothing, taunts, moves, or booster items which you use for your My Player. Thankfully these loot packs can’t be purchased with real money, nor can you buy bunches of VC with real money either. Everything is earned in game. To be fair, the system isn’t nearly as bad as it was last year. VC gains have been increased significantly this year compared to WWE 2K18. So while I don’t have an issue with the loot packs this year in terms of earning them, the problem to me just comes in the fact that this is now how I want to update a My Player. While My Career is a ton of fun, it’s a shame that we can only create the most generic wrestler possible at the beginning because everything is locked behind these damn things. I guess the argument could be made that since you are starting off in the indies, earning all these new items, taunts, entrances and moves is like you are working your way up from the indies to the WWE? Sure, I guess but to me that’s not fun at all.
While a lot of the longstanding issues have been fixed, others have started to pop up. Now the problem becomes that when parts of the game get updated, others suffer as a result. The creation modes are in desperate need of upgrades now. While it's still possible to create just about anyone or anything you want with the create a wrestler mode, create an arena remains practically untouched with no new creation parts added. The only updates to it are the ability to place logos on the back of the front row chairs and a new lighting mechanic where you can choose to fill the arena with special lights or fog. There is also a severe lack of original music in the game. Since we still don't have custom soundtracks, you have to choose between a WWE wrestlers theme or the same generic entrance themes we have had for years. Most of them sound terrible as entrance themes. There are some good ones in the bunch but it would really be nice if we had a large selection to choose from. WWE has a whole library of music that's just sitting there, why can't we use that in game? The creation modes are still good, and you can sink hundreds of hours into the game just creating and fine tuning your creations, but it's long time these modes were given a complete overhaul.
WWE 2K19 is the first WWE game from 2K since WWE 2K16 that legitimately feels like a significant upgrade over it's predecessors. While the game is still in desperate need of updates in certain places, the number of improvements this year more than makes up for it's short comings. This is the best WWE game from 2K yet and one that I will be playing well until WWE 2K20 is inevitably released.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
I have been playing video games for as long as I can remember. My earliest gaming memories come from playing Lady Bug and Snafu on my fathers Colecovision and Intellivision respectively. It wasnt until I was 6 years old and played a Mortal Kombat 2 arcade machine in a game room at a hotel that I truly fell in love with a videogame. I have so many wonderful memories of my dad and I playing Mortal Kombat on SNES every night after dinner. Throughout my childhood NES, SNES, Gameboy and Sega Genesis were the loves of my life. Here I am 29 years old and still as much in love with videogames as I ever was. And for the record... I enjoyed the Mass Effect 3 ending... sue me