There was a time when WWE offered some of the best sports games. The peak of their brand in gaming was during the PlayStation 2 generation when games like SmackDown and Raw offered one of the most immersive wrestling experience on consoles. This slowly degraded with time as the quality took a nosedive. It appears that with the latest yearly release of WWE 2K19, the brand might be on the right track with a well-deserved uptick in quality, even if it might be a little too late now.
The decrease in popularity for the WWE games also carries over to its real-life counterpart. WWE has seen some glory days for sure, and even I was a die-hard fan once, watching every PPV event for it. This hasn’t managed to last now with competitors to the sports giant appearing everywhere. Even now, WWE retains a certain charm which others are trying to replicate and even if most of the drama feels scripted, it still offers a thrilling experience. New superstars like AJ Styles are presently making the cover of WWE 2K19 as the senior ones retire.
The most impressive statistic for WWE 2K19 is its massive character roster. There are close to 200 playable wrestlers in the game. This is in addition to the downloadable user designed wrestlers made using the creation suite. WWE Legends includes some of the best wrestlers from the golden era of WWE. For this year’s iteration, the focus is on Ric Flair with a special collector’s edition modeled after his trademark chant in the ring.
Even though WWE 2K19 attempts to rectify the complaints that the series faced in the past, many flaws are still left. There are some steps taken for sure, that helps to make it better than last year’s iteration, which I felt like has been the worst one so far. The silly nature of the wrestling is still there and the gameplay mechanics stay the same with minor changes. The focus this time is on offering new content like a career mode for wrestlers. To tell the truth, this is not much of a new gameplay mode than it is simply putting back something that existed in the past.
Career mode is always fun to play in a WWE game because it allows you to live in the simulated life of a user-created wrestler. During the PlayStation 2 days, the career mode in WWE offered a great story mode with multiple scenarios featuring some of the fan-favorite wrestlers. Over time, the focus gradually shifted to other gameplay modes. WWE 2K19 has brought back the career mode this time, and it doesn’t feel like a lackluster effort at all. There is a lot of attention paid to the story with a custom scenario exclusively developed for the game.
MyCareer mode begins with a user-created wrestler that starts with a relatively unknown indie profession and has to advance his way to eventual stardom. The writing is surprisingly solid for the story if we compare it to WWE standards. There are plenty of twists offered during this journey to fame some of which can end up in an odd result, but most are nothing but sheer fun to experience. There is some budget put into the career mode this time since it features full voice acting support. It feels like a mixed bag for the most part because of the phoned-in performance of the other WWE superstars, but at least the main cast is good enough. Sometimes, branching choices presented during the story which is a mere illusion to represent a changing story. They carry out their job well, so it will appear that the story tailors to your own experience.
Technically, however, it looks bad with the outdated animation and terrible lip sync. Every so often the voice that you are hearing during cutscenes just doesn’t synchronize well with what the character is speaking on the screen. It is disappointing to mention the lack of technical polish here. Visuals are inadequate compared to the current generation standards, and this needs to change for the next generation consoles. Some of the wrestlers end up looking plain bad or ugly at times. For a story mode, this is crucial because it breaks the immersion. There are many cutscenes in the MyCareer mode, but the story struggles to stay relevant with such dated visuals.
The ability to customize a wrestler in the MyCareer sounds neat until you realize that most customizations are behind microtransactions. If you have the deluxe edition, there is a sizable chunk of bonus credit awarded at the beginning that helps reduce the grind with the virtual currency. But it would be primitive to not mention the outrageous prices of some of these customization items. The virtual currency in the game is additionally used to get wrestlers. You can typically arrange it by playing matches regularly but the quantity offered after each match is relatively low. It will take a long time to gain a substantial amount of virtual currency. Loot packs are also offered as a way to get the players to spend money. As vile as this sounds, I don’t think they are necessary to get the complete experience out of the game.
Once you finish the MyCareer mode, there is still so much to do in the game. The revamped creation suite now feels simple to use and offers a staggering number of convenient options to use from the beginning. You don’t have to unlock them through some paid DLC. The game additionally offers the ability to download custom created wrestlers uploaded by others online that are fun to mess around in the various gameplay modes.
A recent addition to WWE 2K19 is the chance to relieve the career of Daniel Bryan in the showcase mode. You will be only able to engage in some of the crucial events that redefined his career, but it is primarily a linear experience. This serves as a good retrospective on his life and career inside WWE. Newcomers to the series can learn some nice tips that can encourage them to better understand the grappling moves. Just don’t expect an in-depth tutorial that goes into detail on how to execute the different grapples or submissions. It will be up to the player to figure them all out. Many memorable matches make the cut here including the shocking John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan fight, which is always a delight to see in action.
In the end, this is a WWE game that has seen many improvements compared to its predecessor. It is not a flawless experience overall, but there is definitely a lot of content this time with the 2K Towers, MyCareer, Showcase, and Creation Suite. Technically, it is, however, a disappointment to see this still needs a thorough overhaul of the animation and visuals. Nevertheless, WWE fans who want to play an enjoyable wrestling game should give this year’s release a chance.
WWE 2K19 Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: WWE 2K19 returns as the flagship WWE video game, with cover Superstar AJ Styles! Experience tons of creation options, match types and more!
Final Score - 8/10
WWE 2K19 has several noticeable improvements this year and an impressive character roster. The current MyCareer mode is a welcome addition to WWE 2K19, but it needs some tweaks to make it better. This is a fun wrestling game that nonetheless has some flaws holding it back, but at least now the future looks bright for it.