Anyone who watches wrestling knows that it isn’t a sport, it’s a drama. Matches are pre-determined and it’s the storylines, rather than athletic competition that make it so popular. The WWE understands this; the grappling house of Vince McMahon probably has as many writers as it does wrestlers and between the pair of them they provide drama, nonsense and the odd steel chair to the head. In other words, WWE works because it’s fun.
It’s this aspect that has been sorely lacking from earlier WWE 2K video games since about 2015. While they’re undeniably good games offering great in-ring action, fantastic presentation and customisation options that border on fetishistic, they’ve never really captured the larger-than-life ridiculousness of the WWE circus. WWE 2K19 goes a long way towards rectifying this.
The first positive step is encapsulated in the game’s MyCareer mode, which sees players take on the role of a scrappy grappler and follows his rise from the indie circuit to the heights of the WWE. Thanks to some decent mo-cap acting, voice work and some preposterous storytelling, which signposts every twist along the way, this is rather enjoyable for the most part.
The only snag is that players start off with a handful of moves, entrances and ring attire and if they want to unlock more customisation they have to buy loot boxes (or packs in this case). It’s the same problem players encountered in NBA 2K19, with a lot of very cool content being locked off unless they spend vast amounts of in-game currency or crack open their wallets to spend more money on a game sold at full price at retail.
Showcase mode is back offering a multi-mission storyline involving fan favourite Daniel Bryan. The mode follows the wrestler through some of his most famous matches and the premium here is less about coming out on top and more about recreating some of the best moments from those matches. It’s great to have this mode back – fans will love it – and it shows huge potential going forward.
Beyond that players can get stuck into Tower mode or WWE Universe. The former is something of a challenge mode in which players are faced with a series of matches with foes of ever increasing difficulty, and they really need to be on top of their game to get through it. The second allows them to take their own wrestler and the entire roster online and take part in tons of different exhibition matches (such as money-in-the-bank or cage matches) and tons of customisation options – which players won’t need to pay for at all. Hell yeah!
WWE 2K19 it’s still not scaling the heights of the series’ best entries – Here Comes The Pain springs to mind – but it’s easily the best game that 2K has produced since it licensed the franchise. It’s a must for wrestling fans and a blueprint for future instalments that it’s okay to be optimistic about.
- WWE 2k19 was reviewed on a PS4. A digital copy was provided by the publisher.