Unlike its sibling series, NBA 2K
, the WWE 2K
series has not enjoyed an unceasing upward trajectory over the past several years. Its rises and falls are, fittingly, more akin to a WWE star who gets pushed to main eventer, then back down to midcard, sometimes falling out of the proverbial PPVs entirely. With so many ups and downs, wrestling fans are surely dying for some consistency. This year's game does some good things for those who are going to play it annually anyway, but outside of one mode, it fails to capture the attention of anyone who may be on the fence about this year's installment.
Like other sports game (or "sports entertainment" in this case), an annual release needs to be driven by marquee improvements or additions. This year, those are defined by the new 2K Towers mode as well as the return of Showcase mode, this time telling the career story arc of Daniel Bryan. In the case of 2K Towers, it's essentially what longtime fans would call a gauntlet. Facing down a predetermined lineup of opponents, players must climb the figurative ladder, fend off foes in various match types with different stipulations and themes connecting them, and make it to the end. Most of the themed towers allow for you to fail and not reset the entire ladder, although the AJ Styles-branded tower is a massive 15-match bout where any failure sends you back to the start.
For those looking to string together a number of matches outside any storytelling or online play, 2K Towers is a fun new addition. It's an arcade-like mode that anyone who has played WWE/F games for a long time will have seen in years past, and for anyone else, it may be better to liken it to Mortal Kombat
. You can pick your wrestler from the once again impressively massive roster of past and present superstars, or you can even go at it with your custom MyPlayer character. The idea isn't so exciting, but it's executed well with a ton of towers available at launch and the potential for the developers to add more year-round.
The main event of this year's game is the return of Showcase mode, which allows players to relive the career of a featured athlete. This year's game focuses on the undersized fan favorite Daniel Bryan. Using excellent documentary-style narration from Bryan himself, the story follows his arc from a fresh face training with Shawn Michaels, then getting cut more than once from the company and having his career cut short by real-life injury, before ultimately returning against all odds. Showcase is always the best thing this series includes and it's a shame that it's not an annual inclusion with so many storied superstars who would fit the format so well. Since it is so good and Bryan's story is especially conducive to the mode, it really shines as the coolest part of this year's game.
While Showcase tells a fantastic story as affecting as the pre-match story trailers that play before big matches, the other story mode in MyCareer is simply dreadful. Walking a weird line of breaking and not breaking kayfabe, the story never seems to know how it wants to behave other than its unwavering commitment to telling awful jokes. Corny, poorly acted, and poorly plotted, the MyCareer story is a parody of itself, and because of that, it makes for a really difficult playthrough. The created player also progresses a bit too slowly, so early matches that shouldn't impede players much still may, which gets frustrating. If you just want to level up your MyPlayer for other modes, it's worth pushing through to build out his revamped skill tree, but to stay for the story is like getting put into an ankle lock and never reaching for the ropes.
In the ring itself, the game largely plays the same as it has for several years and that's really where the bulk of the problems are found. As a once passionate wrestling fan who still likes to dabble in the storylines from a distance, I should be in the target market to be drawn back into this series with the right offering. Instead, I find myself often turned away entirely because the in-ring gameplay is disappointing. In this area, the franchise has really stalled for the entire generation. Movement still feels too slow and often off-target, with hit detection behaving inconsistently and running somehow still feeling awkward after all these years. It would seem these issues relate to a game engine problem, and hopefully the team behind WWE 2K
can move to a new and improved engine soon.
Commentary is also very bad once again, and it becomes inadvertently amusing at times when the commentators try to pick up where they left off before an interruption, the way NBA 2K
does so naturally. In WWE
, the commentators will often say almost the same exact thing their partner just did, failing to elaborate any further. The flow of it all is broken and it never sounds realistic for a second, save for a few scripted moments in Showcase mode. The game gets a lot of the WWE Universe exactly right, and it often feels like a celebration of the brand, but there's little to celebrate in the ring, and that's an aspect much too crucial to keep messing up like this.
Other smaller issues get in the way too, like menus that load slowly and often hide the item you're even highlighting, which results in some difficult navigation. That's thankfully something that could be patched, which is more than you ought to expect for the laughable MyCareer storyline or the in-ring stagnation. It's nothing new to the series, but the exceptionally deep creation suite and another roster booming with pretty much every name you'd want both return. These are longtime bright spots for the series and they continue to get better incrementally.
The achievement list is spread out across all modes, including online play once again. You'll also need to spend a good amount of time in both the cage and the cell to chase a few specific achievements for each match type. Beating both Bryan's and your own story modes will net you a few achievements for simply progressing, and you'll want to use all of the game's new momentum-swinging power-ups in various ways.
gets a few things right, namely bringing back Showcase mode and making it better than ever. For frequent players, 2K Towers is a fun new spin on exhibition matches too, but only Showcase is really enough to pull in fans on the fence about playing this year's installment, and it's hard to recommend those players buy into the complete package just for Showcase when so much else remains an issue after so many years. Things like commentary and in-ring sluggishness are simply not being addressed in the ways they should, and a new MyCareer storyline does little to draw in fans unless they're big fans of bad jokes. All in all, WWE 2K19
feels like a game in which annual players will find enough to enjoy, but anyone looking to make their way back into the ring is best to wait it out in the locker room for another year.
- Showcase mode returns and is better than ever
- 2K Towers adds a layer for those looking for a deeper Exhibition experience
- MyCareer story is terrible with a focus on lame jokes
- In-ring gameplay is still lacking after so many years
- Menus are often difficult and slow to navigate
- Commentary is laughably bad
The reviewer spent approximately 12 hours in the ring, telling stories both worthwhile and awful depending on the game mode. He gathered 15 of 46 achievements for 290 Gamerscore. An Xbox One review copy was provided by the publisher.
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