I have been playing wrestling video games since I was at least 3 or 4 years old. My earliest experiences were on the Super Nintendo with the games WWF Royal Rumble and WWF WrestleMania The Arcade Game. I’ve seen the highs of WWF No Mercy and the lows of WWE WrestleMania 21 on the Xbox. Honestly, I’ve never skipped a WWE game in my whole life.
In the WWE 2K series, I have often found frustration. I felt that THQ, WWE’s preferred publisher before 2K, had finally found a perfect rhythm with their games that featured a fast-paced gameplay style with a lot of good chain wrestling elements that you could incorporate on your own. Therefore, when 2K Games took over and readded big HUDs on the bottom of the screen and slowed the gameplay down significantly with their first effort WWE 2K15, I was very put off. However, through the years they have vastly improved every game and that leads us to where we are today with WWE 2K19. The Deluxe Edition for this game was released this past Friday as well as the Ric Flair themed Collector’s Edition, with the full release being today, October 9, 2018. This is the fourth effort by 2K Games and by far their best, so let’s jump into it.
WWE 2K19: Graphics
Graphically this game looks amazing. I have seen a lot of complaints that even with all of the overhaulings in the graphics, wrestling games are still very far behind what game should be. I don’t believe this I think the graphics are more than spectacular and one of the key highlights every year is just how close they keep getting to the real-life likenesses of WWE Superstars.
WWE 2K19: Gameplay
The gameplay is a very bittersweet area for me. On the one hand, the gameplay is significantly quicker, the move animations look even more crisp this year which lends itself to some fun exchanges, and certain matches have been greatly overhauled to better enhance the experience. (more on that later) However, this game is still far too simulation-based for me. I don’t care for HUDs, because when you have 8 people on the screen it gets way too cluttered for my liking. The inclusion of a limited number of reversals is still the worst things to ever be included in a wrestling game in my opinion. It adds an element of strategy to the games, yes, but it can also lead to you being a sitting duck for quite a while if you don’t want to waste a reversal on a meaningless move or have happened to run out of reversals.
I understand what they were going for, but having to choose whether or not I want to try to win the match or take a significant amount of damage to increase drama shouldn’t be an element in your game. Thankfully, when you’re playing offline this can be turned off through the options menu. Truth be told, this is part of a bigger piece of the gameplay. In my opinion, these games over the past few years have been more structured towards the gaming YouTuber and the Twitch streamer vs the casual player. Elements like reverse limitations are greatly helpful when playing Universe Mode and streaming your ongoing storylines. It is in that setting where I can see the added element of that drama as a good thing.
Let’s talk about some of the new features to the gameplay. The payback options are really cool and a great expansion on abilities that have been available in the past as well as adding some new ones that give an element of realism and also in some cases that beautiful sports entertainment wackiness that I never actually thought we would be able to see in the video games. For example, if you’re pitting The Undertaker against Triple H, and The Deadman isn’t doing so hot, you can initiate a blackout, much like the Undertaker actually would, and appear behind Hunter ready to dish out some punishment. Some of these payback options increase the realism in the game such as the low blow option which will now see you get disqualified if you low blow your opponent in front of the referee. This is fun for me, this is an element of strategy that I can get behind because it forces you to have to think how you would want your character to act in a certain situation and actually come across as a heel. Again, this can be great for Universe Mode when initiating a surprise heel turn or furthering a rivalry. Another cool payback is the ‘possum feature’ which sees you initiate a surprise pin in a time of despair. This is actually not a brand new feature, but one that hasn’t been seen in about a decade. Certain characters used to have this ability back in the SmackDown vs. Raw franchise and it’s very cool to see this element re-added to again enhance that back-and-forth pace that we’ve become accustomed to in modern day WWE matches. There are many other paybacks that all fit different character types and greatly enhance how you can choose to play a match and the story that you wish to tell.
Another new feature in the gameplay is Big Head Mode. There’s not too much to see here that hasn’t already been said or shown in YouTube videos but this is a fun element that definitely shows that 2K games understand some of the things that I have been discussing in this review. Too much of simulation-style play isn’t always a good thing and this is such a fun game mode that shows arcade gameplay is still alive and well.
Cage matches and Hell In A Cell matches have been greatly overhauled and improved as well. This year sees the most realistic simulation of the cage match ever seen in WWE games, with the ability to leave the cage it through the door and the referee opening the door for you rather than it being initiated by a mini-game. With the new abilities to dive off of the cage and combat your opponent as you both climb to the top, the new cage match is a lot more fun. In fact, the first match I did in the game was a triple threat Steel Cage between Adam Cole, AJ Styles, and Finn Bálor. Finn exited the cage as I, Adam Cole tried to get out first through the door but was stopped by AJ Styles. In truth, this match type is my favorite this year and I’m so happy to see an authentic Cage Match finally featured in WWE games.
Also, there is now the addition of new five-man matches and the inclusion of triple threat and fatal four-way tag team matches. All of this is long overdue but it feels great to finally have it featured and it makes everything so much more fun. I also want to give a quick shout out to the ability to do an all women’s Royal Rumble. I remember a time where the women’s matches in the video games were very overly sexualized and it’s so cool to see how far they’ve come.
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