WWE has worked hard to bring itself level with sports leagues like the NFL and NBA. A huge new TV rights deal has helped with that, but arguably the key step to being taken seriously in the sports mainstream is the annual WWE 2K release. RealSport were invited to a launch event in London to get a feel for the latest version, WWE 2K19, and find out what is new for this year. WWE 2K19 is available from 9th October, with early access on 5th October for those that order the Deluxe Edition and Woooo! Edition.
Bigger roster than ever
Each year it seems incredible that 2K will be able to pack more superstars into the game, and yet each year they seem to do so. This year sees more than 200 superstars available for players, and that is before you get to the DLC packs. Along with stars like Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins, there are legends such as Shawn Michaels, British Bulldog, Big Boss Man, and Stone Cold Steve Austin. NXT stars Aleister Black, Johnny Gargano, and Velveteen Dream are also in the game as are the stars of 205 Live and for the first time WWE United Kingdom Champion Pete Dunne.
The huge roster allows players to create never-before seen matchups such as Andre the Giant Vs Adam Cole or even Braun Strowman Vs Kevin Nash.
Improved responsiveness, graphics, & physics
WWE 2K18 could feel clunky at times, while the realism of movement and even things like the graphics for hair and speech were not quite where they needed to be. While there are still a few small issues, such as players getting tangled in the ropes during a cage match, the gameplay is a lot smoother this year leading to more entertaining and engrossing matches. The graphics are much improved, even though championships don't quite interact with the player as you'd like. Pete Dunne's UK title animation is not as flawless as you might like, but for the most part the small lapses in quality do not take you out of the moment.
Momentum & fun
Gameplay does have the same momentum issues as before. Once on offense it can be tough to stop the AI unless you time your reversals perfectly. However, there are now different ways to get yourself back on the front foot. The old RT/R2 reversal is still there, but the new Payback System allows faces to "hulk up" after taking enough damage, while heels can use a sly low blow or even poison mist to turn the tables. This creates more swings in matches and makes them more fun to play.
New match possibilities including five-man match types and a fresh take on Hell in a Cell matches, as well as better controls and animations in cage matches, makes WWE 2K19 feel fresh and smooth compared to previous versions.
Dramatically different MyCareer
Last year's MyCareer mode was an arduous journey up and down corridors to talk to Barron Blade and others about your journey through the Performance Center and up to the main roster. It didn't feel different to any previous year and the unnecessary attempt to make it interactive simply slowed down the progression. This year you don't have to go through the painstaking creation suite if you don't want to, with interesting presets available for ring gear. There are also five wrestler styles you can choose from - Technician, Powerhouse, Giant, Cruiser, and Brawler - that allow you to better play to a certain archetype of wrestler, while individual stat progression makes way for a RPG-style progression tree that builds on the wrestling style to already selected.
This year the MyCareer story is extremely different. You start off as an Indie wrestler for BCW, a small promotion performing in a high school gym, when Matt Bloom comes to scout your opponent. Promoter/Trainer Barron Blade (of course) is your guiding hand through the story as you see a WWE contract rescinded and have to work your way up to Indie stardom as a masked adversary tries to bring you down.
This whole story has a feel of Madden's "Longshot" and FIFA's "The Journey", but it includes more gameplay than those do and the story is far more engaging. With voice overs, a good mix of WWE stars involvement, and some out of the box thinking, MyCareer has been totally revitalized this year and offers around 12 hours of gameplay that will not drag in the slightest.
New Mode: 2K Towers
It is hard to create a new game mode for something as rigid as a wrestling game, but 2K have come up with the excellent "2K Towers" mode, in which you play as an individual in a series of matches against the AI with unique stipulations. Our early favorite is as Ronda Rousey, where you take on five women in matches that range from submission only to extreme rules.
Not only does this new mode give you a Mortal Kombat feel of challenge and progression, but it also means you have to be a well-rounded player. You can't just make your living on hitting the ropes and performing running moves, because one of the game types removes sprinting. The same goes for top rope moves, which can be banned for one of your bouts.
Towers mode also leads into the WWE 2K19 Million Dollar Challenge. Beat the Million Dollar Tower, cut a great promo, and win a tournament of other players and you could find yourself going head to head with AJ Styles on WrestleMania weekend with $1 million on the line.
WWE 2K19 Showcase Mode: Daniel Bryan
The story of Daniel Bryan, from Indie superstar to unwanted success story, to retirement and revival, has been an emotional one for fans. The Yes Movement was perhaps the peak of WWE's popularity since the Attitude Era, and this years Showcase Mode tells the story of The American Dragon Bryan Danielson and his rise to stardom. There are personal vignettes from the man himself as well as 11 historical matches and several versions of Daniel Bryan to unlock, along with other characters and arenas as well.
The creation suite has been WWE 2K's pride and joy, and this year it is better than ever. The options to build a wrestler are seemingly endless, but now you can mirror a look, meaning you don't have to sweat over creating two identical knee pads or elbow pads. You can also create a championship belt with your own flair and style, or your own arena and show. You can generate a Money In The Bank briefcase for each championship with its own look and style, and perhaps best of all you can create a wrestler with a Block Body, which brings the looks of Minecraft into a WWE ring.
There are more possibilities than ever in the creation suite to put your own stamp on wrestling and bring yourself and your friends right into the action.
WWE 2K19 immediately feels fresh and creative. Universe Mode offers and expansive range of options, with more tailored promo choices and more championship slots than ever in big shows. Money In The Bank is a bigger part of the game this year as well as you can pre-select a pre-match, mid-match, or post-match cash-in.
2K Towers and MyCareer instantly bring more gameplay to a title that can sometimes feel stale from year to year and breathes new life into the title for the next year. Big Head and Block Body provide an increased element of fun, though beware of using Big Head in multi-man matches. A 6-person Big Head Hell in a Cell match can create a lot of visibility issues. Overall this is a game that will excite wrestling fans and should put a smile on the face of any disillusioned fans who have not bought the game in a few years.