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WWE 2K19: GRADED | First Gameplay Review

What you need to know before buying the new game…

Hello! I'm your teacher Mr. Pacitti and this is my classroom here in Orlando, Florida, and you join me today for a very special article version of the SMASH HIT video series, GRADED - which you can find on the Cultaholic YouTube Network for only... free. You pay nothing and that's an absolute crime!

As you are probably aware by now, Cultaholic was lucky enough to be invited to the WWE Performance Centre by 2K to get a hands-on experience with 2K19. We also had the chance to interview some top WWE superstars and you can watch those interviews with the likes of AJ Styles, Alexa Bliss, Johnny Gargano, Cesaro, and Elias on the Cultaholic YouTube channel right now. Once again, a massive thanks to those at 2K for giving us that unbelievable opportunity. We appreciate it greatly.

Back to the matters at hand. So I managed to play WWE 2K19 for a couple of hours, and you know what? I'm really impressed with the changes made to this year's game. I must admit, I'm already a fan of the WWE 2K games, but that hasn't prevented me from sharing some of the concerns that other fans have had over the years. However, after experiencing 2K19 at close quarters, I am pleased to report that a number of those gripes are now history!

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7. Gameplay


2K


One of the gripes of previous 2K games is that the in-game action feels too much like a simulation. You press a button, that triggers an action, and it doesn't quite feel like you're playing a game - if that makes any sense to you whatsoever?

So after we walked into the Performance Center, we sat down to listen to a presentation about the game and one of the first things the developer said was they're aware of what I mentioned above, believe it or not. He also said the changes they've made to this year's game are all about fun, which is exactly what was needed in my opinion.

So what did they mean by 'fun'? First off, 2K have sped things up. When I played, it was immediately noticable that everything runs faster. It's less sluggish. Things feel more fluid, more enjoyable to play, and if you buy the game I think you'll notice this straight away too.

They've also introduced some new fairly silly modes like big head mode. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a mode that appeals to me personally but I think it sends an important message: 2K aren't taking themselves as seriously as they might have in previous years. That's not in a they don't care sort of way either, rather that they've realised the realism-centric gameplay of previous years may have actually been getting in the way of a fun user experience.

2K have added a new feature called Payback, which allows you to swing the direction of a match with shenanigans such as calling for another wrestler to interfere, or hitting a low blow.

On top of this, they've added a few new match types. You can now play a women's Royal Rumble match, three and four corner tag matches are back, and you can even play at the Wyatt compound.

They've also added a new Tower Mode which introduces a ladder system of gameplay where you take control of a single character and are challenged to fight your way up to the top. It's a bit like Mortal Kombat where you fight opponents of increasing difficulty and each tower has a theme like no top-rope manoeuvres, no running, or the opponents may all belong to a specific group.

As I say, I played for around two hours and didn't experience any glitching. Things just felt smoother, faster and more fun.

Gameplay gets a B+

6. Roster


2K


It has been revealed that a few of the Superstars who weren't announced as being part of the game such as Ricochet, War Raiders, EC3 and Bobby Lashley will be available as DLC, but there are still a few pretty notable omissions - the biggest perhaps being Tommaso Ciampa. The NXT Champion isn't in the game, isn't available as DLC and yeah, that sucks. He's one of the hottest Superstars in the entirety of WWE, is in one of the best storylines in recent memory with Johnny Gargano, and he was in last year's game.

My understanding is that every year 2K and WWE have to negotiate with talent for them to be included in the company's video game, and this year, those negotiations obviously didn't end well. Perhaps this is Ciampa being a heel and refusing to be in the game for those reasons but regardless, it sucks. That said, the blame shouldn't be put on the developers themselves because when asked about Ciampa at the Performance Center, they seemed as upset as we are.

Also missing is Nikki Cross and Brian Kendrick from the current roster, as well as a few pretty big legends including Mick Foley and Mark Henry.

That said, the roster is still seriously stacked and includes new superstars like Ronda Rousey, Andrade "Cien" Almas, Lana, The Undisputed Era, Pete Dunne, Tyler Bate, and more. Overall it's a great roster but given some pretty big names being missing, I can't give it top marks.

The roster gets a B-

5. Graphics


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As far as graphics go, the game looks great. We never really complain about the game's graphics themselves as it looks about as close to WWE TV as a game possibly can right now. Everything from the facial scans to the character models themselves all look really spot on.

The arenas look realistic, the crowd looks decent, and the lighting is solid. There's not too much to really say here...

Graphics gets an A

4. Creation Suite


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I didn't get too much of a chance to get really hands-on with creation, nor am I a big user of the Creation Suite anyway. I am a lazy man who downloads and plays the hard work of others and I'm not ashamed to admit that.

There are new features here though, including new arena lighting effects, a tool which allows you to create wrestlers which sort of look like Minecraft characters, but I think the coolest feature for lazy people like myself is the ability to randomize the look of whatever you're creating - something that saves you a lot of time if you just want to get in and play.

We've seen year after year huge improvements to creation modes and although there's nothing groundbreaking here, it's still possible to create superstars, titles and arenas as they're introduced.

The Creation Suite gets an A-

3. Audio


WWE


Commentary for this year's game is provided by Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton and I don't have too many complaints. There are still moments that sound like soundbites, but hey, WWE commentary does too. Gone are the days of "he's putting those educated feet to good use!" at least.

In MyCareer there are 1,000 voice lines from 26 different WWE Superstars, all of which are well delivered and sound like they would on TV. The crowd sounds great, entrance themes sound great; once again everything in the game largely sounds like it does on TV.

While there is still work to be done on commentary, pretty much everything else works for me!

Audio gets a B+

2. MyCareer


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I think this is the best MyCareer mode 2K have developed yet. The story has real depth and although I probably only played it for about 45 minutes, I already want to play more.

Instead of just starting out at NXT like previous years, this year you start on the independent scene and work your way up to WWE. This, of course, is something that we've never seen before and is a further statement of WWE being able to acknowledge non-WWE wrestling.

There are five core styles when you create a Superstar for MyCareer and your character can have up to two substyles. The core and substyles can be leveled up and branched out to create even more unique custom Superstars.

The biggest improvement here is definitely the story. 2K have clearly put serious time into making the narrative compelling and it absolutely shows.

The only reason I can't hand out an A grade here is because it's still not possible to play MyCareer as a female wrestler. This is apparently because 2K would have to write, motion capture, voice and shoot two different sets of cutscenes and given time constraints it just wasn't possible. I think given the huge progress that WWE has made in terms of women's wrestling that this is a big shame, and it's something which I feel should be a priority for next year's game.

MyCareer gets a B

1. Overall Grade For WWE 2K19: B+


2K


I've always been a fan of the 2K games but did feel like they could feel like a simulation of what we see on TV rather than an actual game. Thankfully, and full credit too 2K for this, this year's release genuinely feels different.

2K have managed to balance realism and fun effectively here and despite a few minor issues - especially with the roster - this is probably the best 2K title yet!

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Adam Pacitti

Written by Adam Pacitti