Wrestling game throws all the right punches

A 200-strong playable character cast forms this year's roster in WWE 2K19.
A 200-strong playable character cast forms this year's roster in WWE 2K19.

Since 2K Sports took over the development of the WWE games in 2013, there have been incremental changes to the release each year. While the reaction to the changes has been mixed, this year's WWE 2K19 looks set to attract cheers.

Making a return is the Showcase mode, in which you replay iconic matches from a wrestling superstar's history, with the highlight aptly going to Daniel Bryan, who is back in ring action after a prolonged injury. The vignettes are presented in a refreshing manner, with Bryan presenting his past matches in his signature style.

A 200-strong playable character cast forms this year's roster. It includes wrestlers from brands such as Raw, Smackdown, NXT and 205 Live, as well as past superstars.

There are also multiple versions of a wrestler in some cases - there are three Undertakers, for instance - to capture his evolution through the years.

Whichever age group you belong to, there is bound to be wrestlers you can recognise. Fans of Ultimate Fighting Championship will be keen to catch Ronda Rousey's debut in this franchise, along with wrestling legends such as Rey Mysterio and Ric Flair.

However, it looks like one will have to wait until the next release to see the latest updates of the wrestlers seen on television. Some superstars have changed their look and attire and formed new teams, but these changes did not make it to the game in time.

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However, the game community has taken upon itself to plug the gaps. Using the game's Creation Suite feature, some players have updated those wrestlers' looks and shared them online. They have also created wrestlers who are not in the game, but are current team members of those in the game's roster.

You can also use Creation Suite to create your desired superstar, arena, championship belts and movesets, as well as customise the look of those signature "Money-in-the-Bank" briefcases.

You earn virtual currency as you play, which lets you buy booster packs that unlock new items, as well as buy items such as ring attire or accessories.

You can also boost your progress with a one-time cash payment for accelerator and kick-start packages from the online store.

MyCareer Mode is one of the pleasant surprises of the game. It has an improved storyline and all the characters are fully voiced, including the custom-created, rookie male wrestler you are playing as. There is no option to play as a female rookie yet. But with the upcoming all-women, pay-per-view event, there is hope that this will happen in the future.

The action in MyCareer is full of twists and turns. You are able to make some choices along the way and the challenges are mostly entertaining.

The gameplay in WWE 2K19 is mostly similar to the previous games. The timing of the counter triggers and quick time event button presses vary from one move to another, so expect some hit-and-miss at the beginning.

Players will also encounter random collisions when the ring is crowded, while lowering the difficulty level does not always make the challenges easier.

These things may cause frustration initially if you are not a seasoned player, though the new Towers mode is a good place to train and offers a series of gauntlet matches with varying degrees of difficulty.

One more thing: The updated game modes and changes to the cage matches will please returning fans.

The lighting mechanics have been upgraded, making the characters and surroundings look better than before. There is also a new fun element in the form of blocky, 8-bit and big head game modes.

• Verdict: While there are areas that can be improved, WWE 2K19 has certainly rekindled this reviewer's excitement for the franchise, with enhancements and updates that fans have been asking for.

• Mohd Nizam is a freelance writer.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2018, with the headline 'Wrestling game throws all the right punches'. Print Edition | Subscribe