It’s that time of year again, and a new wrestling game from 2K. Well, I say new…
The game certainly feels different to ’19, however I wouldn’t necessarily say better. Certainly not by my first impressions.
When the game first loaded and the nervous anticipation wore away, I was greeted by the new main screen and the only thing that ran through my mind was how I felt watching The Fiend finally meet Seth Rollins at Hell in a Cell. Anti-climactic.
The dynamic menu from last year, with a character per page fading away into a Thanos snap-esq effect, has been replaced with a list. A list. Even if they had simply renewed the main menu from last year, it would have been an improvement. This was indeed a sign of the experience to come.
2K departed from Japanese Developer Yuke’s, and it already feels like a bad decision. On release, there were multiple bugs, causing all sorts of issues such as characters phasing through ropes, items such as table and ladders “quivering” whilst unattended in the ring, and patches of incomplete rendering. Fortunately, some have already been fixed and we can naively hope that the rest will be too.
The redeeming features of the game are the debut of a female MyPLAYER career and mix-match doubles, so an example pairing of Seth and Becky vs Awe-ska is now possible, and of course, the updated roster (it feels strangely more complete just to have Hulk Hogan and Chyna added). To have NXT stars Adam Cole, Johnny Gargano, and Tommaso Ciampa sharing the ring during a 30-man Royal Rumble match was also very cool.
The controls are indeed more streamlined, with arguably the most notable being Triangle/Y taking the place of R2/RT. To a returning player, the adjustment period wasn’t very long, and some will find this development easier for the timing of counter moves. The effect is somewhat ruined though, as the targeting system is temperamental at best and often a character will become wildly inaccurate when attempting to land blows or begin grapples. This can turn an exciting Royal Rumble or Fatal Four-way into a rage-inducing process.
Oddly, the character models for 2K19 were better than this year. It almost seemed that without Yuke’s assistance, 2K decided to simply freehand the process, rather than work from any scans of the stars. In fact, there were times when it felt like being transported back to the previous generation of console, and I had to double-check that I was in fact still playing on the PS4.
That being said, an element of the game that I was impressed by was the fluidity of the character’s motion, for the moves that actually landed. Playing on a PS4 Pro, through an OLED TV, the definition of character muscles, sweat and the limb movements were nice and smooth and realistic. A benefit to playing an under-whelming game on a high quality system, when you do happen across the stronger aspects, they stand out.
The character customisation is still wonderfully varied and detailed. Again, if you don’t come across any of the strange glitches, such as faces falling off etc, you can easily lose hours creating all sorts of both crazy and serious original wrestlers; attempt characters from other areas of popular culture, have avatars of yourself, and many of your friends and family, without ever throwing a punch.
Due to the launch bugs and heavy reliance on online servers, Trophy/Achievement hunters have a worryingly finite time to put up with the issues long enough to embark on the grinding quest to Platinum/100%.
Gameplay and visuals: Despite the streamlined controls, the targeting system and glitches caused this to be an unintended hilarious situation and rather off-putting. Many of the character models lack detail and care that ’19 had, though the sweat and movement is strangely good. The dynamic theme of ’19 is replaced by a boring list. The audience is still a pixelated joke. 4/10
Audio: Fresher, with Greg Hamilton’s fabulous ring announcing and mostly updated themes. There isn’t much in the way of an effort to utilise a strong home cinema setup. 6/10
Trophies/Achievements: Uninspired and very similar to previous titles. They don’t inspire the hunt. Reflects the feeling of the overall game. 5/10
Overall: The game feels incomplete. Not 2K’s strongest entry at all, in fact possibly their weakest. If bugs are fixed and the majority of character models are re-done, it could be much, much more enjoyable. For now, I’ll reinstall 2K19 and wait.
Author: Dec, Prestwich store