WWE 2K19 released worldwide Tuesday, giving fans of the franchise the opportunity to experience the expanded roster, enhanced gameplay and redesigned modes.
For all of the time spent improving features and updating fighting styles, is the new game actually worth your time and money?
Some of the most recognizable websites and reviewers in the video game industry chimed in on the subject.
Bryan Mazique of Forbes compiled a list of pros, including improved visuals and striking, and in-game paybacks.
"Paybacks are basically in-match boosts to things like stamina, grappling effectiveness and striking," Mazique wrote. "There are two levels, and some of the Paybacks are illegal, so there is a risk of disqualification. Brass knuckles and other foreign objects are a part of the mix."
He was also complimentary of MyCareer after years of being unimpressed by the mode: "The story is fun, funny and written much better than it has been in the past. Also, all of the lines were recorded by real WWE Superstars and actors. It's hard to quantify how much of an impact that has on the immersion."
Of all of the elements in this year's game, it was the creation suite that earned his most positive review.
"My favorite new feature is the Randomizer," said Mazique. "When using this option, you can generate a brand new character with the push of a button. The system won't just put together a jumbled up glob of pseudo-humanity, it creates a full character with a matching attire that is ready to hit the ring—unless, of course, you'd like to further customize."
Not all of Mazique's recap of the release was positive. There are cons he picked apart.
On the topic of a female MyCareer mode, he wrote: "If there was one thing that shocked me with this year's game—in a negative way—it was the absence of a female MyCareer. I thought this would be the year; Ronda Rousey is a pre-order bonus, there is an all-female pay-per-view later this year and there are even rumors of a WWE show that is exclusively for the ladies."
He continued, "it's hard to ignore the void left without the option to create a female character that you can upgrade and take through her own story."
The reviewer was also disappointed by the lack of a particular element in the Universe mode:
"The layer that would have been the most impacting on this year's game is the reintroduction of a create-a-story feature. I can only imagine the complexities that make the manifestation of this concept much easier mentioned than produced, but because this is a professional wrestling game with a massive budget, it's natural to think that this kind of feature is feasible."
Overall, his review was positive, while adding it is time for WWE and 2K Games to take some risks with the game going forward.
Mitchell Saltzman of IGN echoed Mazique's criticisms of the game's familiarity, staleness and unwillingness to address long-standing issues, saying: "[...] While WWE 2K19 goes to great lengths to fix its biggest flaws from last year, it still leaves a lot of long-standing issues unchecked that limit the otherwise significant improvements over 2K18."
He was complimentary, like Mazique, about the game's MyCareer mode:
"In 2K19, it finally feels like a proper AAA wrestling story mode complete with voice acting, cutscenes, and likable characters that grow and change over the course of the story. The campaign is brought to life thanks to a great performance from former Tough Enough competitor and current indie wrestler, AJ Kirsch, who brings a much-needed level of authenticity to the lead role."
The Showcase mode featuring Daniel Bryan is a fan-favorite, but the lack of checkpoints was a big problem: "Unfortunately, while completing those objectives is a lot of fun, they don't trigger checkpoints, and with some of these matches lasting upwards of 20-30 minutes, it's extremely frustrating to force players to replay all of that from the beginning if they fail near the end."
While the game does face several issues, many of which have been omnipresent for years, Saltzman said: "But with the much improved MyCareer mode and the sheer amount of content available thanks to the return of Showcase Mode and the addition of 2K Towers, it stops the downward spiral the series had been heading towards and puts it back on track."
Cody Gravelle of PlayStation Lifestyle contrasted Saltzman's review of the Showcase mode, touting it as one of this year's strongest assets: "[Bryan's] career has been filled with the kind of peaks and valleys that few others can attest to surviving, and hearing his voice-over commentary on some of those moments is insightful and engaging."
He continued: "Showcase mode also mixes matches and storyline progression deftly, never feeling like it's more documentary than gameplay mode, but still providing a lot of information for those unfamiliar with Daniel Bryan's story."
Gravelle was also complimentary of the expansive roster. "And the roster. Oh, the roster," he said. "There are just so many wrestlers present in WWE 2K19. If all you want is a good wrestling game that features nearly every superstar you can imagine in the WWE, WWE 2K19 will be pitch perfect for you."
Overall, though, Gravelle said the game's inability to move forward is the game's biggest issue:
"The game is great and makes some very notable improvements, especially in MyPlayer and Showcase modes, but it also refuses to move beyond the dated engine that limits actual gameplay innovation. Some of the same issues that were present way back in WWE 2K14 are essentially still there—wonky hair physics and the awkward movement of wrestlers in the ring are two of the most immediately visible—and that simply shouldn't be the case. It has been over five years, and it's time to move on."