WWE 2K19’s Career Mode Is A Welcome Throwback

WWE 2K19

I wasted multiple days of my young life repeating the same career mode over and over again in Just Bring It. I battled to the top of Raw far too many times to count in Here Comes The Pain. And just like everyone else with eyes, I completely lost my mind when Candice Michelle turned Kurt Angle into a Diva in SmackDown vs. RAW 2007.

Career modes in WWE games have always, to me, been about fun and the absurdity of the sport. Since WWE 2K moved into the current generation and left behind the style of THQ, they’ve been nothing but a grim and lifeless simulation with little to no personality. Mundane training, uninteresting text on a screen to convey the “story”, and a feeling as if 2K had it low down on their list of priorities.

WWE 2K19 Career

Thankfully, while it’s by no means perfect as it feels like a proof of concept for later instalments and not the finished article, the career mode in WWE 2K19 embraces the fun factor for the first time in a long time.

You play as a down-on-his-luck wrestler who’s trying to make a name on himself for the indies, which is an interesting twist on the formula as well as further proof from WWE that they aren’t quite as insular as they used to be. “Buzz” is a promising name in BCW, the indie promotion overseen by WWE 2K veteran Barron Blade, who we’ve all grown sick of fighting at one point or another.

WWE 2K19 Career

You start off in rinky-dink venues, such as a school’s gymnasium and even its parking lot. WWE 2K19 doesn’t shy away from showing the low-budget nature of working on the indie circuit, even if it may be a bit too condescending in its presentation at times. You fight against and then eventually establish a rivalry with Cole Quinn, going on to face him in a Steel Cage match made of discarded parts of other rings and prison fences. The glitz and glamour of RAW it ain’t.

There’s a sense of humour to the career mode (which falls under the wider MyPlayer banner) that’s been missing for the longest time. So far, it’s reminded me often of the Tony Hawk’s Underground series, which is definitely meant as a compliment. It’s serious enough to matter, but also silly enough to avoid the dreary tone of recent games. Cole Quinn taking up a “black hole Cole” gimmick, which basically entails him wearing a weird black lycra suit, is plenty evidence of that.

WWE 2K19 Career

Eventually, Buzz and Cole decide to “invade” NXT to irritate Triple H. I was given the option to dress up as famous WWE names to help hide among the crowd, so of course I chose a DX costume. WWE 2K19 blurs a really weird line between being kayfabe and self-aware, presenting the invasion as not a storyline, but two indie dudes legitimately coming over to NXT and beating up a heel Johnny Gargano (it’s just as wrong as it sounds).

I won’t delve too further into the plot of the career mode to avoid spoiling it, but the fact that I downloaded WWE 2K19 and then played through the trials and tribulations of Buzz for eight hours straight yesterday speaks volumes. It feels like a wonderful throwback to the WWE games found in the sixth and seventh console generations, bolstered by some great voice acting, a knowing nod to the audience, and an indication from 2K that they’re done being complacent.

WWE 2K19 Career

It’s not perfect, however. There are many moments where the lack of ambient audio makes conversations feel like you’re talking to ghost robots, as well as the approach to progression clearly needing some balancing. I’ve played for plenty of hours yet my Buzz is still only rated at a 53, meaning that fighting anyone is a case of getting lucky more than not. Unlocks also need some work: I hate the fact that customisation is tied to random loot packs. It’s appreciated that you can’t use real money to “earn” these, but why have them to begin with in that case?

Still, it’s clearly not enough to totally dissuade me as I just can’t wait to dive back in to it. Just like the game itself, WWE 2K19’s career mode is quietly providing evidence that 2K aren’t content with just sitting on what they have and twiddling their thumbs. It’s still not quite what it should be, but it’s getting there.

From our WWE 2K19 review:

“Under this luchador mask lies a familiar game with a lot of the same old issues, but somehow there is even more fun to be had, with a new impressive look, a good bit of polish, and some features reminiscent of its younger self.”

Buy WWE 2K19 on Amazon

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