It is that time of the year again as WWE 2K19 is now in our hands. I got a review copy of the PS4 version of the game a few weeks ago, and now it is time for me to share my thoughts on this year’s installment of the game.
The cover star this year is the current WWE Champion AJ Styles as this year alone, he has proven to be “the face that runs the place” on the Smackdown brand. If you were to ask me 10 years ago when he was still wrestling for TNA if he would be on the cover, I would have said “not in a million years” but it happened this year as he is the MVP of Smackdown.
The roster this year is almost the same as last year with new additions to the 200 playable character roster such as The Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Kyle O’ Riley, and Bobby Fish), Andrade “Cien” Almas, The AOP, Bianca Belair, Riccochet, EC3, Tyler Bate, Pete Dunn, Lio Rush, Ronda Rousey, and Velveteen Dream. You can mix and match the current stars of today and from previous years in many matches to your desire. With the stacked roster this high, there is no reason for Tommaso Ciampa to be cut from the in game roster this year especially since he is the current NXT Champion.
This year, we got the return of 2K Showcase which was missing from the last two entries. 2K Showcase tells the story of the rise of Daniel Bryan in WWE. In between the matches, we are shown a video package along with narration of Daniel Bryan himself setting up what was going on storyline wise at the time before the match loaded up. It begins way back to his match with John Cena at Velocity from early 2003, all the way to his Wrestlemania return match from this year teaming with Shane McMahon going against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. All of those matches were great to play and I would have wished that we would have gotten to revisit the CM Punk/Daniel Bryan/Aj Lee love triangle and matches from 2012 but I understood why they could not do it. My only other gripe with this mode is that many of the matches can last up to 30 minutes due to the objectives that you have to do during the match.
For the first time, MyCareer mode plays like a WWE storymode from the past games. You start off in an independent promotion and then work your way up to the WWE Performance Center and from there, it is NXT and then the main roster of Raw and Smackdown. I love that this time, the WWE Superstars and even your own character is voice acted during the scenes. In fact, the scenes with “Woken” Matt Hardy during this mode is quite funny but you will have to see that for yourself. The learning curve during this mode can be frustrating at times due to you starting with a very low set of moves and abilities and most of them you will have to unlock via randomized lootcrates and even those are very expensive when you purchase them by in game currency so it is good that there are no paid micro-transactions, but this system needs to go in the next game for good.
The gameplay is much more solid than the last two entries as I rarely encountered glitches or bugs even when there were 8 men in the ring during a Ladder Match. The Cage Match has been reworked so you can escape easier along with fighting on the top edge of the cage. I wanted this feature for many years since it adds more drama to the match itself. The custom match creator this year can be saved in the option that you create it even in Universe Mode. The lightning and the entrances are on point and the presentation looks like if you are watching it on TV. The commentary has improved a slight bit, but at times I can hear repeated words during matches.
Speaking of Universe Mode, this year, you can finally assign managers to any superstar on your Universe Mode roster. You can also have up to 6 championships per show now which is great news for anyone that wants to have two mid-card championships on each show. On this mode now as well is the ability to choose who will be the Money In The Bank holder and which championship that either he or she will target. I wanted this feature way back in Smackdown vs Raw 2011 and it is great to finally see it being used in this game. Also, you can finally pick who wins simulated matches in case if you do not want to play the match and that lifted a huge weight off my shoulder. Universe Mode always needed adjustments since it was first introduced 8 years ago, but I felt that this year the developers made more effort to tweak it than any other game.
The Creation Suite’s features can have you there for hours doing customized things such as Create A Superstar, Arena, and Entrance but also for the first time this year, you can create a MITB briefcase with your own design as you please and use it on Universe Mode. You can also create block versions of WWE superstars or your own characters as well.
There is also an towers mode where you can face different superstars in different match situations. It starts off easy, but it gets hard with each match that progresses. It is like WWE’s version of Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter with their towers mode.
This year’s game has been a massive improvement from the last two games. The last overall game that I loved was WWE 2k14 and every year since then, it has not matched up to how fun a WWE video game is supposed to be and I can say that the fun factor has returned in this game. It is so fun, that they even added (by Xavior Wood’s request) a big head mode. I have not used this yet, but I know it was added in for nostalgia of silliness of 90’s games. Despite the hard learning curve of MyCareer mode and their lootcrate system, I fully recommend this game to pick up.
My score is a 8.9/10
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Rick Grimes and his friends are working hard to build a new world. The remains of the old world, as established, are increasingly becoming a thing of the past. No gasoline, no canned goods, and a crumbling infrastructure that is making travel and trade between the sprawling collection of city-states difficult, if not impossible. Without tractors, modern farming is impossible. Without food, life is impossible. Sure, plows and wagons will help, but there’s only so much that can be done, and the zombie menace is omnipresent, especially considering that bullets must be hand-filled and recycled. The only way to accomplish any big project is via lots and lots of manpower, so that means when the bridge needs to be rebuilt, everyone has to pitch in, regardless of any hard feelings they might have in the past.
On the surface, as Rick talks about the camp in a framing device with Negan, things are looking good. There’s a big camp and everyone seems to be working together fairly well, getting back a piece of how things used to be, if Rick is to be believed. The goal isn’t to forgive, or to forget, but to move past, build trust, unite the divided communities by sharing resources. Alexandria has bullets. Sanctuary has ethanol and manpower. Hilltop has food and farming equipment. Oceanside has fish. And the roads, as Ezekiel says in the episode, are how these communities live and die. It might not be the sort of exciting story Henry will tell his grandchildren, but without the bridge, Henry might not live to have grandchildren in the first place.
Trust is key in Rick’s new world. Trust and second chances. That’s reiterated in David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick’s script repeatedly, yet that point isn’t pushed too far, if that makes sense. The establishment of trust, and of moving forward, is stated repeatedly, but it’s not really hammered on in an obvious way. It comes in little moments. Rosita rigging demolition charges with Arat, the woman who cut her cheek. Arat questions their proximity to the blast, and they exchange mutual admissions of distrust (never mind the fact that Rosita wouldn’t blow herself up to kill one Savior). Siddiq trusts Enid to take over medical needs at the bridge camp. Gabriel and Anne (formerly Jadis) bond over their lack of trustworthiness and the fact that they were given second chances by Rick and company. Maggie gives Earl (John Finn) a second chance at the best of Tammy Rose (Brett Butler) after his attempted murder of her.
The only one who doesn’t seem to be getting a second chance, because he hasn’t reformed a bit, is Negan, who gets regular status updates from Rick on the formation of the new world and who appears in presence in this week’s bookend segments. Essentially, his presence is only via shadows and a few tight close-ups, allowing Rick to give his speech to camera. Negan, as always, antagonizes. Rick isn’t building for the future, he’s building a monument to the dead. Rick’s family is gone, as is Negan’s. Rick’s in charge, for now, but how long will this tenuous peace he’s built last given that the Saviors are disappearing or walking off the job and resources are stretched thin to feed the mouths of all the Savior manpower? Maggie further moves away from Rick’s sphere of influence. The Saviors are either on board with the new world or fighting against it (literally in the case of Zach McGowan’s Savior character).
That unease is there, and it colors a lot of the interactions, but in previous years, it would have been addressed directly and repeatedly. It’s still mentioned, but it’s more subtle; it’s the implication more than anything. Tension is the order of the day, and even the relatively happy camp is troubled. They’re struggling to rebuild the bridge, working with primitive equipment, behind schedule, undermanned, and they have to worry both about the weather (the levee will break eventually) and the omnipresent threat of the zombie hordes that have been drawn to the area. Certainly, they have a plan to distract the horde, but that plan requires trusting in the people who have to man the air raid sirens and execute the distractions.
Of course, since this is The Walking Dead and those distractions depend on the assistance of the grudging Saviors, things go wrong. Daisy Mayer maintains a very dynamic camera in this week’s episode, with lots of tracking shots through Rick’s camp, lots of smooth transition between scenes based off following characters as they split off from groups and walk away, or stay behind. It helps the episode flow more smoothly, and the action sequences are exciting and clearly executed. The walker attack on the logging camp is especially fun, with lots of inventive special effects courtesy of Nicotero’s crew.
It would be understandable to think that after 117 episodes that they’d be running out of ways to smash zombies, and yet, there’s still creativity with the set pieces. There are a thousand ways to smash a head, apparently, and this week’s exhibition in special effects skill and the blending of the digital with the practical is especially impressive, and a much-needed dose of fun in what is an otherwise tense episode. If nothing else, it’s something that I haven’t seen before, outside of perhaps a Final Destination movie, and it’s that kind of novelty that is appreciated so deeply into a show’s run.
My favorite parts of the episode was seeing the portraits of Glenn, Hershel, Beth , Shawn, Annette, and Josephine on the wall as Maggie and Jesus were talking. I also liked to see that Aaron is starting to look like the current comic book appearance of Rick Grimes along with the conflict between Daryl and Justin. Speaking of Justin, I do not know who kidnapped him at the end of the episode, but I do not think that it is The Whisperers.
The direction remains solid, and the acting and writing seem to be more consistent thus far. With the major upheaval coming in the cast, it’ll be interesting to see how this all shakes out and what new direction the show takes.
Big changes in front of the camera, and bigger changes behind the camera. If nothing else, for the moment, the show feels fresh again. Perhaps rather than being a soap opera with zombies, The Walking Dead can become a Game Of Thrones with zombies. Trade baby daddy drama for political intrigue, city-states working together to accomplish bigger goals while scheming against one another in the background? That seems like something that could refresh a popular show that’s been in a creative and ratings slump.
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