The WWE 2K franchise has a difficult task of living up to expectations of wrestling fans everywhere. After cult classics like Warzone, SmackDown: Just bring it and SmackDown vs Raw, the bar has been set extremely high to innovate.
For the past few years, it seemed as if 2K were toying with the MyCareer to see what works. Of course, the detail the franchise has consistently put into the NBA cousin has inspired many to believe another cult classic is on the horizon, but that hasn't quite been the case.
Something appeared to be missing. Players want to feel like they can have a 'career', not just play storylines for a year before grinding your way through the rest. Last year's MyCareer had cool backstage elements, but it didn't feel personal enough.
That has all changed this year. 2K invited GiveMeSport to play the game ahead of its release and after getting our hands on it twice, we can't wait to have it again. It's that contagious.
The developers insisted that making the game fun again was at the core of what they wanted to do. Right next to that objective was making the gameplay smoother, and they appeared to hit a home run on both fronts.
With a new big head mode, the largest roster ever assembled in addition to the chance to win a million dollars and face AJ Styles at WrestleMania; there's plenty of ways you can enjoy your time on 2K19.
But what has really got this writer buzzing about the game is the dramatic change to MyCareer and the overall gameplay.
Wrestlers feel like themselves. Going for a pin with Velveteen Dream - as you can see in our gameplay on YouTube - he tries to pin people differently to other superstars.
The transitions from strikes to grappling is much, much smoother and there's a certain fluidity about interacting with the surrounding areas. If you do a move near a table or steel stairs, no longer will your player ignore it, you will visibly hit it and suffer.
Then, there's the new Payback System, a new game mechanic, where players who are getting beaten down have a chance to make a comeback through, sometimes, very over-the-top ways. It means skill-gaps can be breached and everyone stands a chance.
But, let's talk MyCareer. To me, this is the cornerstone of any wrestling game and the vast majority of wrestling fans would agree. While I have only personally played through the early stages of the game, the 2K19 MyCareer trailer suggests there is plenty more to come and it's layered far beyond previous iterations.
For one, you start on the indies in the fictional promotion BCW. It's been a default comfort to start in NXT for the past few years, but just like that was innovative in WWE 2K15, 2K19 has broken the mould once again.
It's charmingly done. The early story centres around your superstar trying to impress a WWE scout (Matt Bloom) and showing Triple H what he can do. Things don't go according to plan (keeping it vague, guys) and you find yourself back at BCW trying to grind your way back to the big time.
In the trailer above, you see cool shots of Bray Wyatt at his compound and Matt Hardy in his multiverse; the greatest leap 2K have made this year is in originality and detail. Once upon a time, it felt like no matter who you were, you would travel the same path and the same rivalries would take place no matter who you faced, you were basically just inserting a superstar.
Last year for example: You'd roam backstage, but for any side-quests, the same conversations would crop up no matter who you spoke to - it was tiresome. This time around, 2K have realised that the journey and feuds you encounter should be tailored to who you meet.
Mixing it up with Hardy and Wyatt will be the only ways you can experience those elements, and the same rules apply elsewhere.
That makes the journey very, very exciting. It's not one linear path, 2K19 seeks to bring forth the experience rather than the grind.
There are more than 200 cutscenes, 1,000 voice lines from 26 different WWE Superstars. To hear your character cut a promo with superstars as opposed to reading text, it's certainly something that's been a long time coming.
MyCareer still needs a mode for women without a doubt, that's the only obvious drawback I can find in that area.
Showcase mode returns with Daniel Bryan's journey at the heart of it and after playing through the first few matches, I found it very cool how they actually had Bryan's movesets down to a tee through the ages, and his look too. Very impressive.
I wasn't so impressed with the sit-down interview segments with Bryan between the matches. Not that I disliked them, really - I enjoy hearing Bryan's thoughts - but when they did the Attitude Era version of this with cutscenes, I found that more immersive.
Overall, 2K19 is a title that has once again redefines the way we think about wrestling games. The MyCareer is so well imagined and it speaks to many modern day fans who have indeed rooted for the indie darlings of yesteryear and those who have struggled to make it to the top - CM Punk, Kevin Owens, AJ Styles, Bryan - it's a unique take on the series at the right time.
The way they've changed Hell in a Cell to be easier to escape and tighter around ringside - it's actually to scale - is indicative of 2K's desire for you to not only enjoy the game, but feel the game. And therein lies their greatest success here.
WWE 2K19 hits stores on October 9, and you'll get a chance to play it four days early if you picked up the Woo Edition of the game or pre-ordered it, which you can do HERE. There will also be DLC for the game -starting in late 2018 -which includes 11 new superstars and will be available for purchase separately.
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