2K’s yearly release of its WWE series had gotten to the point where the publisher was ambitious and trying new things, but those changes and additions weren’t doing the series justice. Aspects of the game like MyCareer Mode had become tedious and repetitive the past couple of years. However, WWE 2K19 is a complete 180 from last year’s game, and it takes a lot of inspiration from ’90s arcade gaming, primarily Mortal Kombat and NBA Jam.
This year’s edition of the game adds elements like big head mode, where your wrestlers have–you guessed it–oversized heads. In addition, Tower Mode, which was revealed earlier this year, is akin to Mortal Kombat’s “Choose Your Destiny” where players decide what level of difficulty gauntlet they want to compete in. From there, players will pick a superstar and fight their way through other wrestlers, where stipulations may or may not be added to each match, like “submissions only” or “wrestlers can’t leave the ring.” These additions completely change the tone of the game compared to WWE 2K18.
During a 2K press event at WWE’s Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, creative director Lynell Jinks explained that the developer wanted to change up the game entirely. “It’s kind of our motto this year was to make the game fun again,” Jinks told GameSpot. “We looked back on–like if you look at Towers–of things that we used to think were fun when we were kids, before we did this for a living, and it’s just like you think back on a lot of the older sports games or fighting games, like these are the things that I remember being fun. And that was kind of the driving force behind it. And it was just, again, hearing that message from the fans really stuck with us, like the game just isn’t fun anymore. And we wanted to change that.”
Then, there’s the Payback System, a new game mechanic, in which players who are getting beaten down have a chance to make a comeback through sometimes very over-the-top ways. “There are some really fun things that happen in WWE programming that really change the course of the match and make it unique and feel like anything can happen,” gameplay designer Derek Donahue said. “Low blows, or the lights can go out and you end up behind somebody, or you know, triggering run-ins, and we’ve wanted ways to kind of give people control of that in a match, but actually make it meaningful. Not just an animation you can play, but change the course of the match, really make it feel like you’re coming back. So this year with the Payback System, that was the main thing that we wanted to accomplish.
“In addition to that, you have some more minor things that still we see and try to figure out how we can put it in. So things like playing possum where you’re down, and you want to just stay there intentionally. A player will walk up, and then you pin them by surprise, or throw an elbow out of the corner when you’re down. Those things are all triggerable with the Payback System as well. So even when you’re getting beat up, when your opponent is going on offense, instead of just trying to reverse all the time, you can make the decision, do I want to use my level one ability? Do I want to save my level two ability? And then once you finally do, it’s going to completely change everything.”
You’ll be able to try these out for yourself when 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. There will also be DLC for the game–starting in late 2018–which includes 11 new superstars and will be available for purchase separately.