It’s been a long time coming (well, seven weeks or so later than usual, which is long enough to have sent many within the wrestling gaming community into a panic), and there’s been plenty of speculation and suggestions for ideas including our own, but we finally have a proper news report from 2K Games and other sources such as The SmackDown Hotel about the next wrestling game to hit the waves, WWE 2K20.
The trailer was actually leaked yesterday, which must have been a source of frustration on several levels (the main one being, why are people so impatient that they couldn’t wait one more day for something that had been kept under secrecy for so long?), but the official confirmation of the game and its core elements came today directly from 2K themselves. There is plenty to consider, but not so much that we know everything that there is to know (unlike 2K18, where virtually all of the main details were revealed in one fell swoop, aside from DLC).
I generally don’t put too much stock into the front cover sleeve or the trailer (the latter was almost a non-issue for wrestling games until earlier this decade), but they do mark the best place to start. For 2K20, we have not one but two cover stars in Roman Reigns and Becky Lynch. Reigns should have been on the cover of a WWE 2K title years ago, and Becky has had such a massive 12 months, plus her adorning the sleeve ties in with the contents of the game (which I’ll cover shortly). The sleeve itself is fairly generic (as you can see in the image above), but it does the job and, besides a ridiculous amount of online bickering (wrestling fans are sinking to new lows on a daily basis when it comes to debating the pointless), this does the trick of establishing 2K20’s presence, not least because it’s the first cover to feature multiple wrestlers for nine years. As for the trailer itself, it was a dinner party featuring legends and current stars, interrupted by a Becky invasion that was commended by Roman. Decent enough, but nothing to lose sleep with excitement over.
As I mentioned, though, these are minor things; superficial layers to the meat of the WWE 2K sandwich, that being the game. Before we get to what 2K have announced in terms of the core element, we’ll mention that they have announced the usual Deluxe Edition and Collector’s Edition versions of the game. The special theme this year is the 20th anniversary of SmackDown, which will be celebrated this autumn in line with the show moving to FOX, making it an appropriate time to celebrate the blue brand. The Deluxe Edition features four bonus characters, with one being The Rock circa 1999 in a $500 shirt, with a second being Mankind in a Rock ‘N’ Sock Connection jacket (meaning that Mick Foley is thankfully in the game again). More notable is that Hulk Hogan is another inclusion; his return to WWE meant that his reappearance in a 2K title was only a matter of time, and that has proven to be the case (unless he gets himself fired once again). But the big news concerns the final bonus character from the Deluxe Edition, and that is Chyna. The Ninth Wonder Of The World hasn’t been in a WWE game since the company was called the WWF and it was still in the midst of a massive boom period in late 2000. Her first WWE game appearance in a whopping 19 years, and her first for a modern-day WWE 2K title, makes this headline news. Also, the usual Accelerator and MyPLAYER Kickstart bonuses come with the Deluxe Edition, along with Rock and Mankind special Supercard, erm, cards.
As for the Collector’s Edition, this comes in the form of a larger, rectangular SD-themed blue box, and along with the Deluxe goodies, it also features a piece of SmackDown ring skirt from 2002 to 2008, as well as one of three autographed cards from Edge, Kurt Angle (who had leaked his contribution to this ages ago on Instagram, way before he was supposed to) and Rey Mysterio. It all sounds rather exciting, though the three-figure amount for the Collector’s Edition seems very steep. Incidentally, they have yet to confirm who the actual, main pre-order bonus will be, or what it will be, so with Hogan and Chyna already confirmed, it’s time to get thinking as to what this could entail. Also, there is no Early Access this year, meaning that everybody will have to wait their turn to play 2K20 in its proper form (cue another online meltdown). (Those with a watchful eye may also notice that Amazon are offering an additional 15,000 of VC with their pre-order of the game.)
Now for the game itself, which releases on October 22 (a little later than usual), the central focus is the Showcase mode. Last year, Showcase returned to celebrate Daniel Bryan, and for 2K20, the spotlight turns to The Women’s Evolution (which had also been rumoured for a while). In particular, matches starring Bayley, Sasha Banks, Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch will be highlighted, and my assumption is that the journey will begin with Charlotte vs. Natalya from the second NXT TakeOver, and it will culminate with the three-way main event from WrestleMania 35. There should be plenty of big matches and moments to relive, as well as the usual alternate attires and arenas. My only gripe is that, for an old-school fan like me, the oldest content likely coming from 2014 means that there is unlikely to be any retro-themed wrestlers and venues which we haven’t seen already in recent WWE 2K titles, at least not courtesy of Showcase. Still, it should be a fun trek, and given the larger scope of performers, it should last longer than the 11 matches we had in the Bryan Showcase.
Adding to the feeling that this year is all about celebrating WWE’s females, it has been confirmed that MyCAREER can now star both men and women. Indeed, a women’s MyCAREER tale has been requested for a while now and, to me, it was inevitable. It finally arrives in 2K20, and my assumption (one which could be wrong) is that we will have two different story arcs, one for a male created character and one for a female. That hasn’t been confirmed; it’s possible that it will be the same linear plot and you either pick a guy or a girl. Whatever the case, though, it represents the next stage of the development of MyCAREER, and after the development team salvaged the mode by essentially making it an unofficial Season mode in 2K19, the hope is that this year’s MyCAREER (the sixth already if you can believe that) will be the best yet.
As if that wasn’t enough, the females also get the nod with a new (well, returning) match type, that being the mixed tag team match, which will be presented as Mixed Match Challenge (hopefully with the tournament included as well). The men face the men, and the women face the women. It’s nothing massive, but it is something different that we haven’t seen in the game for a little while, so it’s a nice addition. What’s more, we have been told that the control scheme has been streamlined, which is something that I am very interested to see. Does this mean that matches will be, dare I say it, more fun to play? Or does it simply mean that certain moves will be easier to pull off than others? I personally felt with 2K19 and previous games that the main issue wasn’t necessarily the depth of options nor the variety of controls required, but the slow, plodding pace of animations and the fun-sapping nature of things like dragging opponents across the ring for a pinfall attempt. Either way, though, it seems like we’ll be getting the biggest change to the actual gameplay for some time, even if it isn’t a complete revamp of how matches play out. Or maybe it will be and 2K20 will be the most enjoyable wrestling game in a generation; who knows?
Rounding things off is information about two modes, one of which we have already noted. Starting with Towers, this mode will be back again, and this time, we will have a specific story-based Tower for co-cover star Roman Reigns, which is fun as it gives him a greater role in the game based on him adorning the sleeve with Becky. And there will be a new aspect of the game called 2K20 Originals, which will be in the form of DLC and will essentially consist of Showcase add-on content. That’s intriguing enough, but an early screenshot suggests that WWE stars will be radically different in Originals. Case in point: it will be set in a “new, unique world”, and we have seen a screenshot of Braun Strowman as something akin to Frankenstein, and Bray Wyatt as some sort of underground creature of the damned. It’s certainly something different, and it gives a greater significance to the DLC, which has been very limited in the past two years. I’m not sure if I’d have preferred a dozen or more actual wrestlers than Originals, but if it is fun enough to play, then that would make for a fair compromise (though I do believe that we’ll still get the usual NXT newcomers DLC pack).
As for my early thoughts on all of this 2K20 news: it sounds promising. Showcase, MyCAREER and Towers all seem bigger than they were in 2K19, with the Originals add-on seeming like an unusual and exciting bonus. Chyna being back is arguably the biggest story of all, with welcome returns for Hogan and Mankind as well. On the other hand, the Collector’s Edition actually offers less content than that of last year, which is a concern for those who feel like splashing out more than 100 dollars or 100 pounds for the box. The main thing to remember, though, is that this is merely the first chapter of the promotion for 2K20: we haven’t heard anything about create modes, the roster (aside from the obvious names), Universe mode (which I’m hoping will incorporate elements of the fondly-remembered GM mode to deliver a great overall experience for an option that is in its tenth incarnation in 2K20) or the main pre-order exclusive. And the notion of streamlined controls has my attention, because a slightly-modified wrestling scheme could be what makes 2K20 a true headliner in the lineage of WWE titles.
Honestly, after 2K19 over-delivered, my expectations were not particularly high that 2K20 would make similarly big strides forward. As it is right now, while I still feel that this may be a transitional year of sorts, the early announcements are pretty big, and if we get a 250+ roster with some other new legends, along with a new or returning create mode and another match type alongside Mixed Tag, plus an enhanced fighting engine, then this could be a banner year for WWE 2K. With the current console generation now on an egg timer, and with Yuke’s having announced their plans for a separate internal WWE title (which I will discuss in a separate article), perhaps the developers are feeling the pressure to really deliver, or maybe what we’ve just heard is the best that we’ll get, and this may end up being just another game. For now, though, there are reasons to be optimistic, and so I would say that today’s announcements demonstrate a good start for the countdown to WWE 2K20.