WWE 2K20 is a Sublime Mix of Stellar Stories and Slasher Movies – IGN


For the first time in nearly 20 years, Japanese developer Yuke’s is no longer developing WWE wrestling games for 2K. Visual Concepts, which has served as a co-developer since WWE 2K14, has fully taken the reins with WWE 2K20, and in a staggeringly brief window of time it’s put its stalwart and surreal stamp on the series.With every passing year, these games get closer to incorporating everything that makes a wrestling match special. The intangibles that make the business all-but inexplainable to non-fans. The bizarre, amazing artistry that goes into telling a story between those ropes (and sometimes backstage, whilst brawling). And yes, WWE 2K20 marks a significant evolution with regards to the action.

The controls, however, have been streamlined, allowing new players to more easily jump into the decades-spanning series. Longtime fans of the games will instantly feel like something’s a bit off, as a few buttons don’t do what you’re used to them doing. For example: “Y” is now for blocking/reversals while RT is utilized for Paybacks. Finishers and Signature Moves now involve hitting A + X. Also, Object Interaction and Climbing are separate buttons now. You get the idea. This will irk some, but overall the new layout was easy enough to adapt to.In a year, the Visual Concepts team had to take apart a game that’s been around since the late ’90s and then put it back together. They had to break a lot of things in order to understand them, and make the game theirs. They had to create an enormous amount anew, as Yuke’s tools, engine, and code base were gone. Because of this, a few fan favorites won’t make the initial launch. Like, Create-A-Championship won’t be available right away, but instead in a future patch so that bugs can be addressed.

On top of a 2K Showcase featuring the Four Horsewomen (which begins with Charlotte vs. Natalya in NXT), a Roman Reigns Rivalry Tower (that begins with Roman and Seth, as Shield brothers, taking on Team Hell No), and a super in-depth MyCareer Mode that features a male and female Superstar (and an alternate dimension quest to find The Undertaker!) which begins 20 years in the future as they’re both looking back at their Hall of Fame careers, there are a ton of imaginative, overboard bells and whistles this year. So many, I couldn’t explore them all.

Reversals are smoother and faster, the menu layout is cleaner (and more in the sports game aesthetic), AI Superstar attacks are now more varied, and a new “Assist Mode” aids novice players. There are 50 new weapons, dozens of new arenas (Hell’s Colosseum, New Day Arena, etc), and fresh brawling zones (a movie set, a boiler room on fire, etc). But I have to say, I spent a majority of the time playing around with 2K Original DLC Pack, “Bump in the Night” – a horror movie-themed content payload that beautifully blends the franchise with a diabolically different genre. At this point, in my wrestling fandom, I really enjoy how, say, something like WWE can mix and match with other large pop-culture properties.One of the most enduring things about WWE 2K games is that fans can enjoy them for a hundred different reasons and play them in a hundred different ways. The “Bump in the Night” DLC, the first of four Originals (which include new arenas, Superstars, Story Towers, unlockable character parts, etc) brings you into the entirety of Bray Wyatt’s shattered psyche, from his marshland cult leader days to “The Fiend” persona he uses to terrorize today. One Tower features Bray, on commentary (it’s amazing), putting Finn Balor through a crucible in a Swampland Arena (with scattered, broken mannequins as “fans”). Another, which unlocks “The Fiend,” puts The Fiend in a graveyard gauntlet match against five of WWE’s spookiest characters (and Bo Dallas).

Another Tower is based on Shaun of the Dead. But in place of Simon Pegg, there’s Sheamus. Sheamus who must put down his buddies (like Kassius Ohno, Robert Roode, and more) who’ve become zombies. You might even hear a few movie quotes from the commentary team. It’s heartily enjoyable.

Then, in one of the most niche and satisfying Tower experiences, Nikki Cross, fitted with a Hannibal Lecter-style mask, battles in a darkened arena through a slew of “Final Girls” – Mandy Rose, Dana Brooke, Lana, and Maryse. Flipping this around, “Final Girl” Mandy Rose gets her own Tower where she gets revenge on Nikki. And with all of these Bump in the Night Towers and challenges, you unlock monster-fied versions of Superstars. Like Bray Wyatt as the Swampfather (a Mossman/Wolfman hybrid, of sorts), Randy Orton as a reptile, Finn Balor as a Demon King, Aleister Black as glowing occult warrior, and Rusev…as a pilgrim (he can’t catch a break these days).Sure, it’s October and this DLC feels right at home during Spooky Season, but it’s the larger “go for broke” aspects of it that feel immensely gratifying. Visual Concepts feels like a team who whole-heartedly enjoys the story aspects of wrestling. Because just as fans are able to play WWE 2K games in many varied ways, wrestling fans also enjoy different aspects of the product. Different promotions. Different styles of wrestling and/or matches. And some (many? most?) really do love the long-form storyline elements of the craft.

That seems to be what’s at play here the most in WWE 2K20. And not just with Showcases and Towers taking you through history, but with the 2K Originals lifting these Superstars up and out of their WWE mold and putting them into outrageous adventures that bend time and space. By showing how transferable and relatable pro-wrestling can be by slotting it into others fandoms.

Matt Fowler is a writer for IGN and a member of the Television Critics Association. Follow him on Twitter at @TheMattFowler and Facebook at Facebook.com/MattBFowler.

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