The other major single-player mode, MyRise, is split into two separate stories. Of the two, I preferred The Lock, which has you jump into the boots of a global sensation whose talents have finally elevated him to the WWE. Its tale about the conflict between attempting to be yourself versus trying to be what the machine of the WWE wants you to be clicked with me more. The Legacy, a story about debuting in the shadow of your Hall of Fame aunt, is also a solid tale about living up to expectations, and the various ways that old rivalries and bad decisions in and out of your control can make that challenging.

The conflict between attempting to be yourself vs what the WWE wants you to be clicked with me more.

Both modes give your progression to the top of the card some real focus. Where last year’s MyRise often felt like I was just running around doing quests simply because they were there, this year the main thread wrangles you into very clear-cut chapters. Instead of running between different locations to find the proper NPC or scrolling through the in-game social media feed to start beef with people, your main and side objectives are laid out clearly in the story progress menu, and all of the appropriate people to talk to in order to initiate these quests are all in one area. The story is also separated by acts, and the progress menu will show you all the distractions you could get into before moving on to the next one.

The open-endedness of last year’s MyRise still exists, though. Between matches during the main storyline you can interact with accessory characters and make choices that can determine how story arcs end, or what kind of side quests you end up on. Some of them are simply one-off matches that net you some points for customizing your character, while others can be whole multi-match feuds. I wish that the back and forth you have to do to start many of the side feuds were more than text blocks on a fake social media platform, but the parts that are voice acted feel more consistent across the board than last year. I’m not sure any of this will make you a MyRise fan if you weren’t already, but a strong story mode is a wrestling game staple, and I’m glad it finally feels worth the time again.

For folks looking for more of a sandbox approach to superstardom, Universe is back and, with the exception of some slight tweaks in the story building tools, it’s practically identical to 2K22’s version. For Classic Mode fans, this means you can have a field day tweaking every single detail of your own version of the WWE, from the shows you produce, the stars and feuds between them, and even the belts they can win and defend. Its top-down approach is a little too big for my tastes, with too many knobs to twist and not enough reward outside of the satisfaction of simply doing the thing. I preferred Superstar Mode during the relative time I spent with Universe, so I could put my created grappler through an endless career of rivalries and title shots.

GM Mode is my preferred management sim mode, and this year’s version is even bigger and more robust than ever. Besides giving us more brands to control, managers to work with, and power cards to choose from, now up to four players can try to out-promote each other across multiple season games. New surprises like the Shake Up – big, game-altering passive abilities that you can select after big shows – helps keep your opponents on their toes. Bonuses like lowering the stamina cost it takes for wrestlers involved in certain kinds of matches may seem like a small buff, until you realize that it means you can pull more risky matches off more often, pulling in better match ratings and more fans with fewer injuries.

Finally, little quality-of-life changes help make it easier to see the benefits of certain actions over others. Something like popularity bonuses you’ll receive for booking a certain arena were in the previous game, but it’s much clearer here. Specific match types can also accelerate the ferociousness of a rivalry better than others, and now that’s clearly identified as well. But figuring out how to make popular, highly rated matches over long periods of time is still a steep learning curve.

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