WWE 2K15 had a lot of issues. The game did not die based on one failure, but a host of failures coming together to make one disappointing installment in a consistently mediocre franchise. Out of the past ten years of Yukes-developed professional wrestling games, only WWE ’13 and ’14 were of quality. The in-ring gameplay was far from where it needed to be, but the modes built around the game made it enjoyable.
Last year, people were intrigued by WWE 2K15’s MyCareer mode that let you create a superstar, and rise through the NXT ranks on the way to main eventing Wrestlemania. Unfortunately, the experience was a repetitive disaster that just felt like a slow way to kill time. There was zero story progression and zero character development. Recently, I was able to get hands-on with WWE 2K16’s new MyCareer mode that promises to allow players to build their own path to stardom.
Similarly to last year’s mode, you begin by creating your own superstar and outfitting him with whatever ridiculous attire your heart desires. You then enter the WWE performance center where you meet new NXT head coach Jason Albert (previously known as Tensai, Prince Albert, A-Train, and a variety of other names), who is filling the role Bill DeMott held last year. He welcomes you, lets you know how hard you will have to work to achieve your dreams, and sets up your first training match against the certified G and bonafide stud himself, Enzo Amore. One quick change you notice this year is that there are no more pre-made superstars. No longer will you find a generic wrestler, rocking generic tights and sporting a name that you would have given yourself when you were 12 years old. That is due to the large roster size, which includes twelve NXT superstars, not counting ones that are featured on NXT and the main roster such as Kevin Owens, Kalisto, and Sin Cara.
Due to this being the early parts of the MyCareer mode, the actual wrestling is not a ton of fun. Your character moves around slowly, and the competition you are going against does not provide a ton of thrills. It does get a bit more exciting when you enter your first feud, which is with Tyler Breeze. When you are having your first NXT bout, Breeze makes his way to the ring and interrupts your match. Once you get to the back, you are approached by Renee Young to conduct your first interview.
This is one of the more unique aspects of 2K16’s new MyCareer mode as you can now establish an actual personality for your character, and decide if he is a babyface or a heel. That was possible in previous iterations, but it always seemed like a ghost feature, one that existed but was never anything you directly affected. Renee asks you what you think about Breeze interrupting, and you get four dialogue options presented as if they were multiple-choice answers on a test. Which dialogue option will boost your heel or babyface personality is apparent, and the responses all seem fairly bland and lifeless. Even though the responses are far from enthralling, it is nice being able to shape your own character outside of what he looks like, even if it is through slightly stilted dialogue.
One of the more enjoyable things about MyCareer seems to be the ranking system for title belts. From your introduction to Albert, you select a championship (you’re in NXT so your only option is the NXT championship) and are entered into a top 10 ranking. As you ascend up that ranking, passing people like Breeze, Colin Cassidy, and Kevin Owens, you will eventually become the number one contender. This feels like one of the more lifelike aspects of the mode, as you really have to claw your way up, instead of just being propelled to the top because it would be easier for the player. You earn your way up by winning matches and making them entertaining. In the past, you would get a star rating for your match afterwards. This year, that rating is placed in the top left of your screen during the match, and it increases as you do different moves. Unfortunately, your opponents varied move set will not increase the rating, so it is all on the player to make sure he or she is entertaining the fans.
You will also be able to build relationships with other superstars. The actual means of doing this seems a bit hazy, but the major way is by running in on their matches and either helping or hurting them. So if you want to become tag-team partners with Finn Balor, run in on his match with Kevin Owens and assure that he gets the victory. This will also build your rivalries, so in that situation you would be more likely to start a feud with Kevin Owens. Exactly how in-depth these feuds are, and whether or not they become repetitive, will be the key determining factor of MyCareer’s success.
In-ring, WWE 2K16 feels very similar to WWE 2K15, which is not a good thing. The chain wrestling from last year is back, and is still absolutely terrible. The paper, rock, scissors method is not a good way to determine any type of wrestling moves outcome. The new submission mechanics are very goofy, as you get a circle fit with two bars inside of it. You are one of the bars and must chase the other bar in hopes of increasing tension and making your opponent tap out. The implementation of mini-games to make some of the wrestling mechanics easier to handle is one that has become a frequent trend over the past few years. Despite its accessibility, throwing mini-games into a wrestling ring is just silly and does not work. It slows down the pace of an already painfully slow video game.
WWE 2K16’s release is fast approaching, and its key elements are pretty obvious. A lot of development time seems to have been dedicated to Stone Cold Steve Austin’s Showcase Mode and the new MyCareer. The results of this dedicated time still remain to be seen, and it will no doubt disappoint fans that their favorite creation modes have yet to return. Despite that, the Stone Cold showcase could be a very enjoyable tour through one of professional wrestling’s most popular personalities. The MyCareer mode seems to have taken some steps in the right direction, but the staying power will be dependent on the inner workings of the mode. After an abject failure in WWE 2K15, a lot will be riding on how many steps forward Yukes and 2K can make in WWE 2K16.