After last year’s WWE 2k20 let down its fanbase, publisher 2K Games need to do something to broaden the appeal of wrestling games. The direction they went in is one that calls back to a time of simple controls and arcades. Games such as Superstars, Def Jam Fight For New York, or even the more modern Gang Beasts. While the result is a solid party game, the journey may wear you down a bit.
It’s clear 2K Games and WWE needed a break from Madden style realism in wrestling games. Their aim with Battlegrounds is to create something that emphasizes the pomp and circumstance of sports entertainment. On a surface level, WWE 2K Battlegrounds is fun and welcoming to those who don’t take WWE too seriously or people who just love easy party games they can play with friends.
Beginning with the game’s kayfabe within kayfabe WWE story of on-screen personality Paul Heyman starting his a new WWE Battlegrounds brand, the game has a ton of personality. The comic book art style the story is told in is great for those of us who miss WWE comics produced by Boom! Studios.
The cartoony models and outrageous settings these fights can take place in are different than what fans of the product are accustom to. Stages are vibrant and more interactive than what you usually get from a WWE game. There’s something definitely satisfying about tossing Nia Jax into the mouth of an alligator. Character models try to create a Saturday morning adaptation of the real-life WWE superstars with hit and miss results. Some such as Seth Rollins, AJ Styles, and Sasha Banks are recognizable while others like Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, and Stone Cold Steve Austin are head-scratching.
While the cast found in the game is a generally good representation of current WWE (Daniel Bryan, Cesaro, Bayley, Roman Reigns, and more), some inclusions could be confusing as the game also features released wrestlers such as Gallows and Anderson, legends like Jake The Snake who are currently featured on competing brand AEW.
What Battlegrounds has going for it is fun factor. Even if you’re turned off by the wacky visuals, playing the game can be sporadically addicting. Combat is easy to get the hang of. Quick attack, strong attack, grapple, whip are really the basics you need to know. More complex things such as reversals and special moves can simply be done and timed through button-mashing for novice gamers. The simplicity in this game makes it feel like some of the classic arcade wrestling games like Capcom wrestling or WWF Superstars. It’s fun, quick, and rotatable; perfect for getting together responsibly with a handful of friends.
Top it off with Saber Interactive crafting a mechanically well-made game around the fun feel wich makes Battlegrounds a solid beginning to the hopeful life of this title.
For its strengths, there are some glaring problems with the game. Yes, there is a microtransactions economy to the game that speeds up the process of unlocking new characters and custom pieces. I won’t harp on the evils of microtransactions, in this game they’re an issue if you see them as such. It’s worth noting everything so far has been unlockable by grinding through the game or even just earning “bucks’ by playing with friends. Although it was worth pointing out Royal Rumble mode was not local co-op friendly and that is a let down for an otherwise inclusive time. What’s a bigger issue is elements that are missing from the game.
It’s weird that WWE is known for its sears catalog’s worth of gimmick matches. From a Punjabi prison match all the way to buried alive, there’s no shortage of special stipulations WWE can come up with. Yet Battlegrounds is very limited in match variation. Tag team, weird money-grabbing based cage matches, gauntlets, and a royal rumble mode are in the game. I would have liked to have had ladder matches, tables, Elimination Chamber. Even this Sunday’s Clash Of Champions WWE pay per view event is headlined by an “Ambulance Match” where is the synergy in Battlegrounds which is listed as the event’s presenter.
It’s a big lack of content for 2K. Yes, it’s likely the game will see more characters and hopefully modes added in the coming months but there was a real miss here in giving consumers something that doesn’t feel entry-level. Even with its $39.99 entry price tag, it feels just a few features short.
I’m in the minority of critics who like Battlegrounds overall. Yes, it has flaws. There definitely could have been more content in the released product but despite that WWE 2K Battlegrounds is a frog splashing good time alternative to the past few broken realism wrestling sims.
WWE 2K, 2K Games
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