Developed By: Saber Interactive
Published By: 2K
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows, Google Stadia
Reviewed On: PS4PRO
As 2K takes a break this year following the backlash they received from last years WWE 2K20, the developers take a step back and pan out for a better understanding of what fans would want in a wrestling game. With a myriad of glitches and problems, WWE 2K20 was not well received from day one. The hype train that was built in the previous year for the game made it look like it would have been a hit among players, which in the end was never fruitful despite all that. With the impending pandemic that swept across the nation like a bushfire and separation with long time development partner Yukes, WWE 2K20 never found a foothold to plant themselves as the quintessential wrestling game.
This year though, 2K went in the other direction by focusing their development manpower and ideas into something that will instill a sense of comical, anime-like fun in wrestling games and together with Saber Interactive, WWE 2K Battlegrounds is meant to full the arcade-style wrestling void. An over the top brawler with wacky animations that sets a different tone for the genre, in hopes of ironing out any high expectations fans might have, and allow fans to relax, chill out and enjoy a fun-filled couch party game session with friends.
WWE 2K Battlegrounds shares similarities with a title from past gen consoles, WWE All-Stars. With its crazy finishers, move sets, and mammoth-looking characters, players around the world loved the twist that game brought to their screens as it was a refreshing take from the previous titles. Now, Battlegrounds in a way has made quirky work of their wrestlers and move sets, but in a more bobblehead kind of way. Character models have noticeably larger heads unproportionate to their torsos. Not a bad thing though, as it fits pretty well in how the game plays and feels as players progress. Over the top is absolute KEY in this game. Everything feels like it, even if it’s just as insignificant as running into the ring. Punches and kicks have gravitas to them, thanks to animations that make you feel like your superman punching a wooden door. The only thing that’s missing are broken bones, fish bones, and trash flying out of your opponent’s mouth (WWF In Your House reference, look it up, do it!). Did I mention that your wrestler enters the ring by busting out of crates that are airdropped onto the Titantron? Very much like toys bustin’ out of their packagings!
This, however, does make the game feel a little to easy to play at times. Long time players of this genre know that grapple hold combinations, specific counter buttons, and tricky timings were necessary if you wanted to take out your opponents back then. In this game, all you need is mostly the Square Button. That’s right, that one button is going to be the sole reason for players to win against their opponent. Every other button feels a little lackluster to use as they do get very repetitive after a while and quickly gets relegated to pointlessness.
A Story That Could Have Been More
Going straight into the Story Mode, it plays out in a very linear comic-book-style for players, where they are given a new up-and-coming wrestler, seeking to rise to infamous heights in WWE. The story doesn’t really give you much in the sense of storytelling as its more like a chain of fights and bouts players take on to reach the end of the wrestling tree (kind of like a roadmap style) that goes almost endlessly. If it sounds repetitive it’s because it is and that’s all there is to the story of the game. Fights are very much the same with the only variation is what kind of match it may be, be it a single match, cage, royal rumble, tag match and etc. The lack of character dialogue and in-game choices make this story seem more like a last-minute addition that wasn’t really put together so properly.
Anyone Up For A Singles Match?
Aside from the general categories of the game, the single-player modes offer players a pretty wide variety of matches to take on with AI or with friends. With a roster of more than 40 wrestlers, choices are aplenty. But again, its somewhat dumbed down due to its lack of variations and move sets. Sure, wrestlers are categorized based on their fighting style and weight class, from Technicians, Brawlers, High-Flyers to Powerhouses. But if EVERY wrestler in a category has the same move with the others at the end of the day, just punching becomes all the player will ever need. Yes, the shallow move sets coupled with inconsistent controls make the game a hassle to play, resulting in players just bashing the strike buttons (Square and Triangle) multiple times to finish off their opponents. Even with a large roster, it doesn’t feel like the character you chose is unique, as a lot is shared between them. In addition to your move set, you can Power Up your characters in-game after a successful flurry of combinations on the opponent that ranges from Double Damage strikes to unblockable strikes that make the already easy match a cakewalk.
As huge as the roster is, not every wrestler is unlocked on day one. For the digital deluxe owners, they are treated to a few unlocked legends, but the rest need grinding and player leveling in order to be unlocked, which brings us to the in-game currency, Battle Bucks. Players can gain Battle Bucks in story mode by winning matches and completing side objectives the game gives you during the match you are in. Players can also take part in the Tournament Mode and the online King of the Battleground mode, which reaps even better Battle Bucks for players to spend on. Grinding to get some of the best outfits or wrestlers really do take some time in this game, which in turn does stray players towards microtransactions in the game to fast track their unlock progress. Maybe some players won’t mind the grind due to how fast matches play out, but the game does play out as if the developers had a specific goal in mind to ensure players spend more money on the game.
What I Liked
- A good roster featuring past and present superstars, where the latter will be the eye candy of many
- Good online mode, especially the King of the Battleground mode, similar to Royal Rumble with a wait-in-line system for players who join in.
What I Disliked
- Very unflattering story mode
- Shared move sets among wrestlers, making them lose uniqueness
- Microtransactions are present, but isn’t the absolute crux of the game, as grinding is tolerable
- Having the “Square Button” as the only viable way to win matches fast, makes other controls seem pointless
WWE 2K Battlegrounds does stray away from the norm of the simulation path the wrestling genre has been on the past couple of years, both towards a good and bad path. The game just isn’t able to reach the bar set as by its predecessors from previous generations that have much more gravitas to them. The game also might not be for the more eccentric fans of the genre. It’s more for the newcomers and casual gamers who just plan on having a bit of fun with friends and family. For genre enthusiasts that have their sights locked onto 2K since last years game, this game would probably not fall into their bucket of choice as the purpose and gameplay it brings is somewhat of a letdown. Fingers crossed for a proper title by 2K next year and possibly on next-generation consoles to come.