|System: PS4, Switch, Xbox One, PC, Stadia|
|Dev: Saber Interactive|
|Pub: 2K Sports|
|Release: September 18, 2020|
|Players: 1-8 Player|
|Screen Resolution: 1080p-4K||Cartoon Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes, Users Interact, In-game Purchases|
by Jenni Lada
WWE 2K20 had issues. The yearly installment didn’t deliver what people expected, especially with Yukes no longer involved and Visual Concepts completely taking the reins. It might have even left people wondering what’s next for WWE games. WWE 2K Battlegrounds isn’t some stellar, revolutionary, and momentous savior come to right all wrongs. But, it is fun. It feels like a goofy way to regroup and reset, something sorely needed after a bad year.
I like to imagine one of WWE 2K Battlegrounds’ diminutive and stylized wrestlers yelling, “Anything you can do, I can do better” at its WWE 2K20 sibling. Not that it can do everything, but it certainly tries. It has its own Campaign and Battleground Challenge, for modes that involve original or created characters. (Yes, there’s a character creator.) You have different Exhibition modes. You can also take part in King of the Battleground and Online Tournament modes against folks online. It might not look as good or be as technical, but it certainly feels like there’s effort here to keep people entertained.
See, WWE 2K Battlegrounds is an arcade style wrestling game. It’s not as technical as the typical, flashier WWE 2K offerings. Its roster is going to attempt to be deep, but you have to spend in-game Bucks you earn or buy to unlock them. The characters are caricatures of their famous counterparts for the most part, so there will be some that look nothing like the people they’re supposed to be.
Since the movesets are simplified and characters fit into stereotypes like All-Rounder, Brawler, High Flyer, Powerhouse, and Technician, people might not fight or exhibit the skills you expect. Controls are very simple, with combos exceptionally easy to pull off and specials connected to a joint button press, and there are silly sorts of power-ups. The game even reminds you of certain buttons to press when you’re in a round, rewards you for performing certain actions, and spends a lot of the early days reminding you how to play. It’s not necessarily bad or anything like that, but more like it is catering to a wider audience that wants goofy fun.
It won’t exactly have all the same style, as you might expect. The WWE 2K Battlegrounds single-player efforts with player input and stories offer rather basic tales. In the Campaign, you have seven original characters each going through matches and attempting to become stars. Completing one person’s journey unlocks things like power-ups and cosmetics. The people there can sometimes feel a little generic, but it’s a good way to learn the ropes. (Also, Billy Huggins and Polly Velle are pretty good names.)
Battleground Challenge feels similar, only there’s no story. You have a similar progression, where you see a grid with icons representing matches and rewards. Its bonuses are definitely more progression focused, to help you with building out a custom character’s skill-tree and appearance. Though, to be fair, it is much more limited compared to a typical WWE 2K character creator, with a lot locked away behind buck-purchases and unlocks, so it’s almost worth spending time playing the Campaign and Battleground Challenge before getting too invested.
The other modes are about quickly getting into a match, well barring the Switch loading times, and going through different sorts of matches. Exhibition is divided into Men and Women's categories, though each division has the same sorts of matches: Fatal 4-Way, Gauntlet, One-on-One, Royal Rumble, Steel Cage 1 vs. 1 and 2 vs. 2, Tag Team, Tornado Tag Team, and Triple Threat. Most have offline and online multiplayer options, though Royal Rumble is a solo experience offline. Most matches are serviceable. If you go online-only, complete with cross-play, you could register for or pay Bucks for different Tournaments or go through a brief King of the Battleground. There are times when things might seem a bit glitchy or average, but it generally seemed more stable than a launch WWE 2K game.
It also generally does a good job with representation too. You can tell the launch line-up attempts to pay tribute to both new and old wrestlers, with icons like Andre the Giant, Mankind, The Rock, Sgt. Slaughter, and Yokozuna alongside newer faces like Asuka, Bayley, Bray Wyatt, Naomi, and Xavier Woods. There are some rather obvious omissions, like Nia Jax’s recent tag team partner Shayna Baszler. Also, for as highly touted as the color commentary duo of Mauro Ranallo and Jerry “The King” Lawler is, it’s rather bland and you tend to hear the same sound bites repeatedly.
WWE 2K Battlegrounds is striking for its simplicity. It is the game equivalent of a popcorn flick. This is something goofy, simple, affordable, and likely intended to be enjoyed in brief bursts. The Campaign and Battleground Challenge are each presented in bite-sized chunks. The various matches never tend to go over five minutes. Everything is quick and breezy, with systems that put everyone on equal footing. It’s not incredibly deep, the characters don’t always look great, and all the stuff with price-tags on it can be daunting, but it’s surprisingly entertaining. Especially if you’re jumping in for quick bursts and want a goofy wrestling game anyone can enjoy.