Game review: WWE 2K Battlegrounds
2019 was not a good year for WWE 2K20 mainly because it launched with lots of bugs and fans didn't like the overall game. Due to the failure of WWE 2K20, 2K Games decided to postpone the next main WWE video game until next year.
While we won't see the release of WWE 2K21 this year, we get another spin-off game instead called WWE 2K Battlegrounds. Unlike the main series, this game is an arcade-style game that serves as a spiritual successor to 2011's WWE All Stars from THQ.
WWE All Stars was a lot of fun because it simplified the controls and offered something different for wrestling fans. It was kind of like NBA Jam, but made for the professional wrestling industry.
Developer Saber Interactive has made WWE 2K Battlegrounds and sadly it's not as good as WWE All Stars. While the game tries its best to reinvigorate the stagnant WWE formula, it fails to click as the gameplay is not as fun and frantic as older WWE video games.
One thing that disappointed me about WWE 2K Battlegrounds is its overall design choices. While it is nice to see different wrestling arenas like a swamp and a military base, the character models are hit and miss. Wrestlers like Alexa Bliss and The Miz look nothing like their real-life counterparts. In this game, both wrestlers look like old people instead!
Another thing that this game is missing is full entrances. Entrances are usually the best part about WWE, but in this game, they've been cut very short. Wrestlers just stand on the staging area for a few seconds and they don't even get the chance to enter the ring itself. It just felt lazy not adding full entrances like in the main WWE video games.
Even though the game has a launch roster full of over 70 past and present wrestlers, unlocking all of them can be a big slog. Many fan favourites like AJ Styles, Becky Lynch and more aren't available until you get enough in-game credits to unlock them.
The main problem with earning in-game credits is that it takes a long time to afford all the wrestlers that you want. It will take players several hours to get a chance to buy every available wrestler. If you are too impatient to grind it out, you can pay using real money to unlock wrestlers the fast and easy way instead…
Much like other WWE video games, there is a single-player campaign for you to complete. In this game, you play as seven new wrestlers that have been recruited by both Paul Heyman and Stone Cold Steve Austin. The cutscenes are pretty cool because you're literally reading panels from a comic book. However, there are no voice-overs which is a disappointment.
In terms of gameplay, WWE 2K Battlegrounds is hit and miss on this too. Well, it can be fun executing all of the wrestlers' finishers; the core gameplay can be frustrating and repetitive. Completing the single-player campaign is a slog because the AI loves to block and counter your moves all of the time.
Triple Threat matches are even worse because your opponents keep waking up to break your pin attempts. That being said, cage matches are actually an improvement in this game. In order to climb out of the cage, you have to collect money first before you're allowed to escape. Cage matches also add electricity so you can fry your opponents too.
Saber Interactive also added several other new gimmicks in order to keep the gameplay fresh. You are able to chuck wrestlers at crocodiles and even control a goat to ram at your opponents. My favourite gimmick though is playing the bagpipes which literally hurt the opponent's ears!
The ring is also destructible depending on the type of moves that you do. You can still fight even if the ring has imploded which is a unique touch. You can also bring out several weapons that include chairs, hammers and even a motorcycle just to name a few.
As expected, wrestling moves are turned up a notch thanks to the game's arcade feel. Wrestlers will do insane jumps that aren't feasible to do in real life. The commentary team of Mauro Ranallo and Jerry ‘The King' Lawler are also always enthusiastic. They sound more excited compared to Michael Cole and Corey Graves from WWE 2K20.
WWE 2K Battlegrounds may have several match types and gimmicks; it's still missing other matches from WWE. This game does not have Hell in a Cell, Elimination Chamber or even any backstage fighting areas. Royal Rumble matches also feel toned down since only four wrestlers are allowed in the ring at the same time.
Outside the single-player mode and exhibition, one mode people might like is ‘King of the Battleground'. When this works, this mode is an online version of the Royal Rumble. While it can be fun, you will have to wait around for your turn if there are already four people in the ring. It's also worth mentioning most people online are only playing as the male wrestlers. You will have to wait longer if you want to play an all-female Royal Rumble online.
Online play was fine for me, but I actually experienced lag and glitches during single-player gameplay! It's rare to see lag in offline gameplay, but this was present here in WWE 2K Battlegrounds. Hopefully, the offline lag and glitches are addressed with future update patches.
While WWE 2K20 was a mess last year, it's sad for me to report that WWE 2K Battlegrounds is not much better either. The gameplay is simplistic and the AI can be very annoying in the single-player campaign. Not to mention you have to grind for hours if you want to unlock everyone. This game is only worth checking out if it's on sale in the near future.