WWE 2K Battlegrounds is taking a sharp turn from WWE’s ‘this is the real deal’ approach to an easy pick-up-and-play-one.
It’s been more than a decade since the wrestling franchise decided to switch its name from World Wrestling Federation to World Wrestling Entertainment. It was mostly due to the dispute with the World Wildlife Fund, but that helped to shush naysayers from bringing up the fact that much of its fights are staged. Entertainment is what drove the franchise to its glory. Sadly, recreating the same glory through video games was not smooth sailing. Especially the game from last year. It got choke-slammed out of the ring before it could even land a punch or two with the audience.
WWE 2K Battlegrounds rides that scepticism with caution. It’s a bold move from the franchise to let go of all its ‘oh-so-real’ antics and offer what the fans truly wanted - a good fighting game. Albeit, not always entirely a wrestling one.
Battlegrounds is something I would play with friends if they came over for dinner. Pass as many as 4 controllers around and you’ll have a fun night. Doesn’t matter if you’re a purist or no, the ease of pick-up and play is something most people can get behind.
The face buttons on the Xbox controller execute kick, punch, throw and pin. The shoulder buttons have block, run, pick-up object and combos mode. Each fighter also has three Power-Ups which can be used in a match using the arrow keys.
This basic layout can then be mixed and matched for combos and special abilities. None of which will require you to remember a spreadsheet-worth of move sets. It’s pretty simple and getting the hang of things takes a game or two. Quite like Tekken, minus the plethora of moves. To be fair, there is a healthy list of moves for returning and hardcore WWE fans. This is not a stripped-down version of the previous games but rather a rehaul of core mechanics to be inclusive and not laser-focused just for that one person who still watches WWE in your group.
2K seemed to have shifted away from the charismatic entrances for a rather comical one. Your character basically is dropped from the sky in a wooden container. The game doesn’t take itself seriously, which is fine and entertaining, but I was expecting a bit more theatrics from entrances. After all, it is WWE and not WWF. Characters seem a bit dead during entrances. Even their taunts ain’t very creative for something that looks like it’s cooked by a five-year-old with a crayon and an Arts degree.
Matches almost always end up with the ring getting squished to the floor. Gasoline tanks, crocodiles and car's rears are all around you waiting for a sorry opponent to get whacked.
Fighters are divided into five classes - Powerhouse, Technician, High-Flyer, Brawler and All-Rounder. Names are pretty much verbatim for what the fighters can do. That said, it’s a good way for players to choose their fighters depending on how they want their playstyle to pan out.
Even with a controller in hand, you can sometimes feel like a backseat driver. The action is not as toe-tapping or nerve-wracking as we’ve come to expect from fighting games. And most of it has to do with audio. The sound and background score doesn’t pump your blood the way Tekken or Super Smash Bros does. Albeit, neither of them is close to a wrestling game but even so, the background score needs a bit of polishing.
I am story what?
It’s evident that the game doesn’t want you to take it seriously but after coughing up a sizable dough, the game doesn’t respect your spent cash. Many of the wrestlers, and important /famous ones, are locked behind a tedious grind or worse, microtransactions.
The story mode puts you in the shoes of new and likeable characters as they rise through the levels to achieve WWE fame. It’s not the most interesting or compelling storyline. Heck, some wrestlers only unlock if you grind through these stories. So passing on the controller to friends and jumping into a round or two of button mashing is going to end up in disappointment when my loved ones find out that JOHN CENA IS NOT UNLOCKED! (This should’ve come with a trigger warning)
Processor: AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2920X; Liquid cooled by Corsair H115i RGB Platinum
GPU: Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti
Motherboard: Asus PRIME X399-A
RAM: 32GB of Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB
CPU Case: Corsair Obsidian 500D RGB
Keyboard: Kingston HyperX Alloy Elite RGB
Power Supply: Corsair AX850
There are plenty of features which we’ve seen 2K put into WWE games in the past, and the right ones that keep the WWE enthusiasm going are here. You can make your character and all that stuff but at what cost? After spending a good month with the game, I was only able to get myself to start the game because someone came over. Albeit, it was easy for non-gaming folks to get behind but the locked roster meant I have to put extra effort into unlocking them or else my friends simply don’t want to play if its not their favourite wrestler.
We also played this on PC and Nintendo Switch, the latter was a bit more fun because of how easy it was to boot up and get in and out. Although, you can’t play the game with one joy-con on the Nintendo. That means, if you’re in a flight or in transit and want to pass time with a buddy, passing the joy-con is not an option. You’ll need two controllers for this.
Battlegrounds is clearly not the game WWE fans were hoping and waiting for, it’s not perfect but it’s not all evil. Even if it’s rubbed with ‘pay-now-to-unlock-John-Cena’ or ‘grind-till-your-hair-turns-white’, the core game mechanics are actually fun. Nothing to compel gamers to come back unless that one friend shows up with WWE enthusiasm.