In the wake of the less than lackluster launch of WWE 2K20, 2K put their flagship franchise on hiatus to build a bigger, better game. In the meantime, the company announced WWE 2K Battlegrounds, an arcade style fighting game geared to showcase WWE Superstars in a different way.

Arcade vs Simulation (Gameplay)

WWE 2K Battlegrounds focuses on an arcade style experience. With that in mind, the control scheme is a simplified version of what you would expect from a classic fighting game relying on the use of combos. There are still aspects of wrestling, of course. Certain moves, or “throws”, require positioning. For example, you must be near the top rope to climb and dive, opponents must be outside the ring to perform tope dives and so on.

In-ring performance utilizes simplistic face button controls. Since I was on PS4, square and triangle were used in the bulk of combos. Surprisingly, the Right-Thumbstick handles supporting a set of moves. Something reminiscence of older WWE control schemes. Unlike its simulation counterparts, Battlegrounds features traditional blocking, allowing superstars to mount a guard against incoming attacks. Timing a block then leads into being able to parry or counter as one would see in live professional wrestling. Again, movement and bell to bell action is simple and fast-paced. Like other combo based games, it may lend itself to button-mashing. However, a quick look at the combo list should quell that.

The combos themselves tend to be three buttons in total, and vary slightly from character to character. Move variation and combo list depend on the superstar’s class. There are five total classes: High-flyer, Technician, All-rounder, Brawler, and Powerhouse. I did not sit and play as every single superstar (many are locked at start), but the bulk of everyone’s movesets seem to be determined by their class. So, in a four way match consisting of all high-flyers, you are bound to see repeat moves. Due to this, I highly advised learning the combos of each class to keep the variation as high as possible.

Presentation

By now, every knows the game presents the superstars with cartoonized versions of the real life counterparts, much like WWE All-Stars of old. And like the older title, WWE 2K Battleground does not spare efforts in the effects department. Flashy effects accompany moves along with action style camera angles. In terms of user-interface, the menus are easy to navigate and are pretty straightforward. This streamlined feel maintains the fast-paced environment the arcade focus aims for.

I’d be hard pressed to find a complaint in terms of the game’s overall presentation. Graphically, the game is solid as it does not aim for a realistic look. The animations are smooth even on a first generation PlayStation 4.

As someone who prefers the realistic aesthetic of simulation games, WWE 2K Battlegrounds has its own visual charms.

Saber Interactive was clearly particular in delivering a well-polished product. This counts for both performance and visual aesthetics.

Game Modes

WWE 2K Battlegrounds has a very simple game loop: fight, earn xp and currency, unlock rewards. Several modes make up this experience. From the main screen, players can access:

  • Store – a quick stop for purchasing in-game currency and rotating superstar booster packs
  • Superstars – allows player to purchase specific superstars and their alternate attires
  • News – keeps informed about updates, deals and more surrounding WWE 2K Battlegrounds
  • Daily Challenges – offer additional XP and rewards through various objectives completable in any mode

Character and Battleground Creation modes allows the creation of your own character and battleground. The suite is not a comprehensive as the Creation Suite. Most items need to be unlocked. Expect to spend some time playing before creating a really awesome character. That said, the experience is smooth and intuitive albeit lacking depth. The Battleground creation process is simple as well with official WWE elements needing to be unlocked through in-game currency.

Lastly, the Play mode is broken down into several additional modes ranging from exhibitions to a dedicated campaign mode.

  • Exhibition (Men), Exhibition (Women) – Battlegrounds has two exhibition modes, one for each gender of competitors available. Both modes feature 1v1, 2v2, four ways, triple threats, gauntlet, and the Royal Rumble. Tag matches feature tornade and cage match variations, while 1v1 also has a cage match variant.
  • Battleground Challenge – A mode dedicated to progressing and boosting created superstars through a series of match types.
  • Tournament and King of the Battleground require online access and act as the game’s online modes. King of the Battleground is an online melee where the last man standing wins. The base tournament mode provides a bit more variation to online play with various match types.
  • In campaign, players progress through a comic book story mode with challenges and unlocks. The narrative depicts Paul Heyman greenlit to start a new promotion then partner with Steve Austin to find recruits across the globe to compete on their home turf or “battleground”. For each battleground location, players compete as various newcomers against WWE Superstars.

The Verdict

Strictly speaking, WWE 2K Battlegrounds is a solid game. The arcade focus produces replayability as players return to unlock ongoing content. If you enjoyed WWE All-Stars, I do not see you would not enjoy WWE 2K Battlegrounds.

However, if you’re like me, the lack of complexity can be underwhelming. Although Saber Interactive hit all the right beats with Battlegrounds, this game is not innovative in its genre. There’s a vacuum left in the wake of the WWE 2K hiatus. As expected, WWE 2K Battlegrounds does not fill it.

In a nutshell, WWE 2K Battlegrounds is a moderately entertaining arcade fighting game employing the most obvious monetization efforts.


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WWE 2K Battlegrounds Review: A Decent Midcard Debut
  • 7/10
    Gameplay - 7/10
  • 8.5/10
    Game Modes - 8.5/10
  • 8/10
    Presentation - 8/10
  • 7/10
    Longevity - 7/10
Overall
7.63/10