WWE 2K Battlegrounds
The game we're going to take a look at today is an interesting wrestling game/fighting game hybrid. Since I'm a huge fan of both genres; I was very intrigued to check this one out. Even its origins are fairly interesting...
WWE 2K Battlegrounds was created after the backlash and the negative reception that WWE 2K20 received. Players were annoyed at graphical problems and glitches in that particular game and who can blame them but, WWE games have been glitchy for almost a decade now, at least. I can understand wanting them to be fixed and ironed out but, after all these years, can you ever really expect them to be fixed? It kind of comes with the territory of playing a WWE game at this point.
Anyway, instead of trying to improve on their long-used formula for WWE 2K games; the folks at 2k Sports and Saber Interactive decided to go a whole other route and produce something new to replace what would have been WWE 2K21. This is that game. Released on September 18, 2020, for multiple platforms; WWE 2K Battlegrounds was intended to be an arcade-style, over-the-top version of a pro wrestling game. Sort of like 2K Sports' NBA Playgrounds is to basketball games. Sort of trade away some of the realism for some fast-paced action and multiplayer-style fun. If executed properly; that sounds like a fun time so, let's begin to check it out.
Upon first starting the game; we can see our modes of play options. You can compete in a male or female exhibition match, tournament, WWE Battleground Challenge which is sort of like a story mode without a story... if that makes sense. You get to create a custom wrestler and rise up the ranks of the WWE. There's also the campaign Mode which is the actual story mode featuring you as an up and comer aligning yourself with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Paul Heyman and the online multiplayer mode that's called King Of The Battleground. All in all, quite a nice and diverse selection of game modes for an arcade-style wrestling game.
I also have to give the game developers credit for including a nice roster, here. This game features almost 100 superstars of past and present. Well, 70+ at least. That's a pretty good number. Also, a lot of the legendary superstars are ones that haven't appeared in a WWE game for a long time, if at all. Superstars like Doink, The Boogeyman, Earthquake, Typhoon, and even "Latino Heat", himself, Eddy Guerrero! There are also a lot of returning, familiar faces that I love to play as on WWE games like Vader, Randy Savage, and Andre the Giant. All in all; I'd say this game has an amazing roster!
One downside is the fact that a lot of the superstars (especially most legends) are locked at the beginning of the game. That's not a downside in and of itself, per se but, you're enticed to unlock them through microtransactions of investing a few dollars into the game for each wrestler you want to unlock. You can also unlock them all by playing the game and grinding through it so, the choice is really up to you. I guess that's not so bad. The question is, "Do you want to unlock them the easy way or the hard way?".
We've taken a look at the various game modes available so let's now take a look at the different match types you can compete in. You can choose to play a singles or tag match (tornado tag or regular rules), a Royal Rumble, a Gauntlet match, a cage match, and a Fatal Four Way. For whatever reason; having a Triple Threat match is not an option and we're also missing other match types that are usually found on WWE games like, ladder, Hell In A Cell, and TLC matches. I'm sure the developers decided not to include these match types because they just didn't work with this style of game and, to be honest, they're no huge loss. They're all fun match types to play but they really wouldn't work here.
Cage matches are also tweaked in this game and feature the wrestlers running around the ring and climbing the cage in order to grab stacks of money to fill up your "money meter". Once your meter is full then you can escape the cage. The cage also pulses with electricity, off and on, sort of like the infamous Thunderdome cage from Halloween Havoc '89.
Alright, now we're finally gonna play this thing. When the matches start, you can see that we're not competing in regular WWE arenas here. We're competing in various "Battlegrounds" which seem to be like underground fight clubs. There is always a wrestling ring present but the rules are more "wide open" and weapons are always okay to use. Also, superstars don't make run-of-the-mill ring entrances in this game. They're literally dropped from the ceiling in a box and then bust out of the aforementioned box and make their way to the ring. Right away, this reminded me of Jim Cornette's infamous comment that "any wrestler that comes out of a box is instantly over".
Corny took a lot of shit for that comment from younger fans who perhaps don't know any better but I have to agree with him. Back in the day, if you burst out of a box on a wrestling TV show, you were, in fact, instantly over. Mind you that it helps that most wrestlers who used this interesting "reveal technique" were already over or even super-over and were just making a "surprise appearance" but bursting out of a box never hurt. Hell, sometimes you didn't even need a box. I remember Arn Anderson standing with a sheet draped over himself on an old episode of Smoky Mountain Wrestling from 1994 and his debut still shook up the wrestling world at the time! Anyway, I digress as I often do. Now, back to the game.
Once the matches start; we can get a feel for how this game controls. It's fairly different from your usual WWE 2K series entry. The game is more based on striking and not grappling. There are some grappling moves but they're far fewer than the ones you would see in other WWE games. Every superstar does have their finisher available, though. There's also a combo button to use to string your strikes together. The superstars also fall under different "classes" like a brawler, high flyer, or technician. These classes give you various strengths that aid you in victory. For example, technicians are very adept at pulling off submission moves and brawlers are good at... well, brawling. You can also assign different power-ups that your superstar can use throughout the battle. You're able to unlock and level up all power-ups by playing the campaign mode.
As far as fighting games go; the pace for 2K Battlegrounds is very, very slow. You won't need any split-second reflexes here to pull off a devastating combo and send your opponent flying into oblivion, that's for sure. That's not saying anything negative. I'm just saying that the speed here is more akin to the slow pace of a Mortal Kombat 11 fight as opposed to the lightning speed of a Dragon Ball FighterZ match. Battlegrounds also reminds me a little of MK 11 because, in both games, you're able to use aspects of your environment as a weapon as well. To be honest, MK 11 even has more elaborate grappling moves than this "wrestling game". The main differences here from other fighting games is the fact that you're still competing in a ring, under wrestling rules (pinfalls and submissions, etc), and you're not confined to a 2-D "battlefield".
Final verdict - This isn't a bad game to check out. The game developers wanted to give us something different than the usual run-of-the-mill, yearly WWE game and they did just that. I personally like it enough to be happy with my purchase of it. Like with most WWE games that I own; I did catch this one on sale so, that probably helps me to give a more positive review and have a more positive experience than some players. I played a few hours of this with my 7-year-old nephew and he really enjoyed it as well so, I think younger players would like it too.
Until next time... keep mashing those buttons!