Developer: Saber Interactive
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Version Reviewed: eShop Download
Category: Action, Fighter, Party
No. of Players: Up to 4 players
Release Date: September 18th, 2020 (Worldwide)
Price: Standard – $39.99 USD , Digital Deluxe – $49.99
The WWE franchise of video games has had a turbulent few years to say the least. From lackluster releases to nearly unplayable installments for the main WWE 2K franchise, wrestling fans all over patiently awaited the day a true return to form wrestling game would come to light. After simulation-based gameplay took over following the disintegration of THQ, all hope was erased. Would there ever be a game quite like 2011’s WWE Allstars to scratch the itch longtime fans have been waiting for?
Prior to 2K acquiring the rights to the WWE franchise, arcade-style video games appeared to be the norm as people of all ages could pick up a controller and button mash their way to victory. Once simulation gameplay took over, it took more skill for players to jump in which minimized the player base.
Each installment became more and more like the last which mimicked what other yearly sports franchises have been doing for decades. However, the wrestling community had enough after being bamboozled with yet another yearly release in the form of WWE 2K20.
Rather than release another broken release in the form of WWE 2K21, the decision was made to release the first arcade-like wrestling game published by 2K ever since Take-Two Interactive acquired the license in early 2013. From initial trailers and early previews, this appeared to be what fans had been hoping for.
With a large roster of current and former superstars, plenty of different game modes, this began to look like the complete package. But did WWE 2K Battlegrounds prove to be a textbook release or was it a sloppy attempt to rekindle the love of wrestling games of old?
Let’s cut to the chase early: wrestling games have never been known to carry out wonderfully written stories. They are always wacky, random, and yet they always manage to take place within the WWE universe. Although WWE 2K Battlegrounds’ main gimmick is tied to the exhibition offerings, the campaign does its job as a warm-up for what the full game provides. In order to complement the game’s unique cartoony art style, the campaign mode is told through a comic art style in a way that resembles WWE comics of the past.
Rather than play as one of the over seventy real-life superstars currently available in the game, players are provided with a nice variation seven to choose from original superstars in order to build them up towards fame and glory. This slightly resembles the strong single-player offerings of the modern 2K wrestling simulation series where an original character is brought in to obtain legend status.
The difference this time around is that players are given goals to complete throughout the course of the campaign. As someone looking to obtain superstar status within the WWE, you are selected by the legendary manager/agent Paul Hayman who is looking to sign and welcome some new talent into the business.
Throughout the campaign, players compete in a wide variety of different match-ups (which will be touched on later) in order to gain a contract with the WWE. Completionists can rest easy as there are plenty of rewards to obtain through the side-content within the main campaign, including different arenas, cosmetics, and more.
The complete package offered through the campaign may sound appealing, but completion leaves a lot to be desired. Matches are very repetitive and it feels as though you are repeating the same thing over and over again to progress. There is no sense of satisfaction as the campaign itself is rather short and lackluster compared to other wrestling campaigns from previous installments.
Although not the most enjoyable campaign imaginable, it still offers a decent enough introduction to the entirety of the package, but here is where the cracks begin to show as the game continues on its downward trend after this introduction. If not for the plentiful number of rewards and unlockables, there would be essentially no reason to play through the campaign.
WWE 2K Battlegrounds is a gimmick-filled playground. The gameplay loop is similar to other budget wrestling games on the market with the major difference here being the addition of power-ups, fantasy arenas, and a plethora of randomness.
Controls are fairly basic as the style returns to a sort of button spamming nature where those who are looking to have some quick fun can pass a controller and jump into a quick match. After testing this out myself, the realization hit quite fast that the loop for WWE 2K Battlegrounds is quite shallow in comparison to any other wrestling game.
Even with all of the gimmicks and “personality” amongst the cast of superstars and arenas, the game has a very rushed vibe to it. Gimmicks are only interesting after the first few matches and quickly begin to feel overdone after seeing them repeatedly. Electrified steel cage matches are interesting at first, but after seeing it a few times the urge to move on hits like a bus.
Although the cast of playable superstars is seventy at launch with more scheduled to come, some newer familiar faces are absent which is confusing as there are some characters that definitely belong and aren’t present yet. The cast may sound quite large and impressive however each character feels like a copy/pasted skin of the last.
Superstars are split into different classes based on attributes such as health, stamina, speed, and move variations but categories are seemingly meaningless as it was hard to distinguish the differences during a match. As stated previously, standard match-ups are incredibly quick so going through the trouble of selecting a character with the best stats against the chosen opponent is meaningless. The five classes are all-rounder, brawler, high-flyer, powerhouse, and technician.
CONTENT & FEATURES:
Having a more concise experience that focused on the core gameplay and ensured that each superstar fought similarly to their real-life counterpart would have gone a long way for WWE 2K Battlegrounds. There are so many ideas packed in but that wasn’t necessarily the best way to go.
The vast majority of superstars need to be unlocked which cost points that can be accumulated by playing through the various modes. Had the main experience been a good one, there would be no problem with unlocking characters.
It’s just the fact that the package is so barebones that the average player is less likely to unlock most of the characters they would enjoy playing as. Even though the characters play nearly identically, having your favorite character to play as is more interesting than playing as someone random.
Just going by the numbers, quantitatively there is a lot to do but quantity does not favor quality especially in a video game that puts itself out there as a “return to form”. Having exhibition matches, King of the Battleground, online multiplayer tournaments, challenges, and a basic character creator would be plenty had there been a reason to play the game for more than a few hours.
As a game built to last player’s until the next installment of the mainline WWE2K franchise, Battlegrounds fails to leave a lasting impression even with all of the different modes and gameplay options available both locally and online.
The soundtrack for WWE 2K Battlegrounds is fine. Nothing more and nothing less. There are a few licensed tracks and each superstar comes included with their entrance themes which are enjoyable to hear the first time around, but players will skip them after playing through a few matches.
The sound effects present here are exactly what has become expected of wrestling games. Since this game goes for a less-realistic approach, listening to weapons being smacked around and players clashing both in and out of the ring sound just like one would expect. The commentary team is just as good as ever with the addition of Mauro Ranallo with very few occurrences where the commentators would speak of a superstar, not in the match, or call a move that wasn’t performed.
VISUALS & PERFORMANCE:
Visually, WWE 2K Battlegrounds is a mixed bag. Some superstars are done really well and look fine in this art style while others look too bubbly and rough. Going with this style most likely led the game to be on the Nintendo Switch in the first place so it gets a pass.
Unfortunately, the game does struggle quite a bit on the Nintendo Switch when multiple people performing high caliber moves all at the same time. Several updates have been released since the game launched to improve stability but this problem still persists.
Most of all the game struggles after breaking the ring after hitting a special move. During normal combat and while playing single-player the game runs fine, but there is a noticeable drop once more players are added and more moves are being done.
Especially noticeable is the awful resolution when playing in handheld mode. Text is blurry, superstars are very blurred, and the game looks as though it can barely run. Docked mode looks much clearer, but handheld mode is not the ideal way of playing. Some of the load times are also quite ridiculous when loading a match, it was almost as though my game had frozen due to how long it took to load up a match.
WWE 2K Battlegrounds is not at all what I expected when 2K announced the title earlier this year. It had a lot of potential and I had quite high expectations following the disaster known as WWE 2K20 which made headlines for being such a broken mess last year. Looking even further back, the Switch received an utter failure of a port of WWE 2K18 so I had basically given up on wrestling games after being burned out time and time again.
However, seeing that 2K was listening to the fanbase and taking a year off from the main series gave me some hope. It seemed as though we would finally get an enjoyable and built-to-last wrestling game after years of disappointment. WWE 2K Battlegrounds tried pulling off a ton of different ideas yet still managed to collapse as the foundation was lacking from the start. Rather than put the game down and look towards the future with optimism, the game leaves me with even more questions as to what the future will hold for WWE games following this release.
Quite honestly it came as a surprise to me that any WWE wrestling game would come out this year after all. Having played WWE 2K Battlegrounds for quite some time, it’s safe to say that I have very little hope moving forward. The game is just not very fun. The least that could have been done is give each superstar their corresponding move-set rather than a generic copy and paste. Next time I will just grab an old console and play the classics rather than look towards the future.
WWE 2K Battlegrounds is unfortunately, everything despised about modern-day wrestling games bundled into one package and slapped onto the Nintendo Switch. It is uninteresting, barebones, and lacks the charm and replayability found in wrestling games of the past.
THE VERDICT: 5/10
*A download key was provided by the Publisher for the purposes of this review
To check out more reviews by the Miketendo64 Review Team, feel free to click here.Tags: 2K, Gaming, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch, videogames, WWE 2K Battlegrounds, WWE 2K Battlegrounds Review
This post was written by Ali@Nintendo