WWE 2K Battlegrounds may be one of the most entertaining wrestling game releases in years.
After the troubled launches of WWE 2K19 and WWE 2K20, 2K has taken a year out from its mainline WWE releases and decided to create something a little more fun. As such, WWE 2K Battlegrounds doesn’t try to realistically emulate the sport. Instead, it’s much more of an arcade brawler with traditional fighting game sensibilities. And with wrestlers that are humorously proportioned.
Wrestlers in WWE 2K Battlegrounds fit into five classes: they’re either an all-rounder, technician, powerhouse, high-flyer, or brawler. Their class determines their basic moveset, so chances are you’ll be disappointed to find that many wrestlers effectively play the same. They each have their own special moves and finishers though, and the combat itself is fun for the most part. You can pull off simple combos by tapping the punch and kick buttons, and nearly everything else that you’d find in mainline 2K WWE game is here but in simplified form. But then there’s a layer of ridiculousness thrown on top.
You can expend a bit of stamina to pull off a flashy special move, for example. And as you play, a meter fills that enables you to activate numerous skills that can give you a boost for a limited time. You won’t be punished for making use of weapons, either, and some stages have interactive elements to make use of, such as a hungry crocodile. The most punishing and flamboyant special manoeuvres, however, are enabled by a heat gauge. It takes some time to fill, but when it’s finally there you can easily unleash a truly powerful attack that will rock your opponent. In fact, it can turn a match around.
The game’s campaign mode has you making your way through a story, with scenes unfolding via a comic book. In the events between the turning of pages, however, you’ll not be taking control of any of the superstars you know and love. WWE 2K Battlegrounds’ campaign mode is in fact more like a tutorial for the five classes of wrestlers available, and so you’ll eventually take control of seven brand-new wrestlers purely created for the game. Thankfully they’re all fairly likable.
On Switch, following WWE 2K Battlegrounds‘ story can be a hassle due to the terribly small text used in its comic book scenes. Playing docked on a TV obviously makes things better, but instead you’ll find that the same comic book scenes are horribly pixelated. You’re better off sticking to another console version or PC if possible if that matters to you. Otherwise though, it’s a fairly entertaining experience that gets you up to speed with the mechanics of the game while allowing you to unlock additional WWE Superstars for use in other modes and more.
WWE 2K Battlegrounds has even more single-player fun instore for those who wish to create their own wrestler and lead them to success. Character creation options are a little cut-down from the mainline releases, but you can still have fun creating a wide variety of wrestling monstrosities. Then, when you’re happy with how your wrestler looks, you can assign them a class before jumping into Battlegrounds mode to lead them through a massive number of events. As you go, you’ll power them up, increasing their stats and unlocking new skills that can be assigned to them.
Outside of those two meaty modes, male and female exhibition matches can be created, allowing you to quickly jump into all the match types you’d expect, including one-on-one, tag team, triple threat, steel cage and royal rumble. There are a duo of online-focused modes, too. Tournament mode unsurprisingly offers up numerous tournaments, each with their own rules and restrictions. You’ll need to pay with either in-game or real money to enter most of them, however, and they change on a regular basis.
And then there’s King of the Battleground mode, which challenges up to eight players to stay in the ring for the longest amount of time possible. It’s enjoyable enough, and crossplay gives you the best chance of finding a match, but WWE 2K Battlegrounds‘ combat system isn’t at its best when facing of against multiple opponents – your character will often aim their attacks at a competitor that really isn’t a threat. Also, it’s worth mentioning that whenever there are four or more fighters involved in a match on Switch, the resolution takes a noticeable hit. And it’s not the sharpest game to begin with.
So far, so good for the most part then. WWE 2K Battlegrounds is brought to its knees by the same issue that plagues most of 2K’s sporting titles though: the need to grind, coupled with almost predatory monetisation.
You earn Battle Bucks for every match you participate in in WWE 2K Battlegrounds. You earn quite a bit via rewards, too. But as you need Battle Bucks to unlock a vast number of the game’s WWE Superstars as well as additional outfits, tournaments, and more, you never have enough. Honestly, you’d probably need to play the game for over a hundred hours to unlock everything. Unless you pay with real money, of course. And to make matters even worse, you can’t earn rewards such as Battle Bucks when playing offline. It’s not too bad when playing on PS4, Xbox One or PC, but on Switch, it renders handheld mode pretty much useless in many circumstances.
There’s a bit of a budget feel to WWE 2K Battlegrounds, thanks to its shared movesets and story presentation. Despite that though, it’s actually quite endearing to play, and it’s easy to have fun with it. Get a friend or two to play it in local multiplayer with you, and it really is a blast. It’s just a shame that so much of its content is locked away, forcing you to either grind for it, or fork out yet more cash to unlock it quickly. It really puts a downer on things, especially on Switch where if you’re playing outside of your home in handheld mode chances are you’ll be blocked from earning in-game currency.