Game Reviewed On A PS4 Pro & All Images Captured In-Game
As is the tradition in the world of WWE Games being released every year, after the hugely divisive reaction to WWE 2K last year, we have WWE 2K Battlegrounds in 2020.
Before divulging into the review, I would like to point out that WWE2K was a hugely critical game, with last-gen graphics, a boring campaign, and an overall lack of any useful addition, which strongly influenced the style for WWE2K Battlegrounds.
It may also seem, to take the “Heat” away from the WWE2K disappointment, Battleground’s inception was to detract away from the realistic style of wrestling expected of such games. From a technical point of view, Battlegrounds does not require much to run, nor space required, coming in at under 10 Gigs of memory.
The game offers a campaign which has a linear pathway to unlock more superstars, collect bucks which allow you to unlock pretty much everything in the game such as, progress the story through a comic strip style narrate, unlock more power up’s and pretty much go through different arena’s and locations from swamplands to Detroit.
The campaign if followed directly in a straight line can be finished in approximately 3 hours but if you want to make more money, unlock more wrestlers either male or female, you can follow the branches of the story up or down and this puts you through pretty much all the different type of matches.
Royal Rumble, Steel Cage, Fatal Four-Way are some of the well-known and familiar matches the game put you through when playing the campaign and occasionally being challenged by a superstar or tag team matches can also be expected.
Although I liked the Comic style used to progress the story, it was quite sublime and as fun, as it is having Stone Cold being our mentor, he was quite a subdued character (story-wise) and does not offer much to spice or turn things up other than follow characters around.
There are no surprise events happening or anything out of the scripted ordinary. It was a timid affair and honestly, a slog to go through. Around 20% into the campaign and I felt it was a chore, which is definitely the last thing Developers Saber Interactive would have wanted.
You play through 7 rookies who are put through training by ‘Stone Cold Steve Austin’. The story campaign involves different types of matches and thereby come into contact and sometimes conflict, with other wrestlers.
It’s quite generic in essence, the saving grace being how playing as a different type of wrestler. ranging from Brute strength Power House, to technical and more acrobatic wrestler, may tempt the player to change their style of play. More to say on this in the gameplay section below
Apart from the Campaign, there are other gameplay modes. The most popular being Men & Women’s exhibition mode which includes the bulk of all matches, although the lack of some historical and iconic match types such as ‘Hell In A Cell’ to ‘Elimination Chambers’ is sorely missed!
The bare-bones tutorial in the game is a big let down. Although I’ve been a WWE/WWF fan since the early ’80s with Hulk Hogan & Andre The Giant in their prime, I found it a bit frustrating to understand all the move variety.
I noticed when playing WWE2K from the get-go, within the first few hours, Battlegrounds made me miss the older games from the Smackdown Vs Raw era in the mid to late 2000s when it came to the move set, to the execution and overall feel of gameplay.
Although the player can always go into options and look at the move list, the way the game is designed, apart from pulling the generic 4-6 moves, there is no fluidity I was expecting from the game. Also the counter system gives a lot of time to react to button presses thereby making most of my online matches just a dance-off, where we each just kept countering each other.
To elaborate more on the different classes of wrestlers you can choose to play as in Battlegrounds when for instance you are playing as a technician class (where your wrestler is quick and should be able to run circle’s around his/her opponent), I found the gameplay stiff and no real advantage of supposedly having the agility and speed. In the end, I resorted to using the same easier and generic move’s I would use for any other class.
Another sore point was the move list, I did not expect much variety but given that it’s 2020 and games have taken on a whole new level and depth, my low expectations were not met. This kept me away from enjoying the game as this spelled the lack of thought & finesse put into gameplay.
The gallery below depicts the overwhelming feeling you get when browsing through the move list, tutorial, the different tiers for upgrading moves, and how overall stats improve once you upgrade your superstar.
As thrilled as I was looking at these, after playing the whole campaign and dabbing into a lot of exhibition matches to daily challenges, I could only earn enough bucks to unlock a handful of superstars and upgrade 3 moves in total.
It seems the focus on microtransactions may have kept Sabre Interactive from balancing the game more appropriately that as a player you are rewarded more adequately. The current game, as it stands, seems to demand a lot of playtime to unlock things naturally and the gameplay just isn’t enticing or captivating enough for even wrestling veterans to keep slogging away.
The positive’s in the gameplay can be attributed to the hilarious tongue in cheek over the top action style. Pulling off special moves where wrestlers are jumping over 20 feet landing chokeslams to unnatural piledrivers does not get old and that is a big draw to this type of gameplay.
Some may say this game does not look like a 2020 game, which was never the intent of the developers it seems in the first place. After the furor towards WWE2K with the blame being heavily on sub-standard visuals, WWE 2K was conceived to push gameplay and over the top arcadey style visuals over anything else.
The visuals for the most part look great and the moves deliver the thump or ‘smackdown’ expected from a wrestling game, although the technical glitches are a massive letdown.
Issues like slowdowns in fatal four-way matches when interacting with a vehicle outside the ring are what really frustrate. Personally having the game shut down 2-3 times was a hassle and eating away at my patience and something that should have been addressed given that the age currently has had over 6 patches already!
Character customization is another thing I was looking forward to and as we have experienced in recent remakes/remaster’s of games like Saint’s Row The Third, it was not the case in WWE2K. The customization is very basic and mostly what we have seen in the past. It just shows that effort put into it was minimal and a very superficial end result.
Customization should always be at the forefront of any Wrestling game, especially Battlegrounds as there is a mode for where you can progress with your custom-created character through a plethora of matches to unlock a lot of content in the game.
To conclude when it comes to visuals, Saber Interactive did a good job. It would have been a great job if there were no graphical glitches, slowdown’s when interacting with the environment or multiple characters but overall the game looks nice and works well with bombastic death-defying super moves and finishers the characters pull off.
AUDIO & MUSIC
LIstening to the theme song ” Glory” By “The Score” the first few times was really awesome. It gave the adrenaline rush appropriate for a wrestling game, but then I found out that whatever mode you are viewing it never changes!
The same theme song got old and I wish there were multiple theme songs, as it does not age well to your ears when listening to it every time you go to the main menu.
The general music selection in the game works well, most tracks have an electro/pop feel to it and you get this action “Ready To Rumble” feeling which is necessary to enjoy such a game, most important with Battlegrounds, as I’ve outlined above, because everything else gets stale after a few hours.
A big disappointment was the entrance music for newer wrestlers, it’s very unoriginal and basic, nothing exciting and most tracks seem to be recycled. The most fun part was having older superstars like Hulk Hogan, Triple H, The Rock come out to their iconic tunes, now that was exciting although a minimum requirement to be frank I kept seeing myself doing that.
The audio works well for the game once again and might be one of the most exciting bits in the whole game when you pull of these beyond earthly finishers and super moves.
WWE 2K Battlegrounds is a mediocre wrestling game with ambitions of producing an over the top arcadey visual game that delivers but it falls flat, not the Rock Bottom we wanted! This can be considered a party mode game which you would pick up when a group of friends want to play CO-Op but don’t expect to spend more than an hour at most, as it lacks depth when it comes to the move set and a stale and uninspiring, boring campaign really pull it back!
Microtransactions hold the game back as it shows what the developer’s real motivations were and as a saving grace for the abysmal WWE2K20, Battlegrounds is not a good replacement.
Wrestling fans will have to wait for more to play a worthy wrestling game but in the meantime, if you want a WWE game that takes inspiration from WWE All-Stars, with low expectations, consider BattleGrounds if you like feeding opponents to Alligators or being thrown to the sky by a Ram!