WWE 2K Battlegrounds (7)

It goes without saying that last year’s WWE 2K20 is the worst WWE game there ever was, the worst there is, and the worst there ever will be. A cataclysm in a DVD-shaped shell, 2K’s Creative Concepts team was wholly unprepared to receive the baton that longtime WWE wrestling game studio Yukes had passed to them. Long story short, WWE 2K20 represented a new low for the annual franchise, the very bottom of the wrestling barrel.

There’s a certain beauty in that. When you hit your lowest point, you’re open to the greatest of changes. WWE 2K Battlegrounds is that change, a last-minute entry in 2K’s Royal Fumble that developer Saber Interactive whipped up in record time. Is it better than WWE 2K20? Absolutely. It’s just not that much better.

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That’s a shame, because WWE 2K Battlegrounds is exactly what the wrestling scene needs right now: A Saturday morning cartoon slobber-knocker, featuring character designs that would look right at home on Celebrity Deathmatch. There’s a lot that WWE 2K Battlegrounds gets right, but every win in its column comes with an asterisk next to it.

For starters, the combat is brilliant until the cracks start to show. Easily the most accessible WWE game since THQ’s Smackdown Vs. RAW series came to an untimely demise, WWE 2K Battlegrounds focuses on quick strikes, outlandish grapples and ring-breaking finishers. Split across five primary archetypes (Powerhouse, Brawler, All-Rounder, Technician, or High-Flyer), you’re able to quickly throw some bones or lock in a submission and not need roughly 37 fingers for the mini-games that core WWE 2K games have made use of.

WWE 2K Battlegrounds (10)

While it’s an easy system to get into, it’s also an incredibly shallow one that’s about as deep as a children’s inflatable pool. There’s a little bit more interactivity to the locations you’re able to ply your painful trade in at least, such as throwing opponents into a gigantic ringside alligator or remote control a homicidal goat in the Mexican level, but what could have been a surprisingly flexible system feels undone by shoddy hit detection and the roughest of edges.

Sure, you can augment your wrestler with power-ups, but other than a useful power-pin, activating flaming fists or increasing your durability doesn’t exactly feel like a game-changer.But it’s the overall balance that feels off, as numerous other hastily-implemented ideas show off a half-baked approached. Want to reverse a move? You’ll need to tap into the Speed Force to do so as such opportunities are fleeting at best.

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Want to put on a five-star match? Good luck doing that when the audience demands become incredibly fickle and sometimes don’t even reward you when you give them what they ask for. Want decent commentary from Jerry “The King” Lawler and Mauro Ranallo? Well you actually will get that. Again. And again and again until the end of time as the limited selection of lines and incorrect spot callouts are constantly repeated.

There’s not much meat to the campaign mode either, as WWE 2K Battlegrounds focuses on Paul Heyman and Stone Col Steve Austin’s attempts to form a new league within the WWE. The comic book pages between chapters are decent, seeing Stone Cold tell people to suck it as he enjoys retirement is a treat and the rookies you mold into Wrestlemania main eventers are entirely alright, but there’s absolutely nothing that feels memorable across a slog of different matches on your way to the grandest stage of them all.

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Battleground Challenge is the exact same, albeit with a custom superstar that you can pour time, resources and effort into taking from pre-show fodder all the way to the top of the card. All those misgivings aside, WWE 2K Battlegrounds would have been a brilliant mindless party game, wrestling junk food with friends thanks to a semi-decent selection of modes and a stacked roster of the WWE’s finest, were it not for one factor that’ll have you throwing in the towel in the shortest I Quit Match ever:

Those damn microtransactions.

If you’ve ever seen a game with a 2K logo on it, you’re already prepared for microtransactions, but WWE 2K Battlegrounds’ use of them feels grossly invasive. They’re present in every single corner of the game, executed in a manner that shows how the publisher had no idea how to market the game to an audience that just wants to have a good time after a hard day, not invest their mind, body, and soul into a badly-disguised live service experience.

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For starters, the majority of the WWE roster is locked behind a paywall. When you start the game, you have access to 24 members of the roster out of the 70-strong cast. The rest can be earned through the main campaign (which numbers in literally hundreds of matches), or you can buy them straight away using the Battle Bucks that are doled out for leveling up, finishing matches, and completing daily challenges.

The problem here, is that these Battle Bucks are earned at the rate of a mere trickle at the best of times, while fan-favourite superstars such as AJ Styles, Triple H, and Seth Rollins cost an absurd amount of coin to unlock, as well as their alternative outfits. Battle Bucks are excruciatingly slow to get your hands on, and even worse, that price tag increases when you make use of the limited custom superstar creation suite to build your dream grappler. You could forgive WWE 2K Battlegrounds for having a more limited wardrobe to play with, but locking movesets and finishers behind that paywall?

That’s just obscene.

WWE 2K Battlegrounds (5)

Of course you can get around this barrier with the most powerful weapon in all of sports entertainment: A credit card. The premium Golden Bucks can be purchased, if you’re prepared to shell out anywhere from R89/$4.99 for 500 Golden Bucks to an absurd R800/$50 for 6500 units of the premium currency. Some of the top tier superstars alone will cost you 300 of these Golden Bucks, as well as an additional 150 units of the premium currency, so you’re looking at paying a substantial amount for paywalled DLC if you’re in a rush.

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Still, I would grind away/get my credit card out for my beloved Empress of Tomorrow, Asuka.

Last Updated: September 25, 2020

WWE 2K Battlegrounds
WWE 2K Battlegrounds feels like a missed opportunity at the best of times. What could have been a mad breath of fresh air until WWE 2K22 comes along, is instead a boring grind that’s all style and no real substance. Invasive microtransactions tarnish the few remaining bright spots of this game, barely allowing it be okayfabe.
6.0
WWE 2K Battlegrounds was reviewed on PlayStation 4
60 / 100

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