If there’s one thing that the past few iterations of WWE 2K taught us, it’s that the series was in need of a bit of fresh air. Now, WWE 2K Battlegrounds is here – is it a much-needed new direction, or at least something to tide us over for a while? We checked out the PS4 version of the game, which is also available for Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC.
A bit different from the ‘regular’ WWE 2K, Battlegrounds is much more arcade-oriented – and it looks that way too, with visuals that remind us of the classic arcadey titles and (more recently) the PS3 favorite WWE All-Stars. As such, it features much more accessible gameplay, emphasizing fun over the almost sim-like approach of the last few games that made it hard for casual players to get into the game.
That more frivolous approach carries over to the visual style as well, with less than realistic and cartoony wrestlers taking each other on and crazy over the top entrances that aren’t just fireworks and noise. You still get a story mode (featuring Paul Heyman and Steve Austin), but it’s meant to be accessible and fun to digest rather than deep and involved, with plenty of unlockables along the way.
Unlocking happens gradually and at a fairly rapid pace, which means it doesn’t feel like much of a grind to expand your roster and set of moves. Things (in terms of moves) never get very complex though, with a handful of character ‘types’ determining how you fight and a much smaller set of moves to master than in previous WWE 2K games. That’s going to disappoint veterans of the franchise, I’m sure, but those with only a casual interest in WWE finally have a game that’s easy to jump into again.
Developed by Saber Interactive of NBA Playgrounds fame, it’s no surprise when wrestlers suddenly fly high up in the air and experience some rough landings in the process, or when elements of the scenery are used as weapons for more over the top shenanigans – the arcade flair is strong with this one, and those who remember the days of NBA Jam and WWE Wrestlemania in the arcades will find something that resonates here – and that translates to the commentary style as well.
Even though we tested WWE 2K Battlegrounds post-release, we did experience a bit of instability and a few glitches here and there, so here’s hoping that Saber will be ironing out the experience a bit with an upcoming patch.
That won’t change the nature and core experience of that game though, which provides a drastic switch to an entirely different side of the spectrum when compared to the main WWE 2K games. Fans of those will lament a lack of gameplay depth in Battlegrounds, so Saber’s take on the franchise has a very specific audience for it – which makes us curious about the future of the WWE 2K games, wondering if we’ll see something that meets in the middle and brings both audiences together (a bit like All-Stars) or if we’ll see two different franchises emerge. For now, arcade fans should enjoy this one’s more casual take on wrestling.