The world of professional wrestling isn’t bound by reality or even the laws of gravity, which is why WWE 2K Battlegrounds sets the perfect stage for WWE’s roster of larger-than-life characters to Duke it out. While it does succeed in delivering gravity-defying action, it botches up the landing with its shallow combat and its overabundance of microtransactions. It is a fun party game, but the fun doesn’t quite stay with you after the party.
As a professional wrestling fan myself, I was hyped to play as one of my favorite wrestlers of the current generation. Unfortunately, WWE 2K Battlegrounds starts with letting you play with only a handful of Fan Favorites. Yes, you can play as The Immortal Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and The Rock, but to me, they’re all just nostalgic callbacks from an era that’s passed. Legends like them have already made tons of appearances in countless wrestling games over the decade, which ultimately led me to ask, Where the heck are the new bloods?
Well, they’re in WWE 2K Battlegrounds’ roster, but you gotta rescue them from the action figure type boxes they’re trapped in. The only way to get them out is to grind for virtual currency or like real-life action figures, you can pay for them with real cash. For an already full-priced game, you would expect more than a handful of characters to already be unlocked, but sadly wrasslin fans, that’s not the case here.
Controls for a party game should be simple and easy for anyone to pick up. Fortunately, WWE 2K battlegrounds’ controls are so simple, they can easily fit this paragraph. Square to punch, Triangle to kick, Circle to Irish Whip, X to grapple, R1 to block, and R2 to run. That’s it. This makes the game easily accessible to anyone who wishes to lace up their boots for some wrestling action, but all that simplicity comes with its own set of downsides.
Unlike wrestling simulation games, WWE 2K Battlegrounds’ roster of characters has very limited moves in their arsenal. Most of them throw strike combos the same way, have the same grapple moves, and are generally the same character, with only a few exceptions. Each Wrestler has unique signature moves and finishers and that’s basically it. Hitting the diving clothesline and Sister Abigail with The Fiend, Bray Wyatt is satisfying, but his other set of moves are disappointingly similar to other brawler type characters.
Speaking of Brawlers, each wrestler is classified into one of five character classes. First, the aforementioned brawlers, do heavy damage with strike combos. High flyers pull off crazy over the top moves from the ropes. Powerhouses have heavy strikes and can throw around their opponents with ease. Technicians specialize in grappling and have a higher chance of getting a tap-out win. Lastly, we have the All Arounders, which have some attributes taken from all the other character types. While, most of these classifications are spot on, like Finn Balor being a high flyer or Stone Cold being a brawler, there are some laughable ones like Nikki Bella being a Technician. These classes are fun to play around with, but like the other aspects of its combat, it feels a little too copypasta with most wrestlers of the same class having the same set of moves. This leads to the action getting pretty dull after only a couple of matches.
The Arenas where the matches take place on the other hand are pretty well done. You can take the fight to your opponent in Mexico, where you can grab a remote to take control of a goat to ram your opponent all around the arena. Or you could throw your foe into the jaws of an Alligator in the stands in Florida. Each arena has its own set of gimmicks, which is honestly a blast to play on. I would honestly consider the Arenas to be the highlight of WWE 2K Battlegrounds for me.
Lastly, WWE 2K Battlegrounds has a campaign mode that, on paper, has a very interesting story. Paul Heyman and Stone Cold Steve Austin go on a road trip to find the next great wrestling prospect. Unfortunately, the story is only told through drawn comic book pages, which are very few and offer very little context and are riddled with lines, that will make you cringe. You get to play as a couple of unknown wrestlers rising through the ranks to get to the WWE, but It’s the tale as old as time and previous iterations of wrestling games have done it a whole lot better.
Other game modes include the notorious cage match where the objective is to successfully climb out of the steel cage. Tag team matches, which offers interesting 2v2 action. Triple Threat and Fatal Four Way matches, which are just like ordinary matches, but with more people. While the other game modes are fun with a bunch of friends, I prefer to keep the chaos in check and stick with the 1v1’s.
Hitting finishing moves, climbing up the top of a cage, and hitting your opponent with a motorcycle is fun and WWE 2K Battlegrounds lets you do that, but the overabundance of microtransactions from cosmetics to unlocking wrestlers is made worst by its lack of depth in combat. If I was the great wrestling analyst Dave Meltzer, I’d give this match only 2.5 stars out of 5.