The WWE franchise, just like its games, have been through the ringer more times than anyone can count. But the one thing that WWE has, it’s staying power. This stands true for its games as well. After the colossal mess that was last year’s WWE 2K20 (pretty much like the year it was named after), this year the franchise takes a different approach in the form of a more casual family game. Instead of focusing on technicalities, the new WWE 2K Battlegrounds focuses more on accessibility, fast-paced action, and is generally over-the-top in every way. It is a way to bring in new fans to the franchise, without encumbering them with too many techniques and maneuvers to master. The game also adds fun extras like interactive elements around the rings, power-ups and abilities, and a decent number of match modes to keep things interesting. But there are a few caveats that stop it from becoming great, which we’ll discuss in the course of the review.
Let’s start with the presentation. The deformed characters do have a bit of a charm to them – an opinion that is highly subjective depending on whom you’re asking. Still, for a game like this, having accurate character representation probably would not work as well as these sillier avatars that look more like toys of the actual wrestlers. This carries forward to the overall art style of the game itself, which relies on a comic for narration and looks like a kid’s cartoon overall. The ring movements, and impacts too have a comical feel to it, where certain animations happen too fast, or with a stream of light around your character’s arms.
That said, it does have several cutbacks that give it a very low-production value. The overall visuals do not look too sharp, even on the PlayStation 4 Pro which was the platform used to review the game. Then there are the entrances – everyone comes out of a box for some reason instead of making the character’s actual iconic entrance. It is a weird cutback that doesn’t make much sense. The overall narrative of the campaign mode is done through a comic book, which I would complain about a lot more if it wasn’t funny. The quality of humour on the panels make it worth reading.
Though not as in-depth as the regular WWE 2K series, there are quite a few moves to master. The move list is well rounded with punches, kicks, grapple moves and more. There is enough to fill a match and keep your opponent on his/her toes.
However, aside from signature moves and finishers the move sets are limited to the fighter type that each wrestler is classified under. So, all wrestlers classified as brawlers will have the exact same moves, regardless of gender. Needless to say, it starts to play out as repetitive since the wrestlers start to feel like palette swaps of their respective categories rather than unique characters.
The technical character class in particular carries a disadvantage, in the sense that they can’t pull off certain power moves against the more powerful classes. For example, certain stages or ‘battlegrounds’ have traps that can be triggered by picking and tossing your opponent into them. If you are a technical wrestler facing off against a smaller class, then you will not be able to lift your opponent at all. Sure, it’s realistic, but I think it would be a lot more fun if Rey Mysterio could pick and toss The Undertaker into traps. The design of the game calls for these ridiculous moments, and it is weird that they decided to go realistic for this particular mechanic.
The campaign mode takes you through the story where ex-WWE Superstar, Stone Cold Steve Austin, goes on a recruitment spree for the franchise’s new IP – Battlegrounds. So, the campaign has you play as six fictional wrestlers to familiarise you with each fighting style that I spoke about earlier. What’s weird is that the game has a Create a Superstar mode where you can create your own character, but you can’t run him/ her through the campaign. In fact, there is a separate Battleground Challenge mode for that character.
Then there’s the unlockables, which gets pretty annoying as the game expects you to grind through the campaign for not just power-ups and gear but also to unlock superstars. The problem with that is that the campaign sees some major difficulty spikes that aren’t easy to overcome. So from matches where you would entirely dominate over your opponents, you’re suddenly presented with a progression wall where almost all your moves are reversed by an opponent that’s clearly more powerful than the character you’re controlling.
Of course, there is the option to unlock everything through micro-transactions, but it’s not ideal for a game that already costs Rs. 2,499.
Multiplayer is where the game shines, be it local or online. Especially King of the Battleground which is the game’s take on Royal Rumble. The open mode allows players from around the world to join in and have a chance of winning the 30-person tournament for in-game currency. Online tournament is fun as well and the rewards make it totally worth it since they get better with each fight.
There are technical glitches that mar the experience, like missing animation frames when a throw maneuver or reversal is performed, and occasional frame drops. Nothing game-breaking was encountered though.
WWE 2K Battlegrounds is not an expensive game considering prices of the new games, and it is fun in multiplayer, be it online or local. What works against it is the shallowness of the overall experience. You would be done with most of it in a week or less, and there will be little to get you back. If the superstars had moves and animations that actually represented their real-world counterparts, then a lot could be forgiven. WWE is all about personality, and sadly that’s exactly what this game is lacking.