MR. TITO: WWE 2K Battlegrounds Video Game Review Submitted by Mr. Tito on 09/19/2020 at 12:21 PM
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NOTE: I was going to attempt a Video Review for NoDQ's YouTube Channel but the audio didn't correctly record after I switched format types to more easily upload into my Adobe Premiere. Maybe we'll retry that for the future... But for now, I'll "stay in my lane" and bring you a Column Review instead.
Mr. Tito's PHAT WWE 2K Battlegrounds Video Game Review
In recent times, the WWE has struggled with their video game offerings through the 2K Games series "WWE 2K(insert year)". Just like EA Sports endures with their annual releases of Madden NFL, FIFA, and NHL games, there is a major lacking of any new features, gameplay, or graphical changes that can revolutionize how these simulation games can be played. For the most part, each annual release provides us with new wrestlers or sports figures that weren't in previous releases or their stats have been significantly upgraded to reflect recent success.
To meet the annual deadlines, these 2K Sports or EA Sports games are often rushed by the publisher... When that happens, quality control isn't there or the previous game was recycled to make the release date. In the case of Madden 21 and WWE 2K20, both games were filled with game-breaking glitches that made games and a few features unplayable. WWE 2K20's release was much worse, however, because 2K Sports handed the game off to a new studio and things went horribly wrong. Wrestlers and referees would clip into each other, faces would almost melt during Create-a-Wrestler, and the game would often crash or freeze during gameplay. Word spread quickly about these glitches and it greatly affected WWE 2K20's sales during late 2019.
For 2020, 2K Sports opted to take a breather from their WWE 2K(insert year) series and create a one-off arcade style game instead called WWE 2K Battlegrounds. From the file sizes, alone, you can see how much easier this game was to produce than your standard WWE 2K(insert year) games. On the Nintendo eShop, WWE 2K Battlegrounds is 8.3 GB in size while the WWE 2K18 port that Nintendo fans received during December 2017 was 21.1 GB. Without having to worry about detailing graphics to look like the wrestler perfectly, 2K Sports was probably able to focus on making an efficient performing game WITHOUT glitches, freezes, or other performance disasters seen in previous games. For the most part, WWE 2K Battlegrounds performs smoothly and did well on framerates on my Nintendo Switch. Only once did the game crash when I tried to play an online mode. Loading screens before matches are quite long, however...
I'm playing the Nintendo Switch version of the game and I was just hoping for a better performing game than the DISASTER known as WWE 2K18 that we received during December 2017. That game was a bloated, glitchy, and poor performing hot mess and the WWE and 2K should be ashamed of themselves for not taking extra care with that video game for its Switch debut. Seriously, the game froze on my very first playthrough! And the game still isn't right, despite multiple patches applied. The game is just filled with inefficient coding which their programmers rigged to meet a delayed release date. 2K18 was the first WWE game on any WWE system since the WWE All-Stars arcade style game and WWE/2K blew it... Heading into WWE 2K Battlegrounds, I was hoping that WWE and 2K would redeem themselves for the Nintendo audience. Just remember, it was Nintendo 64 players who bought up those THQ AKI games during the late 1990s and early 2000s that made wrestling games a big business for the WWE.
And speaking of WWE All-Stars... If you liked that game, you'll feel "right at home" with WWE 2K Battlegrounds. Gone is realism in favor of a more arcade like style game. Many wrestlers execute moves that you've never seen them perform on television as well has having advanced striking or grappling moves. The game is a button masher, too, as you'll be smashing that "B" button to get up, both Z-Buttons for pins/submissions, and random buttons to counter your opponent's moves. Switching to a more simplistic control scheme and gameplay will take away elements on what makes a good wrestling game in favor of a repetitive fighting game. I kept finding myself striking often for combos (the 3rd punch is powered up), then doing repetitive grapples with the same moves, and then kicking my opponent when they are down. Then, when my special meter if flashing, I'll execute my finishing move to potentially win the match.
Gameplay modes have been stripped down to be much more basic than what has been seen in 2K(insert year) games. This game has a "Campaign" mode that involves Battlegrounds granting you a wrestler that is led by Stone Cold Steve Austin in a Comic Book like fashion to wrestle various types of matches on your way to the big time. It's here in Campaign mode that you'll receive additional rewards and unlockables. For the rest of the unlockables, you'll earn blue currency points that you can compile to spend on for the WWE Shop mode. I was able to unlock Andre "the Giant" as well 3 different types of Undertaker costumes from about 30 minutes of gameplay. Otherwise, you can actually spend your hard-earned money on gold currency if you don't feel like grinding.
The blue currency feels easy enough to earn that it doesn't seem like 2K Sports is gouging you for money (I usually call 2K as "$2,000", as that's their desired amount of money to pull from each player via DLC or loot boxes). At launch, there was an Attitude Era pack as DLC that could be purchased, featuring skins and/or wrestlers like the Rock or Steve Austin (who are on the cover of the game, by the way)... But that wasn't available for me to purchase at launch. That DLC is probably exclusive to the "Deluxe" editions of WWE 2K Battlegrounds. Within my game's case, however, came an unlockable code for Edge which might be a pre-sale bonus for me.
Create-a-Wrestler feels thin, though I suspect with sustained gameplay, more features will open up. I only had like 10 outfits to choose from and they all seemed similar. The ODD thing that I noticed about Create-a-Wrestler is that it has Online protection surrounding it. Late Friday evening on 9/18, the online service was down by 2K and I couldn't access Create-A-Wrestler, WWE Shop, or any of the Online modes when I was trying to capture footage. I can understand the WWE Shop being Online protected, but Create-a-Wrestler? Doesn't make sense... For a child going on the road with their Nintendo Switch Lite, that's going to be annoying for them to be unable to customize their own homemade wrestlers.
Speaking of Online modes, they do have some decent offerings and I had fun with them when I played earlier on Friday 9/18. I believe that you can set-up matches with friends and various online opponents, but I found "King of the Battlegrounds" and the "Tournament" modes to be more appealing to me. King of the Battlegrounds is essentially an endless Royal Rumble mode that is ongoing forever and newer online players just join a match in progress by waiting on the outside of the ring until a wrestler is eliminated. Tournament mode reminded me of the bracket system for Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo Switch. I had more fun with that, especially when I'd run into newbies who were still learning the controls. What they didn't know is that you have to smash the Z-buttons to escape a submission hold and I won many matches by beating down my opponents and then applying a quick submission. With that said, matches end quickly in comparison to prior WWE 2K(insert year) games. Stamina can wear down fast and again, it's all about button mashing to hold a pin or submission.
For match selection, you have singles, tags, cage matches, Triple Threats, Royal Rumble (up to 4 wrestlers) and Fatal 4 Way Matches. From what I could see, there were no Ladder Matches but for all I know, that could be unlocked somewhere. Through my playthroughs, I really enjoyed the Cage Matches, especially with Tag Teams. In order to climb over the cage and escape, you must climb the cage and grab a bag full of cash to build up your stamina. About every 30 seconds or so, the cage has an electrical current and will shock the crap out of any wrestlers attempting to climb. It's chaotic and I could imagine with 4 friends, it would be a barrel full of laughs.
Because this game is arcade like, it trades away depth of gameplay. To me, all of the wrestlers function exactly the same on the way the strike, how they generate combos, the lack of uniqueness with grappling, and general things like running, climbing, or other operations within or outside the ring. The only real difference between the wrestlers is physical size based on height and weight, but even that is hardly noticed.
For the Nintendo Switch, you have your basic grapple with "B", Irish whip style grapple with "A", punching strikes with "Y", kicking with "X", "R" blocks striking moves, randomized "A-B-Y-X" for countering grapples, "L" to do anything involving ropes, "ZR" to run, and "ZL + ZR" to perform the Special finishing move. To perform special grapples or strikes, the combination of ZL+Y+B must be pressed at the same time and that doesn't work perfectly. Ditto for the special ZL + ZR, though I sense that my "ZR" button is worn out from being held down always for Rocket League games. I really disliked the countering system for grapples, as the screen will randomly suggest A, B, Y, or X to press rapidly to defeat a grapple. It's so quick and sudden, too, and it's hard to connect to immediately mashing the "X" button to break a combo. They should have kept the grapple break to the R blocking button, as that worked perfectly for the Nintendo 64 THQ AKI games.
This game is more of a fighting game, just like WWE All-Stars... That's not much wrestling psychology, as working on limbs or dropping your opponent on their head repeatedly won't mean much in the greater scheme of things. There is just 1 stamina meter and you'll just mash the strike or grapple buttons to wear that down. As I said before, matches will become very repetitive with strikes, grapples, and kicking your opponents when they are down to build up your special meter. Gameplay does seem to improve, however, when playing against friends or online opponents as the Computer (CPU) seems to act the same each time. In fact, the difficulty presented by the computer is very low and repetitive techniques will allow you to shred through the Campaign mode easily. I certainly did.
For graphics and sounds... Look, this game purposely threw realism out the window in favor of pushing more cartoon-like characters. That is fine, as most of the male wrestlers look close to their real life appearances. The same cannot be said for female wrestlers, however... Their is a weird shine to their faces and bodies applied by the 2K programmers and when you combine that with hair that doesn't move or the lack of facial expressions, female wrestlers look like plastic dolls out there. It's as if Mattel was sponsoring this game... Sound wise, there isn't much here... Entrances are short with wrestlers busting out of crates and their theme music is truncated. Menus have various artists playing in the background, though I didn't recognize any artists at all (not saying that is a bad thing, excuse me, I'm old).
In my extensive playthrough, I mostly had fun and the gameplay experience was mostly smooth and operating as expected. From what I could see, this game isn't a glitchy hot mess like recent 2K(insert year) games and it performed well on the Nintendo Switch, unlike the WWE 2K18 port. That's a good thing... The only errors I experienced was 2K's online servers being down during Friday evening (9/18) and the game crashing 1 time during an attempt to play online. Other than that, the game performed well and that's a bonus considering the hot garbage delivered to Xbox/Playstation owners for WWE 2K20 and Nintendo Switch owners for 2K18 (we never received WWE 2K19 or 2K20 because of that blunder).
THE LAST WORD: In my opinion, this game wasn't made for a guy in his early 40s... It was made for YOUNGER wrestling fans, just as WWE All-Stars was just 10 years ago. The basic gameplay and modes were made for a younger fan to pick up and play on his Nintendo Switch Lite or to allow anyone to play in the same room together via multiplayer. That is where the game will likely excel... If you are player expecting an awesome single player experience or a revolutionary gameplay system, you should think about this one... This game is more like a Fighting Game than a Wrestling Game due to its repetitive striking and grappling system that just wears down 1 stamina meter. However, if you're just looking for a good time to beat up people competitively online or to play with friends & family in the same room for some good laughs, there is some legitimate value here. At $39.99, the game is actually cost effective... But I believe that this would make a BETTER Birthday or Christmas present for your younger kids than it would be for you to play on your own, Dad. At the very least, the game is easy to play and isn't a glitch-fest like the prior WWE 2K(insert year) games.
On a 10 point scale, I'm giving it a 7.5 out of 10. It's a button mashing fighting game that happens to be in a wrestling ring and nothing revolutionary comes out of its gameplay. It's basically WWE All-Stars but 10 years older on relevance. However, when considering younger gamers and wrestling fans, this game could work... I played the Cage Match mode with my youngest and we were laughing hard anytime someone took an electric shock while trying to climb the cage.
As a Nintendo Switch owner, I'm relieved that a decent WWE game has appeared on the system. I still feel pains from that awful 2K18 attempt and the WWE has mostly redeemed itself following that. Now, let's start working on a GOOD WWE 2K22 game that can perform well on all systems to re-capture why Pro Wrestling games are fun to play. WWE Wrestlemania 2000, No Mercy, and Day of Reckoning 1 & 2 are among my favorite games of all time. When you get a good wrestling fan in your hands, it's difficult to put it down. While WWE 2K Battlegrounds is not that "great" game, at least WWE and 2K didn't give us a broken mess as they painfully did with WWE 2K18. If the larger WWE 2K(Insert Year) games are too difficult to port, then simply try to port No Mercy or Day of Reckoning games onto the Switch with updated rosters. Just get something of a good game on that system and it will sell quickly, even among non-wrestling fans.
So just chill... Until the next episode!
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