Reviews | Written by Chris Jackson 20/09/2020

WWE 2K BATTLEGROUNDS

PLATFORM: PC, PS4, SWITCH, XBOX ONE (REVIEWED) | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

Filling the gap left behind by the annual WWE 2K series (it's having a lie down but is expected to return next year), Battlegrounds replaces the realistic simulation we've come to expect from a WWE game with over-the-top arcade-style mayhem. Something of a spiritual successor to 2010's All Stars, the team at Sabre Interactive has done a fine job of creating some fast-paced addictive gameplay and a wacky over-exaggerated art style, but there's a bit of a question mark over how long it'll keep you coming back...

Jumping straight in, players are offered plenty of choices. Exhibition matches, wrestler and arena creation modes, online tournaments and “Battleground challenges” where you can boost your created Superstars' stats are all available right from the start. The game's roster of 70 playable characters, however, isn't – initially limited to around 20 wrestlers, players need to compete in various game modes to earn “battle bucks” which are then spent on unlocking additional wrestlers. After a few hours of grinding away and completing the campaign mode (in which Paul Heyman guides a handful of newly-created Superstars on their own personal roads to Wrestlemania), you'll probably have earned enough bucks for maybe a dozen or so extra characters, but a large part of the roster is likely to be left untouched by the majority of players, as are large amounts of cosmetic items for use in the create modes, which also need to be purchased before they can be used. Of course, the option is there to spend real-world actual money on “gold bucks” to unlock things much more quickly, but let's not get into such contentious issues right now...

The game itself is incredibly easy to pick up and play, and would be well-suited to those who maybe haven't got on too well with the more intricate controls seen in previous WWE titles – as long as you can pull off a few simple single-button combos, flick the right thumbstick and occasionally hold down a trigger, you'll be absolutely fine. The moves available to each wrestler are flashy, eye-catching and completely ridiculous – you'll be throwing your opponents 20 feet into the air, flipping around all over the place, using exploding gas barrels as weapons, crushing people under cars, attacking your foes with a remote-controlled goat... Battlegrounds also introduces power ups that allow players to heal, deal more damage, freeze your opponents in place or even attack them with lightning bolts. It's absolute madness in all the best ways, and certainly a welcome change from what we've seen in recent years.

But, as fun the gameplay can be, Battleground's limitations reveal themselves rather quickly. Superstars belong to one of five classes, and all members of each class share a near-identical moveset. Some have one or two “exclusive” moves, but there's very little to distinguish one wrestler from another of the same class – any one high-flyer will control exactly the same as another high-flyer, for example, which makes it feel like there are only really five different characters in the game and all the others are little more than re-skins. The actual movesets are also fairly limited, with each wrestler only possessing half a dozen or so grapples, two or three running and diving attacks, a few kick / punch combos and a single submission move. Likewise, there aren't a huge amount of match types on offer, restricted to regular singles, tags, triple threats and fatal four-ways, one on one and two on two cage matches (where players must grab bags of cash from around the electrified cage before escaping...), a gauntlet and a Royal Rumble mode. Plenty to keep you going for a while, but slightly lacking when you think of all the other matches that could have been included.

The actual gameplay really is very entertaining and the very concentrated scope of the game's features (and its low price) lends itself well enough to casual players looking for a wrestling-themed party game, but Battlegrounds as a whole could desperately use some extra content to keep players coming back for the long haul. There are plans for more than 60 new roster members to be added to the game over the coming months in a series of free updates, which hopefully might bring some much-needed variation. It does undeniably provide a good time in short bursts, but it's hard to escape the feeling that Battlegrounds could potentially become something much bigger, wilder and more substantial...

(Big thanks to the fine folks at 2K Games for sending a review copy our way!)

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