The core WWE 2K series is taking a break this year, but that doesn't mean we're not getting a 2K wrestling game. Instead of sim-style squared circle battles though we are instead getting the over the top arcadey action of WWE 2K Battlegrounds, which is much closer to classics like WWE All-Stars and No Mercy. Those are both high bars to live up to, and the answer to whether WWE 2K Battlegrounds meets those high bars is ...complicated. There's a lot to love about the game, but there are also some things holding it back, so let's get to breaking it all down.
WWE 2K Battlegrounds trades in the sim-styled gameplay of the main series for over the top arcade action, and more often than not it succeeds in bringing out those eccentric and delightful aspects of World Wrestling Entertainment. Cartoony graphics replace the photorealistic visuals, and you'll quickly find that tossing someone into an alligator on the side of the ring is just as effective as hitting someone from the top turnbuckle.
Power-Ups change up the moment to moment gameplay, featuring everything from stronger pins and unblockable attacks to fire fists and ice breath, and each of the stages come with at least one crazy interactive element, including everything from a helicopter that you can hop on to soar back down to the ring and a remote-controlled ram that can stun opponents. Each of the superstars also have big colorful auras when they pull ofF super moves, which look gorgeous in motion.
The game comes loaded with 70 superstars at launch and features not only a full campaign mode but also a fun new mode titled King of the Battleground that acts as sort of a never-ending Royal Rumble, which is as ridiculous and fun as it sounds. All of the normal match types are also present, and you can create your own wrestler and arena to boot, all for the price of $39.99. Not bad right?
Unfortunately, there are some things holding it back. While the finishers and supers are cool, these are the main areas in which the wrestlers differentiate themselves. Everyone has the same core throws and submissions, and aside from the five different classes (which do feel different mind you), there aren't enough differences between superstars. Aside from her look, finisher, and signature move, Bayley doesn't feel much different from Sasha Banks for instance, and that's a shame because a few more distinct moves or even a unique submission would have gone a long way to fixing this problem.
The visuals are also a bit of a mixed bag. In the ring they look fantastic, and I dug the over the top cartoony style. When you see faces up close though (like in the portrait window after you win or lose) it becomes evident that some just don't look anything like the real-world superstar. Samoa Joe and Drew McIntyre, for instance, are spot on, but then you have Kofi Kingston, Sasha Banks, The Miz, Alexa Bliss, and even Roman Reigns who look like they needed more work to get closer to their real-world counterparts.
Some have expressed issues with the microtransaction model, though that didn't really bother me, as superstars are unlockable either through playing the campaign or regular matches, and you earn Battle Bucks pretty quickly. I haven't had to spend a cent, though the option is there to speed up the process if you so choose. I'm okay with a little work to unlock characters, and it hasn't felt like a grind as I'm enjoying having a reason to hop into matches of different types to complete the daily challenges and win more Battle Bucks. All in all, this isn't predatory by any means, at least to me.
That said, I would've loved more creation options regarding character costumes and gear, but more content will be releasing free of charge in the future, and for $40 this is a really great value. There could be more depth, but the moment to moment gameplay is really fun, and the changes to the Steel Cage match format and things like King of the Battleground mode kept me coming back for more.
The campaign was pretty enjoyable as well, being delivered in comic style stories that were lighthearted and fun. I wasn't a huge fan of the artwork off the bat, but I will say it grew on me, and I found myself actually laughing several times throughout, something I didn't expect.
This might not be for everyone, and I don't think it reaches the bar set by some of the classic games we mentioned earlier, but there's a lot of fun to be had with WWE 2K Battlegrounds, and for the money, it's difficult to pass up. A few fixes could've put this in a whole other tier, but as it stands, WWE 2K Battlegrounds delivers a delightfully over the top and genuinely fun experience in the ring, and I'm excited to see where it goes from here.
Rating: 3 out of 5
ComicBook.com was provided a review code by 2K for PS4.