A Baron Corbin presentation with Vince McMahon greed.
Experiencing the WWE universe on Switch has been a real chore. WWE 2K18 was one of the worst ports I’ve ever played, a complete mess of an experience that I would rather soon forget. WWE 2K Battlegrounds is far better, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s great.
The first thing you’ll notice when jumping into a Battlegrounds match is that this is not your normal WWE game. While the 2K series focuses on creating a realistic WWE experience you’d see on their weekly television, Battlegrounds dumps the more technical gameplay for simplified brawling, and characters more closely resemble toys than how they look in real life. There are still pro wrestling maneuvers like irish whips and submissions, but gameplay focuses more on racking up combos and throwing your fellow wrestlers into stage hazards, such as crocodiles, rams, and elevated cars.
There are positives to this -- Battlegrounds is much simpler and more accessible to play over its 2K counterparts. Power-ups such as refilling your health or getting extra time to pin your opponent are nice touches, and the stage hazards keep things interesting. But after a few hours, things can get pretty dull. Wrestlers are divided into various types like brawler and high flyer which does change things up, but most of the wrestlers still feel and play the same.
Technical issues are not as prevalent compared to other recent WWE games, though there are some weird issues here and there. Hit detection for me never felt 100% precise. Sometimes I would be near an opponent and press a button, but somehow I'd still be too far away. Load times can also be pretty long in between matches.
The two big single player modes are pretty similar to one another. Campaign mode lets you play as several characters exclusive to the game. The storyline has Mr. McMahon tasking Paul Heyman to be in charge of a new ‘Battlegrounds’ brand. Heyman ends up hiring Stone Cold Steve Austin to recruit potential stars for the brand. The story is told through comic book panels, which is a neat and different way to tell a story, though the artwork is at times inconsistent (notice Steve Austin’s face in each new panel, it changes, a lot).
Battleground Challenge doesn’t have a story, rather, you create your own wrestler and complete challenges in order to unlock power-ups and in-game currency needed to unlock wrestlers. Both Campaign and Battleground Challenge move through a grid. While Campaign mode flows through easier with the story, character changes, and roster variety, Battleground Challenge can get pretty repetitive and boring the deeper you get into it.
One of the more frustrating issues with Battlegrounds was that a lot of the characters have to be unlocked. The game has two types of currency: Battle Bucks and Golden Bucks. The more matches you clear, the more Battle Bucks you get. These end up playing a big part in unlocking everything, from other WWE Superstars to create-a-wrestler parts. But these characters are expensive, and to unlock everyone would require hours and hours of gameplay. That is where Golden Bucks come in, as the more money you put in, the quicker it is to unlock everyone. And we aren’t talking about legendary wrestlers like Hulk Hogan or Shawn Micheals, which would make sense as unlockables. Some of the biggest stars in the WWE right now, strangely, are not available at the start and have to be unlocked this way. It makes zero sense as to why you have to grind or buy for the likes of Bayley, Sasha Banks, Daniel Bryan, Asuka, Seth Rollins or other top stars. It’s almost like Battlegrounds is encouraging you to use money to buy these stars, which totally comes off as greedy.
I don’t hate WWE Battlegrounds. It’s a much more arcadey style of game that I think is a better representation of what a pro wrestling game should be. But it does have its own set of problems in its lack of depth and aggressive microtransactions. I wouldn’t mind seeing more from this series, but it needs some big changes to truly be a fun experience.