A step in the right direction.
Note: This preview is based on a Steam build of WWE 2K Battlegrounds.
WWE games have not had a great start on the Switch with the release of WWE 2K18 several years ago. It was not only a broken mess, but to say that it wasn’t fun to play would be an understatement. WWE 2K Battlegrounds appears to be a much better experience based on initial impressions. Aside from one or two issues, it’s way more fun to play, and the less serious atmosphere is a nice change of pace from the usual, predictable WWE video game presentation.
It’s clear that developer Saber Interactive went in an entirely different direction for Battlegrounds. Instead of trying to depict the usual WWE presentation, they have shifted towards a more cartoony look, with WWE stars looking more like bulked-up toys instead of their real-life counterparts. The ring still exists, but the stages go in a different direction. The demo featured two of these stages: a garage warehouse with cars rigged to fall on players who get thrown in their direction, and a swamp setting complete with alligators in the crowd who are chomping at the bit.
The roster features a mixture of stars from the past and present. Those who watched WWE long ago will see familiar names like Andre the Giant, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and The Rock, while newer fans will see the likes of The Fiend Bray Wyatt, Becky Lynch, and Ronda Rousey. WWE games usually contain stars from all eras of their product, so regardless of when you started or stopped watching, you’ll see a familiar face or two when looking for a character to play as.
Battlegrounds plays nothing like the Yukes/Visual Concepts developed WWE 2K series. While most WWE games focus on simulating a wrestling match you’d see on WWE’s weekly television, Battlegrounds is different, drifting more towards the fighting genre. There’s still basic elements of a wrestling match, like irish whips and submissions, but here there is more focus on special moves, power ups, and stage attacks. It’s a nice change of pace, giving way to a much more arcade-style feel that better matches the frenetic energy of professional wrestling.
The build I played only offered a couple of gameplay options. The fatal four way mode provided some fun, fast-paced brawling. There was also a cage match option, where the goal is to collect money from the cage as fast as possible, all while avoiding the occasional surges of electricity. Once you collect enough money, you’ll be able to climb over the cage to win the match.
The one glaring issue for me was that the reversal system I never liked in previous WWE games is still here -- pressing the button too fast or too late allows your opponent to rack up offense. It is meant to deter those who only want to run over their opponent, but it can get frustrating. Hopefully the full release will offer options to tweak these settings for a better gameplay experience.
I can safely say that I have had more fun on Battlegrounds than recent entries in the WWE 2K series. The matches are faster paced and overall the game feels more lighthearted and fun.. Not everything is perfect, as I wish we could have gotten rid of the dreaded reversal system once and for all, but Battlegrounds thus far is proving to be a turn in the right direction.
WWE 2K Battlegrounds will be released on the Nintendo Switch on September 18.