WWE 2K Battlegrounds: The wrestling brawler in a hands-on preview

After WWE 2K20 appeared completely bug-infested last year and had otherwise severe technical problems, the publisher 2K Games decided to take a year off in order to have enough time to get the wrestling series back on track. A year without a game at WWE shouldn't be! Instead of another rather simulation-heavy catch game, WWE 2K Battlegrounds will be an arcade brawler in the WWE universe on September 18, developed by Saber Interactive, the makers of NBA 2K Playgrounds.

However, the Battlegrounds announcement did not meet with much fan support, although many had wanted a more accessible and over-the-top wrestling game for years. On the one hand, the WWE 2K20 disaster from the previous year is still having an impact, and NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 in particular had to put up with heavy criticism when it appeared due to the lack of single-player content and a game mechanics based on microtransactions. Shortly before the release, we were allowed to play Battlegrounds ourselves for the first time and listen to a presentation by the developers. Since then we have been a little more optimistic about the title.

Varied beating







Battlegrounds is clearly designed for multiplayer battles. Up to four wrestlers can be in the ring at the same time.



Battlegrounds is clearly designed for multiplayer battles. Up to four wrestlers can be in the ring at the same time.

Source: 2K Games




Before we reach for the gamepad ourselves to play the PC version, the developers tell us what content we can look forward to in the finished version and what the intention of Battlegrounds is. The title is supposed to be an accessible and completely over-the-top brawler, where really everyone can pick up the controller and knock along directly. Over 70 WWE Superstars from different eras of sports-entertainment will be in the game right from the start.

Many more should be added after the release. Unfortunately, it was not said here whether (as we suspect) these will be paid DLCs. In addition, not a word was said about microtransactions. They just told us that everything in the game can be unlocked with virtual currency that you earn in the various modes. Well, theoretically this is also possible in NBA 2K Playgrounds 2, but you have to grind for a long time. We are therefore still skeptical in this regard.

However, we were pleasantly surprised by the content of the game. In addition to tournaments, challenges and exhibition fights, there will even be a campaign in which you create several wrestlers and lead them to WrestleMania. You can assign certain wrestling styles such as brawler, high flyer, powerhouse or all-rounder to the created catchers, which determine the strength and speed attributes and the move set.

In addition, there should also be different types of match such as steel cage matches or royal rumbles. Saber Interactive makes it clear that all of this will be playable in single player mode, but Battlegrounds is a game that unfolds its potential especially in local and online multiplayer. If up to four players beat their way through the ring at the same time, the arenas with their peculiarities should also provide fun. In addition to typical WWE arenas such as RAW or WrestleMania, you also fight in a swamp level or a workshop. WWE 2K Battlegrounds (buy now € 35.98 ) should only cost 40 euros and the title already offers a lot of content.






Stone Cold is not just a name at Battlegrounds: The Rock is frozen here by Steve Austin.



Stone Cold is not just a name at Battlegrounds: The Rock is frozen here by Steve Austin.

Source: 2K Games




Now we can finally grab the gamepad ourselves and start the multiplayer mode. In the preview demo, the match types Fatal 4-Way and Steel-Cage-Tag-Team-Match are available to us. Although we can choose between well-known superstars like The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Undertaker, Rey Mysterio and others, we don't like the strangely compressed cartoon models of the wrestlers at all. Our mood doesn't really improve in combat either, because we get beaten up a lot.







Not only in the cartoon graphics you can see that Battlegrounds is a bit more crazy than other wrestling games. Strong attacks shine brightly.



Not only in the cartoon graphics you can see that Battlegrounds is a bit more crazy than other wrestling games. Strong attacks shine brightly.

Source: 2K Games




A normal one-on-one match would have been nice to learn the controls, because the tutorial is nothing more than a brief explanation that would have been in the game instructions earlier. So our first impression is not that good, but after two more matches we get the hang of it and have a lot more fun with the game than we thought before. We whirl our opponent up about 20 meters in order to let him slam onto the mat with a devastating DDT, we block punch combos, press the displayed action buttons at the right moment to counter larger actions and give the opponents devastating finishing moves .

In addition, in the Fatal 4-Way it is particularly fun to interact with certain objects in the arena. For example, we throw opponents in the workshop under a lifting platform only to have a car crash down on them. In the swamp level, on the other hand, we throw them into the mouth of an alligator, who then chews on them for a few moments.

In itself, Battlegrounds is really accessible: there is a button to kick, one to hit, one to grab and one to get opponents into the ring ropes. In addition, you block with the upper right shoulder button. But after two or three matches you realize that you can do a lot more. For example, if we hold the handle button, we carry our opponent. We can use this to follow suplexes, DDTs or other actions with the same key or to throw the opponent with the Irish Whip key.







When powerhouses like The Big Show show actions, the ring can collapse.



When powerhouses like The Big Show show actions, the ring can collapse.

Source: 2K Games




There are also devastating moves on the right analog stick, which can be varied with the lower left shoulder button. As if that wasn't enough, a bar fills up during the brawl that activates various specials. These can be used with a digi-cross. For example, our health is replenished, our blows are reinforced or our targeted opponent cannot counteract for a short time.

Once you've internalized all of the actions, the fights go well and are quite fun. The pace of the game is high, the effects of the special moves wonderfully colorful, the noises when we beat up an adversary wonderfully satisfying. With particularly strong moves, the ring may even collapse. Then you can beat the opponents with the loosened ring post. That's pretty damn funny.







Numerous WWE Superstars from different eras of wrestling are available.



Numerous WWE Superstars from different eras of wrestling are available.

Source: 2K Games




As much as we had fun with the Fatal 4-Ways (i.e. four people in the ring, each against each other), we didn't like the Steel Cage matches at all. We could have understood if we had to fill up a bar by special maneuvers before we had the chance to climb out of the cage, but here we have to collect a certain number of money bags for it. It's kind of stupid. If your team partner falls asleep in this mode, you have virtually no chance.

We also have to complain about a bigger thing: the technology. Maybe it was just because of the demo and that won't be a problem in the finished game, but in our version there were sometimes strong frame rate drops. Most of the matches ran absolutely smoothly despite a lot of action and special maneuvers, but sometimes the picture froze for a moment and then you fought on for half a minute in a slide show. We very much hope that this will not affect the release version, because Battlegrounds will definitely not be a masterpiece of fighting games, but (if you leave out the microtransaction urge of Playgrounds 2) the title definitely has the potential for an entertaining multiplayer brawler.

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