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    Monday, September 21, 2020

    Play Henry: The WWE 2K Battlegrounds Review

    WWE 2K Battlegrounds

    After the rushed release of WWE 2K20 from new developer Visual Concepts last year, 2K Games decided to postpone their annual WWE release this year, with the promise of WWE 2K22 next year. But Vinnie Mac and those suits at Stamford still want to make some kind of video game money, hence the announcement of WWE 2K Battlegrounds.

    Battlegrounds, in theory, is a simpler arcade wrestling game with NBA 2K Playgrounds developer Saber Interactive making the game. The developers were clearly being inspired by WWE All-Stars and, to some extent, WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game, while making this title. From All-Stars, Battlegrounds decided to take the over-the-top character designs and action, going for a chibi look instead of overly muscular action figures, while the flame fists, lightning powers, and freeze breath were taken from WrestleMania: The Arcade Game.

    So, how does it play? For the most part, pretty well. You have one button for punches and another for kicks, which can be combined for some simple combos. There’s a button for blocking strikes while reversals are like quick-time events, where you quickly have to press the corresponding button that appears on the screen to counter a grapple. The grappling itself is a bit more complicated since that is divided into one of the four buttons in a gamepad and the right analog stick. I played the PS4 version so X is for one grapple move while the right analog stick is home to several crazier moves.

    Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks on WWE 2K Battlegrounds

    That definitely sounds complicated but once you’ve played through a tutorial or simply glance at the controls menu, it gets easier to grasp. Granted, I would have put multiple grapples via X and a directional button but the method they used isn’t too bad. 

    Does the gameplay get repetitive? Yes, but so do most wrestling games. Unfortunately, since 2K Battlegrounds decided to follow the All-Stars arcade formula, a lot of wrestlers also end up being played the same way. Characters are divided into five classes: All-Rounder, Brawler, High-Flyer, Powerhouse, and Technician so two wrestlers who have the same class play similarly, with only their signatures, finishers, and a unique move or two differentiating them from the rest. 

    I've personally found that the gameplay only feels repetitive when you’re playing through the Campaign, which has more than a hundred matches, most of which are optional. Granted, if you just want to breeze through the story, it shouldn’t take that long but you will only unlock certain characters by going through those optional fights. It’s not just those original characters you unlock but bonafide superstars like John Cena, Apollo Crews, Alexa Bliss, and Ember Moon, among others, so you’ll need to dedicate a few hours to this.

    Braun Strowman and John Cena on WWE 2K Battlegrounds

    Is the story at least good? Not really. Seven original characters are introduced and they’re all generically overpowered. No joke, these men and women beat Brock Lesnar, Asuka, The Rock, and more like it’s nothing. The set-up feels like the making of Not-NXT or Not-WWE-ECW as it has Paul Heyman and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin establishing a new brand with new stars. It’s generic as hell and the fact that you can’t create your own wrestlers for this or use NXT stars like Adam Cole is pretty annoying.

    We knew that 2K Battlegrounds would use comic book panels to tell the stories but they’re pretty lazy to look at. Rather than go for motion comic cutscenes, players have to zoom into the panels of a page like they’re reading the Comixology app on their tablet, which is fine when reading Uncanny X-Men on a mobile device but is the pits on a current-gen console.

    Visually, it’s neat. The chibi character models are a mixed bag because some superstars look better than others. Obviously, the cartoony style benefits masked characters like Rey Mysterio, Kalisto, and The Fiend but stars like Shinsuke Nakamura, Finn Balor, Mickie James, and Kevin Owens don’t look half-bad. On the other hand, The Miz looks like a dead-eyed doll, as do The Bella Twins. Overall, I do like the graphics. It’s amusing to see The Undertaker actually use his kayfabe superpowers in a match and visual gags like using a remote-controlled goat to hit your opponents or a Superstar playing guitar as the default holding animation put a smile on my face.

    Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Rock on WWE 2K Battlegrounds

    I actually like WWE 2K Battlegrounds. The control scheme, once you’re used to it, makes for some fun action and unlocking Superstars adds some replayability to the title. It’s almost everything I would want from a silly WWE game. But I don’t know if I can recommend it right away.

    Sure, the game is available locally at a budget-friendly PhP 2,190, while you can download the deluxe edition online at $49.99 (around PhP 2,420). You might as well go for that deluxe edition because unlocking Superstars will take up a lot of your time unless you use—ugh—microtransactions. 

    The game’s store for buying Superstars is a lot like a free-to-play game with unlockable wrestlers being labeled as common, rare, legendary, etc. Those labels determine the price of these stars and some of them will take forever to grind. You get about 300 in-game currency for winning a match, plus 750-1000+ when your profile levels up, however, a Brock Lesnar or an AJ Styles costs 12,000 in-game currency. But if you’re too lazy for that, you can use real money to get your favorites right away.

    Look, gamers like me will grind for that—it is what it is. But there are also people with spending addictions or impatient children who have access to their parent’s credit cards who might want to get these wrestlers right away. The fact that this game gives you an option to use real money to get in-game currency is something I can’t ignore, despite my own personal enjoyment of the game.

    The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin on WWE 2K Battlegrounds

    It also feels incomplete. AJ Styles, for example, only has the Styles Clash for a finisher but the announcers occasionally shout "Phenomenal Forearm." Aleister Black only has the bicycle knee strike as a signature move, so we don't have his amazing Black Mass finisher in the game. Rey Mysterio can only do a tornado DDT as his special, even though you hear Mauro Ranallo say “The West Coast Pop” on commentary. We’re sure these moves will be added in future updates, along with the already confirmed post-launch DLC stars, but they released this to the public and the game should be evaluated for what it is upon release.

    To wrap this up, there is a lot I adore about WWE 2K Battlegrounds. The simpler gameplay is fun, the cartoony visual style is fun, the super-powered attacks are fun. This game is FUN. However, the ever-present microtransactions and overall incomplete feeling of the title makes it hard to recommend right now. Wait for a sale on the digital deluxe edition and maybe wait for a bigger update that will smooth out some of these issues.

    Rating: 6/10

    Images from 2K Games

    A PS4 copy of the game was provided to Smark Henry for review

    Nico Parungo is a freelance contributor for Geeky PH and previously wrote for Epicstream. He provides weekly recaps of AEW Dynamite for Smark Henry and has contributed several reviews of PWR and MWF shows. When he isn't frustrated about the WWE, he's playing video games at home and is bugging his friends with glorious puns. He's new to the world of Twitter drama but is quickly getting hooked.
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    Item Reviewed: Play Henry: The WWE 2K Battlegrounds Review Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Nico Parungo
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