The best there is? The best there was? The best there ever will be?
When it comes to developing wrestling games, there are generally two strategies available. You can go for realism, or you can go the arcade route. Both have been done quite successfully over the years, while both have also been horribly botched (as some disgruntled Switch owners may recall).
With WWE 2K Battlegrounds, 2K looks to land somewhere between the two, albeit with decidedly arcade leanings. The game will certainly provide over-the-top action—giving you access to weapons such as alligators and electricity—but it’s rooted in a system that gives players plenty of options to learn and master myriad moves.
As you’ve seen in the preview videos, WWE 2K Battlegrounds eschews a realistic look for something a bit more fun. WWE superstars across multiple decades look more like the dwarves from The Hobbit movies, albeit (mostly) more clean-shaven. Not much thought is given to actual size, either; little separates Andre the Giant from Asuka. Still, the wrestlers are faithfully presented and instantly recognizable.
In a virtual press preview I attended last week, 2K was quick to point out how instantly accessible the action in WWE 2K Battlegrounds will be. Basic moves are easy to access and memorize, with myriad options to increase your abilities as your skills improve. And because of the wrestling skill system, not all moves are available to all wrestlers. High fliers, for example, have access to abilities that the big brawlers will not. That’ll help to keep the action fresh, sure, but I know it’ll be an issue when I’m forced to wrestle with someone new and can’t figure out why my normal moves aren’t working. When they do work, they’re wonderfully fun. Signature moves remain for their respective wrestlers, but now everyone can perform them with ridiculous power-ups and from heights normally reserved only for the Hardy Boyz.
Again, though, the arcade approach means a lot of traditional wrestling moves aren’t available anyway. You can only map so many buttons, after all, and some things had to go in order to make room for hitting your opponent with a motorcycle.
Also gone (thankfully) is a lot of the WWE pageantry. WWE 2K Battlegrounds focuses more on the gameplay and less on the theatrics (something the actual WWE should take to heart). Even the locations toss out the traditional look and feel of WWE events, instead placing us in a swamp or a military boot camp.
These locations are fun, and they seem to have been selected based on just what outside items they’d make available. Seems you can’t just hide an alligator under the ring at the WWE Performance Center.
Speaking of the ring, it’s destructible. And you can then use its various elements as weapons. What fun is simply tearing off a turnbuckle when you can swing at your opponent with a ring post?
WWE 2K Battlegrounds provides many different ways to play in both single and multiplayer modes. Matches such as the Fatal 4 Way and a 2v2 steel cage (now electrified, of course) appear, and you can play these either alone or with a friend in local or online play. You will also be able to create your own wrestler and work him/her up the ranks into the elite (not that Elite, sadly).
I won’t know until I’ve dug into the single-player action whether the game leans more towards quick multiplayer battles or lengthy campaigns (complete with comic book-style transitions) on the Switch, but we’ll find out soon enough.
Oh, and wrestlers. 2K is definitely taking WWE’s cue and selling the history. 70 wrestlers are available at launch, with 63 more to be available via DLC post launch. Some are duplicates but with different skins—and I have no idea why we’re forced to endure any of the McMahons when actual wrestlers like Al Snow and The Red Rooster (seriously…I dug Terry Taylor) are omitted—but fans from any generation will find multiple wrestlers to master.
Whether WWE 2K Battlegrounds is the wrestling sim fans have longed for will require more investigation, and we’ll start that investigation soon. Based on the virtual press preview, however, it’s off to a strong, speedy start. The game will be released for Nintendo Switch on September 18th. Learn more at wwe.2k.com/battlegrounds.