Developer: Saber Interactive
Publisher: Take Two Interactive
Genre: Fighting, Arcade, Sports
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 18/09/2020
The reviewer purchased a copy of the game for this review.
I am an unashamed fan of professional wrestling. A sport, or an entertainment source, that often divides many when it comes to lines of loyalty. Not just in terms of faces and heels, but organizations. However, this is a video game, and so, when you read this, I ask you to put aside your issues with poor storytelling and the ratings battles. Forget the tit for tat of name-calling superstars or the questionable antics of certain leaders. Much like was said at the passing of Jon Huber, this is a time to rejoice in the fun of being a wrestling fan. After all, this is a wrestling video game and one that goes beyond any normal simulation-style game on the market.
Over the Top Gameplay
There is nothing normal about the way you fight in WWE Battlegrounds. Yes, there’s a ring, and yes you have the standard controls. Punch, Kick, Grapple, Irish Whip, but that is essentially where it ends. This is a game about over the top fighting. We are talking fireballs for fists, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon style high flying stunts, and hits. Hits that would cut a normal man in half, as JR would exclaim.
Playing the game is not your everyday wrestling experience. Yes, the normal rules apply, but you need to think creatively and think big if you want to earn the big XP points. Grab weapons, do everything you can to your opponent before finally sinking in that Sharpshooter or hitting that powerbomb for the pin.
There is also a hidden layer with the power-up options, with users having the ability to fully customize the three power-ups linked to a character – each fight. Each power-up also has three intensity levels that can be unlocked by completing the story mode levels.
Tactics and Timing are Key
The over-the-top nature of WWE Battlegrounds might paint the picture of a game that is button bashing at its finest. That could not be further from the truth. The more I played the game the more I found that there was a requirement for timing and, to a degree, tactics. The game has a QTE counter style, and this is important to master. This alone immediately removes the button-bashing element of some people’s gameplay.
You need to be quick to get the right button, but once mastered, good countering is the key to victory.
There are, as always in wrestling games, cheap ways to win matches, such as going for a count-out, and if you have quick ZL and ZR reflexes then submissions can be easier to find the pinfalls – especially in multi-character matches – but that’s only for those that don’t want to play the game but rather rush their way through things.
Game Modes in Abundance
As a fan of wrestling games, I was very pleased with the array of game modes. The mix of online and offline gameplay was fun and meant there was always something to do.
The daily challenges were varied – although did ring somewhat similar the more consecutive days I played the game, and I also liked the bonus points for hitting certain challenge totals.
In the essence of time and staying true to the name and ethos of this site, I will not go through each game mode in detail. Even Cyberpunk would be a working game by the time I was finished. However, a quick glance at some of the modes offered include:
- Cage matches
- Fatal Fourways
- Royal Rumbles
There are also online competitions, along with a King of the Battleground – an online Battle Royale gauntlet with up to four players in the ring at any one time – and any of the traditional matches can be played either couch co-op or with eligible friends who are online.
Story Mode was Something Different
At the time of writing this, I have not yet finished the story mode in WWE Battlegrounds. There are 118 fights and comic-style story panels that tell the story of Stone Cold’s search for the next big star.
The story is fun and takes plenty of tongue in cheek swipes at WWE and Mr McMahon including the line “You were really raised by snakes, huh. You’re going to fit right in with Vince”. It is an entertaining way to play the game, unlock new characters and abilities.
I will certainly be completing the story mode in due course but keep getting distracted by all the other game modes.
I am especially impressed with how different wrestlers and different tactics are more beneficial for different games.
For example, I found great success using Andre the Giant or a few other Powerhouse character types in the Royal Rumble and King of the Battleground modes but did not enjoy using them for other more traditional fights. Here I enjoyed the Brawler and Technician based characters.
Collectables and Customisations Galore
This game is rich in both customisations and collectables, giving you the ability to unlock characters both by playing the storyline mode or through spending the blue coloured tokens you earn playing the game. There are also gold tokens that you can buy, but I prefer the grinding option.
I really liked the way locked wrestlers were presented inside action-figure style packaging. A small thing but it added a nice layer to things. I would also advise people to watch the pack store for their weekly bundle deals, as these can offer a great way to get multiple wrestlers for a bargain token cost.
The game also gives you multiple rings and environments, and the ability to create your own along the way. The create a wrestler mode is also fun, with accessories being unlocked and earned along the way also.
The only thing I would have liked maybe was a little more customization in terms of finishing moves. Being able to create different levels for truly powerful matches, but that is a very minor point that does not detract from a very fun gaming experience.
The Odd Bug Added to the Experience
I’m not going to lie and say this was a perfect game. There are a few flaws, including what can sometimes feel like a slightly sluggish input recognition, and there were definite frame rate drops when playing multi-player matches, both on and offline. However, these were rare enough not to ruin the gameplay. Then, given the OTT nature of the game, the rare instances where game physics went completely off the rails only seemed to add to the fun, even when it happened to me. The only negative was the use of Jerry the King Lawler as the commentator. His voice grated on me, but that could just be a personal preference.
All in all, I think very highly of WWE Battlegrounds. The dev team should watch out because they can clearly write a better story than anybody in WWE right now.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can get your copy of WWE Battlegrounds from the Nintendo eShop here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.