WWE 2K Battlegrounds Review

September 20, 2020

Saber Interactive and 2K decided to take a break this year from the long-running mainstream WWE 2K franchise to bring us something different, a crazy over-the-top arcade-style wrestling game with all your favourite past and present WWE Superstars, so bring your helicopters, motorcycles and alligators because it’s time to battle it out in WWE 2K Battlegrounds.

WWE 2K Battlegrounds Hands-On

From the main menu, players can jump straight in to play a variety of modes including a decent campaign story, tournament, king of the battleground, battleground challenge, and then exhibition modes broken up by gender. You’ll find several different match types in the different modes, but some famous WWE match types are missing which leads us to think that Saber might be planning to add some post-launch. WWE 2K Battlegrounds also has a character and battleground creator, daily challenges, and also superstar shops where you can unlock more wrestlers and items using one of the two types of currency that we’ll get to later.

Controls are simple and easy to understand in WWE 2K Battlegrounds, with tutorials teaching you the ropes (literally) as you play through the different modes. There are a few different meters that you need to pay attention to during the match, and different power-ups which can be used to regain health, have invincibility, or even stop reversals. Lots more power-ups are unlockable throughout the campaign mode, and you can easily adjust which ones you want for your wrestler at the start of each match. While we appreciated the stripped down control system, there were a few things left out such as taunts from the turnbuckles which detract from the overall gameplay experience. The crazy button mashing of either the A button or the left and right triggers when you’re trying to recover or counter a hold is still there though, which is easily the worst part of the gameplay.

WWE 2K Battlegrounds Hands-On

Campaign mode is a great way get started in WWE 2K Battlegrounds. If you play through the full 118 events then it will unlock a whole bunch of wrestlers, vanity items and arenas as well as earn you some much needed currency to unlock even more things. The campaign is split up into seven key sections, the first six run through stories of six up-and-comers getting their chance in the WWE, and then it winds up with some iconic matches such as versing an almost unstoppable Undertaker at Wrestlemania and getting your very own Wrestlemania moment. While some people may like the comic style of the campaign’s story, we were kind of hoping that some of it might be in the weird and wacky cartoon style that they create on their WWE Network.

There are two currencies in WWE 2K Battlegrounds, the premium currency is known as Golden Bucks, and we got 1,100 as part of the digital deluxe edition to get started, which is worth about $15 AUD. The other currency is simply called Bucks and can be accrued as you play through any of the game modes, with bonuses given for leveling up your profile and completing daily challenges. While some of the legendary superstars can require over 10,000 Bucks to unlock, we found that after playing through the campaign and some of the other modes that we had plenty to spend on our favourites. If you’re a completionist, the game might become a bit of a grind later on as you attempt to unlock all of the different costumes for each wrestler, but if you play the game casually with friends either online or on the couch, you’ll find you soon earn enough Bucks to unlock that next item you had your eyes on.

WWE 2K Battlegrounds Hands-On

While WWE 2K Battlegrounds has plenty of content at launch for an arcade-style game, we’re not sure if future content will be the type that we’re looking for. There were things clearly missing such as Finn Balor’s Demon King costume and Mankind’s iconic ‘Wreck’ entrance theme (don’t worry, the game uses his original 1997 tune), and we’re not sure if they’ll be added later at this stage, as Saber Interactive will be tied up adding other wrestlers as they look to double the roster’s size. Hopefully post-launch DLC won’t just be limited to new wrestlers added, and we’ll get to see some different costumes and entrance music, as well as arenas, weapons, and match modes.

In our hands-on preview experience, we noted that the game had some AI issues with AI teammates often being completely unresponsive during tag matches. We’re happy to report that the AI in the launch version appears to be far more fluid and active, with most matches going off without a hitch. What does spoil the game though is drops in framerate when there’s a lot happening on screen, e.g. when two wrestlers are interacting with the alligator while the other two are completing one of the over-the-top signature moves. The framerate actually dropped dangerously low to the point where we couldn’t keep up with the flow of the animations.

WWE 2K Battlegrounds

We also experienced an issue earning XP and Bucks due to not being connected to the 2K servers. This was strange and unannounced as even though our Xbox profile was connected, there was nothing on-screen to say that we weren’t connected to the 2K server until the end of a match when a message appears. If you make the mistake of thinking the problem will solve itself or that you will accrue any lost XP and Bucks when you reconnect to the 2K servers then you’ll be disappointed. This meant we were unable to use the Xbox One’s standby mode to quickly jump back in. Another annoyance was that the character models would completely disappear every now and then for a split second which took away from the atmosphere of the game.

Visually, WWE 2K Battlegrounds isn’t going to win any awards. Saber has designed each character to have crazy proportions in a cartoon style that you may be familiar with if you’ve played the NBA 2K Playgrounds games. With the framerate and characters disappearing issues, we found it hard to appreciate the art style, and we’re also not sold on all the glow effects each wrestler has when they perform their special moves. While it’s pretty cool that they smash their way out of a box or other object (no spoilers) in their entrance, it was disappointing to see that each wrestler’s full entrance wasn’t animated, as for some people that’s half the fun of setting up some of the legendary matches that you can do with a roster like this.

WWE 2K Battlegrounds Hands-on

With Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler and newcomer Mauro Ranallo taking the commentary seats, each match is called down the line with plenty of hilarious screams from Lawler. He also announces each wrestler when you choose them from the selection screen, and really shines in an otherwise fairly generic audio experience. There’s no voice acting from any of the roster, not even Paul Heyman or Vince in the story mode, and the soundtrack pumping throughout the game also sounds like generic fighting game music, which is probably exactly what Saber were going for but takes away from what we’ve come to expect from WWE games.

It’s always great to see developers trying something new, venturing into unfamiliar territory and setting aside a yearly slog to create some arcade fun, and that’s exactly what WWE 2K Battlegrounds is. With plenty of different ways to play the game and a huge focus placed on both offline and online multiplayer, Saber Interactive has created a fun over-the-top wrestling game with all your favourite stars from the current roster and the hall of fame. We’re looking forward to seeing how Saber releases future content (including more than sixty already-announced WWE Superstars) and how much emphasis is placed on buying the premium Golden Bucks compared to earning Bucks in-game.

Rocket Chainsaw reviewed WWE 2K Battlegrounds on an Xbox One X with a review copy provided by the publisher. For more information on the game, head to the official WWE 2K Battlegrounds website.


- Interesting star-studded story
- Huge roster, fun to unlock
- Plenty of ways to play.


- Frame-rate occasionally drops
- No full entrances or voice acting
- Forced connection to 2K servers for progression and rewards.

Overall Score: