A bit of a story here: I was in the middle of writing the rough draft for my Valis post a couple weeks ago, when I got pinged on Discord. A friend had messaged me, asking if I wanted a Steam code for this game. Not one to turn down a free video game, I said yes. I didn’t press the issue as to how exactly he got this game. I hope it was from a bundle, because nobody should be gifting me $60 video games for the hell of it. Well, unless you’re one of my Niteflirt customers, in which case, you fucking paypigs need to get me a Super Cassette Vision and a bunch of its games, specifically Pop and Chips.
Now then, the game itself.
WWE 2k20 was an absolute joke. Even if you don’t care about wrestling, video games, or wrestling video games, you knew what a piece of shit it was. It looked like shit, and it played like shit. 2k20 was mostly infamous for its bugs. The game was very obviously released unfinished. This was mostly due to the series developer Yukes leaving mid-way through production, with the resulting development in the hands of an inexperienced team that had no idea how their engine worked. I guess after nearly twenty years of making the same game over and over, not enjoying it, all while having to deal with a revolving door of unstable publishers and WWE itself breathing down you neck, you finally have enough. And like everyone else who’s sick of Vince McMahon’s shit, Yukes now works for AEW. To say that the game suffered because of this would be an understatement. Ultimately, the only thing 2k20 was good for were the NewLegacy streams that followed.
As a result, it would be announced that WWE would not have a game released in 2020. The time would be spent coming to grips with how the game worked, and make something that didn’t suck.
But then there was a game released in 2020, and that was 2k Battlegrounds.
2k Battlegrounds was meant as an “apology” for how bad 2k20 was. Instead of a boring Sports Entertainment sim, we were getting this over-the-top action-fighting game. Something along the lines of the Stone Cold (heh) classic, Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game, or, fuck, WWE All-Stars. Brief aside: I have never played All-Stars. I head it was really good, but I couldn’t get over the art style, which is one of the few times a games’ art has ever actually offended me. I’m just saying, maybe it’s a bad idea to give your roster exaggerated muscle definition, looking like a bunch of steroid monsters, especially given that about half the characters are actually dead in real life due to substance abuse issues; I don’t want to be reminded how grossly big Eddie Guerrero was prior to his actual death, thank you.
Anyways. 2k Games wanted to apologize for giving us an ugly, badly playing, buggy wrestling game released at full price with a bunch of microtransactions by…giving us an ugly, badly playing, buggy wrestling game released at full price with a bunch of microtransaction.
I hate to focus so much on the graphics of a game, but I have to here. Battlegrounds is fucking hideous. It attempts to use a chibi-fied, super deformed look, and fails miserably. It’s not cute, and everyone looks like they got something wrong with them. You will never get used to how this looks, and I hope that this does not become a trend. Some things were never meant to be, and I think a chibi Bray Wyatt or Hulk Hogan are among them.
You pick your ugly little Superstarstm and then you have a match. I played this on the medium difficulty, and either I would finish a match in about thirty seconds because my opponent no resistance whatsoever, or the AI would counter every single move I attempted and draw the match out to a time limit draw. Because of everyone’s stubby little limbs, your attacks have no range to them, and any move that does any real damage takes stamina, stamina that is constantly draining. Every match quickly degenerates to doing big moves, hoping the AI doesn’t have a response to all of them, then either throwing shitty punches that don’t connect, or even better, standing back and doing nothing until you’re recovered. In real wrestling, when the wrestlers are tired, they at least put someone in a headlock first. At least recover in a way that isn’t completely boring! For something that’s supposed to be fast-paced and “arcade-like” (whatever the fuck that means), having guys run out of breath completely kills the pacing.
There’s a story mode. It also sucks. You don’t get to play as any of the wrestlers you see on TV. You instead play as a bunch of OCs that can best be described as: “douchebag,” “another douchebag,” “another douchebag that is probably a racist caricature,” and “I stopped playing this mode because I don’t care anymore.” The cutscenes are presented via comic panels where a badly drawn Steve Austin is looking for new talent for WWE, I guess because the current talent is all going to AEW and Impact. Because, you know, that fits the character of Steve “took wrestling to new heights of popularity by beating the shit out of his boss on TV” Austin.
You’ll probably have to play this anyway, because it’s how you get enough “Battle Bucks” to unlock hidden characters. In Battlegrounds, “hidden” means “about 90% of the game’s roster.” Oh did you want to play as multiple time world champion Daniel Bryan? Better pay up! You want Becky Lynch? You know, the same Becky Lynch who main evented Wrestlemania a few years ago? Earn those Battle Bucks, bitch! Rob Gronkowski, an NFL player, is available by default, yet just about everyone who made WWE programming tolerable for all these years are hidden from view. How fitting.
I went looking through the roster, to see who was considered the most valuable. The most expensive wrestlers in Battlegrounds are:
- Hulk Hogan
- Triple H
- Ronda Rousey
- Vince McMahon
So you can save up all that money and buy a racist, a guy who killed the company for about half a decade due to his ego (you can even argue that WWE has still never recovered from his run at the top), a TERF, and a literal supervillain. The fact that McMahon is worth more than most of the talent he hires really is the best unintentional statement, isn’t it?
That’s really all there is to 2k Battlegrounds. It sucks, but it sucks in a boring, ugly way. At least with the mainline games, you can at least laugh at how buggy they are. Battlegrounds is just…there. It doesn’t succeed, but it also doesn’t fail in any spectacular way. I played it for about a week, then I put it away, realizing that I had seen all there was to offer. Games like this are built around having lots of replay value, and this doesn’t. Really, all I can say is that 2k Battlegrounds is the video game equivalent of modern day WWE: throwing bad ideas at a wall to see what will stick; what will bring back a deflated audience and a low public opinion. At risk of sounding like a fangirl, I would say to stick it out and wait for the AEW game. I can at least say that when AEW fucks up, I still have fun.