The last ‘proper’ WWE game was the much maligned WWE 2K20, which released in 2019, spawning thousands of meme-worthy videos and GIFs of hilarious bugs and glitches. It was clearly rushed – after publisher 2K took development duties away from long-term series developer and wrestling specialist Yuke’s – and fans were understandably up in arms at the near-immediate drop in quality.

To ensure that the series returned to its higher bar of quality once more, it’s skipped a year (and a bit – it’s back early next year with WWE 2K22), but the lucrative license wasn’t just going to sit this round out, especially with an audience hungry for a video game wrestling fix. So WWE 2K Battlegrounds entered the ring.

The thing is, wrestling fans are a fickle bunch – and a cutesy, more arcadey take on their beloved WWE wasn’t particularly well received. It’s a shame, because there’s actually a lot of content in Battlegrounds and it’s the most accessible WWE game there’s been in years.

There’s no denying that the style is a bit awkward, though it does have a certain wonky charm. It’s fun to see tons of wrestlers given the cartoony, caricatured visual makeover and the over-the-top, fantastical elements including special powers and rings based in dangerous locations, for example. Contextual environmental weapons such as alligators or motorbikes add a great new dimension to the action too, which suits the daft nature of WWE wrestling perfectly.

The Story mode gets very repetitive, however, despite its length and scope (with plenty of stuff to unlock!). It’s a grind to unlock new wrestlers or other items/environments – it does feel as if the game is pushing you towards paying real money to unlock them, especially with so much on-screen real estate given to the purchasable items/wrestlers on the main menu screen. The story itself is half-heartedly related via comic book style images, which just seems a bit cheap and rushed – the usual presentation of WWE games, with their well-produced intros and footage, is nowhere to be found.

It’s worth noting that the gameplay, as stripped down and basic as it is, is genuinely fun – especially in multiplayer – but its lack of depth does mean it starts to feel quite repetitive, quite quickly. There’s a wealth of options and match types beyond the main story mode, however – and the roster of wrestlers to unlock, both contemporary and classic, is genuinely impressive.

It’s a fun diversion then, but probably not one for the hardcore wrestling aficionados – worth picking up if you’re a fan of arcade-style beat ’em ups or a more casual wrestling fan though, especially as it can be found pretty cheap these days.

WWE 2K Battlegrounds is available for Xbox consoles, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.

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