Game Review: WWE All-Stars
Genre: Sports (Wrestling)
Developer: THQ San Diego
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, PSP, PlayStation 2
MSRP: $59.99 (Xbox 360/PS3) $49.99 (Wii) $29.99 (PSP)
ESRB Rating: T (Alcohol Reference, Mild Language, Violence)
WWE All-Stars and I have been through a love-hate relationship before I ever got my hands on the game. I loved the idea of being able to play as the classic wrestlers I grew up with. I hated the fact that I also had to endure the current crop of wrestlers that I could care less about. I loved the concept of being able to pummel said current crop with my personal favorites. I hated the style approach THQ went with by making the game seem almost cartoonish with the graphic design. I had all of these feelings as I loaded the game into my Xbox, and while I smiled and winced and cheered and booed initially, I slowly found my opinion change as I went through the various game modes. WWE All-Stars never apologizes for being exactly what it shows you: an arcade-style wrestler featuring over-the-top story-modes, authentic entrances /signature moves (ridiculously performed), and old vs. new matchups that prove the current generation is every bit as incredible as the classic crew.
You’re given quite a few options in WWE All-Stars, and all of these modes have several layers to them. The Exhibition mode allows you to play any variation of match you could want, from standard one on one to triple threat (1 on 1 on 1) and Fatal Four-way (add a 1 to the previous combination). You can also play Steel Cage, Extreme Rules and Elimination games, so there is a considerable amount of variety to keep things fresh. There are a few other game modes that will help introduce you to the various modes and wrestlers as well: Path of Champions, which is a story mode of sorts for the game (3 paths to follow), and Fantasy Warfare, which goes through a ton of matchups of old vs. new (Or, as the game calls it, Legends vs. Superstars). This last mode was particularly fun, as you not only play on whatever side you want, but you also get a video montage hyping the matchup, and showing a history of each wrestler. It was really cool to see some of the classic footage of wrestlers like Ricky Steamboat, Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan (and it was a great way to familiarize myself with the Superstars in the game, since I had no idea who any of them were). The rest of the game offerings include Xbox Live online play, and a Create Superstar mode that allows you to make your own wrestler that can utilize whatever moveset you want from the various wrestlers in the game (some of these need to be unlocked by playing through the other game modes).
Playing WWE All-Stars starts with selecting your wrestler, which will determine what kind of moves are available to you. Wrestler types are broken down into categories like Acrobatic, Brawler and Big Men to name a few, and how you play may differ based on who you pick. Once in the match, you can pummel your opponent with melee style attacks (punches and kicks), use grapple moves to execute all the various drops and throws, or mix up the two. I tended to gravitate towards a heavy load of grapple moves, as most of the fun moves were found here. As you deliver your preferred method of punishment on your opponent(s), you will build up a power bar that will allow for unblockable (and non-reversible) power moves that will inflict heavy damage. There is also a separate meter for your finishing move which, if executed on an opponent with no health, will KO that person (or keep them down long enough in a cage match to escape without retaliation). I explain this to you now because none of it is explained in game (in fact, nothing is). The true trick to this game, beyond everything else I’ve mentioned, is the ability to reverse moves. You’ve seen it in wrestling for years; a wrestler throws their opponent towards the ropes, only to have their opponent hold on and whip THEM into the turnbuckle instead. That concept translates nicely in game, as just about every move is reversible (and some are reversible several times in a row). The timing can be tricky to perform them, but once you have it down, matches often come down to who slips up on the reverse first. It’s a great mechanic that ensures that even people who are constantly on the defensive can still deal damage if their timing is good.
I really thought I would dislike the way the game presented itself with the cartoonish graphics and unrealistic physics, but I found that it grew on me as I played. The animations are authentic (Hulk Hogan even writhes on the mat, grabbing wildly at his head with both arms when he falls hard or is getting hit while down), and the moves, while exaggerated, are fun to pull off and lovingly recreated from their source material. The wrestler entrances are also excellent (however once you’ve seen it once, you’ve seen it; some variety would have been nice), and while the load screens are frequent (and sometimes long), the game plays flawlessly once the action gets going, even with 4 wrestlers all pounding each other at once. I really liked the reversal system (once I figured it out), as I felt it leveled the playing field. It also became mandatory to be able to execute reversals on the later matches, since you opponent will often reverse your moves and you must react to reverse the reversal. This game feels like a wrestling game should; I’ll admit there’s probably some nostalgia working hard on my like for this game (feel free to knock a point off my final score if you know none of the wrestlers and don’t care about the WWE), but the game just plays well, and that kind of gameplay can forgive a lot.
Of course, you will need to figure the game out on your own in order to enjoy it properly. In what seems to be a trend (at least for the games I’ve been reviewing lately), there’s no tutorial mode or training of any sorts; you’re just thrown into the action and have to figure out the moves on your own (fortunately you will win matches just by mashing buttons at first). Considering how cool some of the more complex moves are, it would have been nice to figure out how to use my finisher sooner than 3 hours into the game (when it was used on me). The commentary is entertaining at first, but quickly starts repeating itself, sometimes in the same match (and even on back to back moves). There’s also an odd tendency for a commentator to spend 30 seconds talking about one wrestler while the action is going on, and it sounds very out of synch with everything else going on. There are small bugs and glitches that aren’t game breaking, but show a lack of polish (camera can sometimes stay zoomed in too close during elimination matches, and limbs sometimes disappear into a downed opponent’s body). The load screens are numerous and, in matches that are more than just one-on-one, can be lengthy.
vttym’s take: Once things get going in WWE All-Stars, the action is fast and furious. You will have a hard time wiping the smile off your face as you execute your power moves on helpless opponents, and that feeling never diminishes as you continue to play. The story modes are a little corny, but then again, so is the WWE on TV, so in a sense I appreciated keeping things true to form. The graphics and gameplay are perfect for what this game delivers, and having played it, I can’t imagine using more realistic models. The true hook in this game for me was playing through the Superstars vs. Legends mode, and seeing all the video clips of the wrestlers before the match started (not to mention playing out the matchup). The reversal system also saves this game from devolving into solely a battle of who knows more moves. This game isn’t perfect, but you’ll have so much fun playing it that you won’t notice (or care).
+ Signature moves are varied and true to life
+ Playing as your favorite wrestlers is great fun
+ Superstar vs. Legend matchups are very well done
– Repetitive play-by-play
– Load screens slow things down between matches
– No tutorial will makes this game unnecessarily difficult to learn
Final Score: 9/10