Game Rant's Riley Little reviews WWE All Stars
It's been many years since the last arcade-style WWE game was launched, but to the delight of wrestling fans everywhere, THQ has changed that with the recent release of WWE All Stars. The latest wrestling game from THQ is an over-the-top arcade-inspired wrestling title that brings together two completely different generations of the sport in one ring. The amazing roster in WWE All Stars allows players to live out matches they've only been able to dream about, and the actual in-game wrestling is a much-needed overhaul to a genre that seemed to have died a long time ago. The game isn't perfect however, and there are a few minor issues to be found.
WWE All Stars is quite a drastic change of pace from the annual Smackdown vs. Raw series, and that becomes obvious by simply viewing a still image of gameplay. The wrestlers all look ridiculously large and muscular, and their features have been altered to give off a more cartoony vibe. This game isn't trying to recreate a realistic atmosphere and the visuals show it.
That's by no means a knock against the look of the game, because it does a very good job of capturing the same zaniness the gameplay brings to the table. However, the physical appearance of the wrestlers won't matter one bit once you learn about WWE All Stars' full roster.
There are approximately 30 different wrestlers to choose from, and while that may not seem like much in the age of Marvel vs. Capcom 3, remember the sage-like wisdom recited to us by our parents so many years ago: "it's the quality that counts, not the quantity.' It was inspired thinking then, and truer words have never been spoken where WWE All Stars is concerned. 15 of the 30 superstars are modern day personalities like Triple H, Randy Orton, John Cena, and Undertaker just to name a few. The other half of the roster consists of nothing but WWE Legends.
Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and (for the first time ever in a THQ-made WWE game) "Macho Man" Randy Savage. The roster alone should drive sales, and will draw in both vintage wrestling fans and modern day ones. More WCW Legends, or at the very least Goldberg would have been fantastic additions, but it's hard to be disappointed with WWE All Stars' roster. There's also DLC in the works, the first of which arrives this April for free.
As previously mentioned, the gameplay is an unmistakable throwback to the old-school arcade wrestling titles that have been MIA for many years now. The characters look ridiculous and have move sets to match. Signature moves, grapples, and strikes have all been exaggerated in the name of entertaining gameplay, with most of the joy from WWE All Stars found in the execution of various flip-tacular and over-the-top maneuvers. As witnessed in the game's launch trailer, it's even possible to bounce your opponent off of the mat, chaining together different gravity-defying combinations.
While the gameplay is thoroughly enjoyable, the difficulty and complexity in performing certain moves efficiently seems to counteract the 'pick-up and play' premise that THQ was aiming for. The game poses a challenge immediately, which isn't a major problem in itself, but the lack of tutorials or details on the four different competitor classes compounds the problem.
The CPU opponents will kick your butt the first few times you play the game, but most players will soon become familiar enough with the controls to compete. So while not a deal-breaker, it is unfortunate that THQ didn't include a practice or tutorial mode to fine-tune skills and combos.
The control layout in WWE All Stars is fairly simple, with face buttons offering a variety of light and heavy maneuvers, and the right and left bumpers used to block incoming attacks. Blocking is not nearly as easy as it sounds though, which is a bit unfortunate. Blocking or reversing requires split-second reflexes that are timed perfectly, with a great deal of frustration coming from opponents capable of blocking or reversing nearly all attacks, without giving players the same opportunity.
WWE All Stars has a number of fairly basic modes that are sure to please long-time fans of the WWE. The most engaging matches are easily the 'Fantasy Warfare' match ups, pitting a modern day superstar against a WWE legend in a faux-storyline. Before each match starts, an extremely well-edited video featuring real life footage of each of the two combatants plays, giving the impressions that the two wrestlers have a legitimate feud going on.
Hulk Hogan vs. John Cena, Stone Cold vs. CM Punk, and every other 'Fantasy Warfare' match-up is made even more special by the introductions given to set players up for the match they are about to begin. Not only is the 'Fantasy Warfare' mode entertaining, but stands as a new height in the genre, immersing players in the experience unlike any other wrestling game before.
The other main single-player mode is 'Path of Champions', and adds more types of gameplay while still maintaining WWE All Stars' fun factor. There are three different Championship paths the player can take, culminating in a battle with the Undertaker, a WWE title match against Randy Orton, or a Tag Team match against D-Generation X.
Some of the superstars actually recorded audio for these cutscenes, in which ridiculously over-sized and plastic-looking versions of themselves address the player directly. While the mode may not be as interesting as the 'Fantasy Warfare' mode, it is still a cool idea that players are likely to enjoy.
The game also includes the standard 'Exhibition Mode' allowing you and your friends to team up or go head-to-head, but there aren't many match types to choose from. There's an 'Extreme Rules' match, a 'Fatal 4-Way' match, and even a 'Steel Cage' match, but the lack of other well-known match types (such as 'Hell in a Cell,' 'Money in the Bank,' Ladder matches, and more) is a bit of a bummer. There is still a lot of fun to be had in the available match-types, so a shortage of matches shouldn't be too much of a discouragement.
All of these matches can also be played in WWE Allstars' online mode, but anyone who has experienced any WWE game online knows the various problems that seem to plague the series. The online matches are fairly laggy, making a well-executed move nearly impossible. You'd think that after all these years THQ would be able to make a semi-decent and lag-free online component to accompany their WWE titles, but it seems they haven't, which won't come as a shock to longtime fans.
'Create-A-Superstar' is the final mode in the game, and unfortunately feels like it saw a rushed development to be finished for All Stars. There are very little tools and outfits to help make your wrestler stand out against any of the other created wrestlers, which may also make creating a superstar easier for those inept at utilizing the mode in the Smackdown vs. Raw series. The mode feels like a last minute addition, but it's still nice to see a character creation system of any type in the game.
One of the biggest issues with WWE All Stars is the loading screens. An initial twenty-second loading screen is one thing, but every other game mode seems to bring along its own series of delays, which pulls players right out of the experience. While a nuisance, the loading screens aren't the worst on the market, and are for the most part bearable.
To summarize, WWE All Stars is what every wrestling game should be. The roster is one of the best any WWE game has ever had before, and the insane moves and gameplay make the game a certified standout. There may be a few issues with online play and inconvenient load times that pop up, but these flaws can be easily overlooked. In the same way, the controls take some getting used to, but are ultimately picked up fairly quickly.
Anyone who is or was a fan of the WWE is going to have an absolute blast with WWE All Stars. So go out, buy this game, and layeth the smacketh down, brother.
WWE All Stars is available now for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, PSP, Xbox 360, and Wii.