Game Name: WWE All Stars
Platform(s): Xbox 360 (reviewed), PSP, PS2, PS3, Nintendo Wii
Developer(s): THQ San Diego
Release Date: March 29, 2011 (US) April 1, 2011 (EU)
Price: $59.99 BUY NOW!
THQ’s WWE All Stars brings together both legends and current WWE superstars to square off in the ring with some over-the-top combat. While this game does qualify as a wrestling title, everything is crafted to best fit an arcade fighter with things like combos, an HP bar, and of course a huge movepool filled with techniques the WWE Superstars could only dream of pulling off. This combination mixes a bit from both genres to give a brand new feel for a wrestling title and while it isn’t perfect, it is certainly a step in a new direction. So is this journey in a new direction for the WWE brand an enjoyable one or does it fall flat on it’s face? Here is my review for WWE All Stars.
You really cannot even begin to talk about WWE All Stars without mentioning the gameplay engine. Now if you are familiar with the Smackdown series or a fan of any wrestling games for that matter, the combat will feel slightly familiar as grapples and standard attacks work about the same control-wise but of course are more simplified overall. There is one light grapple button as well as one heavy grapple, with each having a different variety of moves you can pull off based on the combination of input from the left analog. Following suit, there are also light and heavy strikes that work in a similar fashion. It sounds quite simple, but there is actually a complex strategy behind this which is a clever countering system as well as a bit of a combination from an arcade fighter that allows for fast paced combos to be pulled off along with some mid-air juggling and a better build-up for a takedown.
With this newer engine also come the main course of the game, that being the brand new movepool which has some of the most over-the-top attacks a wrestling title of any sort has never seen before. Each superstar and legend now boast an action figure appearance with some of their most prominent features as well as muscles being blown up, kind of like a caricature of sorts. Along with the larger than life performers, the moves in WWE All Stars fit the same bill. Instead of someone like Rey Mysterio performing a standard hurricanrana, you will see Mysterio Flip up about 20 feet in the air and then land on the opponents shoulders and smash them to the mat. Nearly every move boasts a bit of these mechanics with the ring even showing ripples flow through it after a hard attack takes down a foe. I spent a long time just going through and trying to actually just see every move I could as they not only look great, they are also rather simple to pull off and really make WWE All Stars stand on a league of it’s own, offering a breath of fresh air from the much stiffer simulation turn that the Smackdown series has taken in the past few years.
While you are actually in a match, moves can be chained into combos much like standard fighting games that we see out today. To counter this, there are two block buttons which completely take the momentum from a move and let you counter into an attack of your own. This adds in the element of timing into the whole process and adds a thick layer of strategy going into each match. Controls are fully customizable so you can play to your best liking, but if you were like me and just go for a default set, you may find the small shoulder buttons on the standard 360 controller a bit too small and awkward feeling to aim for the precise and perfect timing needed. Thankfully though, WWE All Stars seemed to be ready for change and that alone makes a comfort zone for any player easy to find.
While I had a blast getting to know this brand new layout, I did find myself in utter frustration as I spent more and more time with game in general for a number of reasons. Button tapping meter mini-games from the Smackdown series do not appear often, but they do however appear during a pin. I have never cared for any button mashing pin system that includes a meter you must fill at all and in my very first match, this caught me by surprise and just barely a minute in I was pinned due to not being able to tap fast enough, whereas later after a 20 minute match, 3 finishers, and having no HP remaining, my opponent was able to kick out before the ref called a 2 count. In my opinion this kind of made the pinning system feel a bit off balanced. Now there is also a match finishing alternative which can be used, that being to simply KO your opponent.
After taking so much damage, you can knockout your opponent which ends the match instantly. This works well and seems to keep up with the pacing and HP of the match, but it also causes each match to begin to feel like a race for a finisher. It isn’t too hard to fill up the finisher bar to start with as I had mine full two minutes in usually, which lead to some much shorter games overall. All of this would be fine normally, but I felt cheated even when I won many times as I was left simply wanting more.
One of the greatest features of WWE All Stars is the huge roster that you can choose from. While it only features 30 superstars/legends, the diversity is quite wide. Legends such as Stone Cold, The Ultimate Warrior, The Rock and many other familiar faces have made their comeback for this title and those who enjoy today’s entertainment product should be happy as well since popular wrestlers such as John Cena, Rey Mysterio and the many more of the most prominent faces of the brand are available right off the bat as well. This mix is great for making some great “what if” matches, as well as trying to recreate your own over-the-top versions of past meetings.
Modes & Match Variety
While the roster is impressive, there isn’t a whole lot of matches you can actually participate in. There is an exhibition mode in which you can participate in single, tornado tag, extreme rules, and cage matches which are all fun, but I thought with how insane the gameplay is, we might have gotten to see some more fitting match types (like TLC, Table, or even Inferno).
Path of Champions is the game’s season mode in which you can take your favorite superstar through three different paths. This mode reminded me a bit of older wrestling titles as each path consists of a gauntlet style line-up of ten different matches you can participate in until an eventual encounter at Wrestlemania. As you make your way through each, cutscenes will appear to try to mend in a story into this gauntlet and for the most part, these were usually entertaining to watch and easy to follow. The tag match portion with DX was my least favorite of the three, but that was mainly due to the AI for my partner. The AI either KO’d the opponent extremely early, or simply got taken out quickly which lead to a lot of rematches taking place.
The last mode in the game is Fantasy Warfare. This mode is made up of preset matches, putting one superstar up against a legend for one reason or another. Once you select your favorite out of the two you are given, a clip is shown to build up the fight and you do battle in the ring. Some of these “fantasy” matches were great to try out, but others felt a bit forced and rushed as later rounds have a current star like Kane going after Jimmy Snuka to see who has the most ruthless aggression. That didn’t make sense to me personally, but either way the build-up clips are fantastic to watch and made me feel some true nostalgia.
Online mode simply has all the match types from exhibition in which you can do battle with with players all over the world. I had no lag whatsover in the sessions I played and each match feels just like it does in the standard game. While I was online though, I did notice many different strategies being used though which further implements how deep and varied attacks and combos really go. If you really want the most out of this game, online is where the true challenge and variation is in my opinion.
The creation mode in WWE All Stars is complex enough when it comes to actually making the appearance of your superstar, but move wise things are a bit linear as preset movesets are all you can actually assign outside of a finisher from the start. As you play, more options become unlocked for this mode, so patient players will be rewarded with a bit broader selection later on allowing for the more creative juices to flow. For instance, I made a fantastic looking Diesel in under an hour so the potential here comes with whoever may be player behind the controller.
As I mentioned, each character in this game has been blown up to look like an action figure of sorts, and I must say every wrestler’s model in the game looks fantastic and truly fits in with the absurdly fun antics you can use in the ring. You can really see the attention to detail that the developers put into face models as even little features such as wrinkles and receding hairlines match to perfection. The crowd are nice to look at as well and do a good job of making each match feel a little more authentic as the fans jump up and down throughout each bout. Animations for moves are accurate and in my opinion make this game flow to nearly perfect. Not having any dropped frame rates or glitchy movements that we have seen from other titles leave everything feeling smooth and humorous each time you step in a ring
The audio work that went into WWE All Stars was done well also. For the voice acting that is in the game, I was very impressed with the final product. Whether it be the screeching voice of Paul Bearer or DX simply cutting jokes, everything seems like the personas participating were having fun actually doing their part. Commentary is still a bit annoying, but I can’t recall a perfectly commentated game….ever, so that should be little problem for any fan wrestling titles. The classic combo of King and good ol’ JR are just nice to hear in general anyway so most should be pleased with the calling of any match. The sound effects used for moves truly make them feel as over-the-top as when they are performed, you not only see the hard hits, you hear them as well. The music in the game for menus is simply entrance music, but to hear Hulk Hogan’s classic theme blaring over your speakers is definitely a reason to crank up the volume and this alone helps pump you up to do battle.
WWE All Stars is huge in many ways, from the performers in the game, the nearly flawless presentation value, and the brand new set of campy moves that can be executed. Sadly though, I did feel this title came up a bit short as there just is not enough content that kept me going back for more. Small issues like button mashing and the KO system can really kill the opportunity to recreate that perfect match by either making something as simple as pinning a chore, or just cutting the match way too short to start with.
WWE All Stars does deliver the goods when it comes to being a fun wrestling title and doesn’t take itself serious at all, but some of the execution that went into the final product just makes the whole game feel a bit smaller than it’s actual premise in the long run. This game is great at making your jaw drop and you are sure to have a great time playing through each mode, but after a while the bells and whistles can start to fade, a lacking feeling emerges after just a few hours of play. WWE All Stars does do more right than wrong though and certainly has potential to grow as a series so if you just want a wrestling game you can just hop into and have some quick fun, this title is for you and a more light-hearted approach to the genre as a whole.
I Give WWE All Stars for the Xbox 360: