“Those who watch Raw every Monday night may be turned off…
As someone who fell out of love with wrestling right around the time when the WWF became WWE, the last time I remember being excited about a wrestling game was during the run up to Smackdown 2. Each year THQ would release a new Smackdown game and each year I’d desperately try to extract an ounce of fun from them but it just wasn’t to be. No matter how much I wanted to assume the role of The Rock and drill The People’s Elbow deep in to the hearts of my adversaries I just couldn’t get to grips with the increasingly “authentic” gameplay mechanics. The fact that I no longer watched wrestling also made it hard for me to invest any amount of time in the extensive “Create A…” modes and not being able to recognize half of the Superstars on the roster didn’t help either. I understood why THQ were taking the simulation route with the Smackdown Vs. Raw series, but deep inside I always hoped they’d make a more accessible game for people like me who just want to slap jabronis silly before Rock Bottoming them in to a state of unconsciousness.
“roster count is extremely low with only 30 wrestlers
Thankfully my prayers have been heard and THQ are finally releasing the game which I so craved, albeit with a few caveats which stop it from being considered a success. Just like the WWE itself, All Stars is all about over-the-top craziness, only here the crazy meter has been turned up to 11 and realism has been thrown out of the window in favor of fun. Gone are submissions, ring outs, rope breaks and other systems which break up the flow of each fight, and instead you have Eddy Guerrero issuing 30 foot suplexes to Andre the Giant. Those who watch Raw every Monday night may be turned off by the liberties taken in All Stars but for those people, the Smackdown vs. Raw series will continue to exist. For better or for worse, this is a game for casual Wrestling fans. The comically beefed up Superstars, simplified controls and flashy Finishers/Signature moves all work to insure that just about anyone can pick up the controller and instantly become a Championship contender.
Featuring an equal assortment of both current and legendary wrestlers, WWE All Stars definitely caters to those who have not watched the wrestling in many, many years. Unfortunately the roster count is extremely low with only 30 wrestlers on the disc and another 12 available as DLC.
The Ultimate Warrior
“Macho Man” Randy Savage
Bret “The Hitman” Hart
Jake “The Snake” Roberts
Andre The Giant
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat
“Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig
|The Road Warriors (Hawk & Animal)
Big Boss Man
Jerry “The King” Lawler
“The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase
The list above makes it is clear that THQ has placed too much of a focus on DLC which is especially outrageous considering the lack of game modes in this $60 video game. Compared to last year’s Smackdown vs. Raw, which featured 75 characters and a huge array of modes and customization, All Stars feels like daylight robbery. Looking at the available match types in the Exhibition Mode is almost depressing. “1 vs 1”, “Tornado Tag”, “Steel Cage”, “Extreme Rules” and “Elimination” are your only options, with Triple Threat, Fatal Four Way, Tag and Handicap variants available for the latter two. Once you’ve selected your chosen match type your ability to customize the rules starts and ends with the option to turn off Intros, and from there on you only have a choice of six arenas to throw down in.
The “Path Of Legends” modes is just as bland, offering only three short career paths which are all structured like your typical run-off-the-mill fighting game. Each Path (whether Legends, Super Star or Tag) opens with a brief cutscene and from there on you simply complete a string of 9 fights before you’re given a title shot against ether The Undertaker, Randy Orton or HHH and Sean Michaels. I managed to complete all three paths in just over an hour and once completed there was no reason for me to ever return.
The “Fantasy Warfare” mode which pits a current superstar against an equally skilled Legend is far more interesting. Each match up begins with the type of expertly produced promos that you’d expect to see during a WWE Pay Per View event and they do a great job both demonstrating what makes each wrestler so extraordinary, and gearing you up for the upcoming bout. As with Path Of Legends, Fantasy Warfare offers very little replay value and your initial playthrough may not even last an hour. Regardless, watching each of the promos and unlocking hidden characters along the way help to make Fantasy Warfare a thoroughly enjoyable experience while it lasts. Rounding out the list of modes is Create A Superstar, which as I stated earlier I have no interest in. A crucial thing that made this mode particularly pointless is the inability to assign specific moves to your created being. Instead, you can only choose to adopt a move set from another character in the game, meaning that no matter how original your characters may look, he will never, ever feel unique.
“Finishing moves are even more extravagant
The true saving grace for WWE All Stars is its undeniable fun factor. The lack of characters, modes and arenas leave a lot to be desired but the core fighting system is exceptionally fun. The controls are simple to grasp and once mastered you’ll have a hell of a time showcasing your Miz-inspired awesomeness online. The four face buttons are used for strong/weak strikes and grapples while L1/LB and R1/RB allows you to counter them both respectively. Pinning, climbing the turnbuckle and picking up objects are all assigned to L2/LT and R2/RT is your run command. Next to your health bar are two gauges which you’ll need to pay attention to if you plan on winning in style! Doing well in matches helps to build up both your Signature and Finishers meters which only deplete if you fail in your attempt to use them. Each character has two Signature moves which simply require you to hold down two face buttons at the same time. If successfully executed, you’ll perform a flashy super move which more often than not involves your opponent being hoisted in to the air before crashing back down on the canvas. The Finishing moves are even more extravagant and will instantly KO the person on the receiving end if their life bar is empty.
Going so balls-out was a controversial decision for THQ and they may have alienated many die-hard fans in the process. Enthuses has been placed on stringing together basic combos and the inclusion of life bars makes All Stars feel a lot like a regular fighting game. EA’s Def Jam Vedetta struck a perfect balance between fighting and wrestling back in 2003 but All Stars disregard for realism may be a little too much. I personally like the art design and over-exaggerated special moves but I can’t say that I enjoy seeing Macho Man leap on top of the turn buckle from the center or the ring or Rey Mysterio air juggling The Big Show as if he’s made of compressed air. The defining factor that makes it impossible for me to recommend this game is the $60 price point. Under no circumstances should a wrestling game that offers this little content be a full priced release. To add insult to injury, THQ have decided to make over 1/4 of the roster available as DLC which almost certainly will be overpriced. The lack of modes and options indicate that this was an extremely rushed project which was most likely pushed outside of the door early to capitalize off of this year’s Wrestlemania buzz.
As its core, WWE All-Stars is an extremely fun wrestling game that provides a refreshing change from Smackdown vs. Raw series. It’s just a shame that you can experience all that it has to offer in a single day. Hopefully this is just the first step for THQ and next year they will release the fully featured game that this should have been.