March 29, 2011
When WWE was actually called WWF, you couldn't help but be a big fan. Watching a bunch of guys beating the living hell - or so I thought - out of one another was bizarrely addictive and how the bad guys always managed to win by nefarious means was frankly quite mind blowing. Since then the sport has gone from strength to strength and the casual rivalries of yesteryear have grown into year-long story arcs that would put Hollyoaks [Editor's note: Insert country relevant soap opera here if you have no idea what Hollyoaks is] to shame for the amount of preposterous drama they include. However, for those of us yearning for a simpler time, we have WWE All Stars, a game where past Legends meet current Superstars. As the Hulkster would say: "Whatcha gonna do brother?"... Well, write about it of course.
It's fair to say that recent wrestling games have become somewhat bogged down by lengthy career modes and move-sets that would make Street Fighter blush. The idea behind All Stars was to strip all of that away and create a simplified fighter that could apply to everyone, as well as giving us an excuse to use Andre the frickin' Giant. Sweet.
Legends of Wrestlemania in 2009 tried something similar but never really got off the ground, as it was almost too easy in some respects. This time around though, you can expect an in-your-face fighter, with beefed-up versions of some WWE greats performing all of the moves you would expect. Yes, the franchise that has over-the-top down to an art form has been made even more so. The characters and action in All Stars look superb and are complimented with some delightfully tongue-in-cheek commentary. With bulging biceps and signature moves that would probably kill Chuck Norris - as well as defy all the laws of physics - WWE All Stars is more about pizzazz than the series combat that you'd expect from THQ's yearly WWE outing – or so you would think...
The real problem with the game is that it's not quite as simple as it'd lead you to believe. The action itself revolves around combos and chains of moves to whittle away your opponent's health, with well-timed strings of blows doing a ton of damage sprinkled in between. This is certainly a nice change from the more strategy-based stamina system that you'd find in the annual WWE games, however, the game never quite gets around to telling you how certain moves link together and it usually comes down to a lot of trial and error (or furious button bashing – I admit it) before you begin to understand the basics. The opponent AI is also pretty brutal, even on easy, and will pull off counters at the drop of a hat, whereas the timing for you to counter anything seems improbably small and possibly even luck based.
Obviously the main highlight of any match should be a finisher - to bring your opponent to their knees - but it takes so long to pull one off that you usually get attacked before they can kick in. In fact, the more punishment your opponent takes, then the more annoying they seem to become, as just as you think you can finish them off they start countering more frequently and pulling off their own big moves. This situation happens far too often to be mere chance as well, which makes the game far more frustrating than it should be. If they want to simplify things then why include such a massive array of moves dependent of a variety of button presses, analogue moves and trigger holds? Newcomers looking for an easy ride are going to be swiftly outmatched, which is surely not what was intended
Despite the shortcomings of the actual in-ring antics, the presentation here is second-to-none. There are 30 fighters to choose from, though some of them are rather dubious choices to say the least, and playing as the Macho Man or Superfly Jimmy Snuka, to name but two, is likely to bring back some amazing memories. There are the usual variety of modes to tackle, although sadly no career option, instead leaving you with the 'Path of Champions' or, the vastly superior, 'Fantasy match ups' to eat up the majority of your time. The Champions events are merely ten matches in a row with a brief snippet of trash talk inserted along the way, and it must be said they do feel a bit forced with no real sense of progression. The Fantasy events however are just regular matches but they are preceded by some superb video footage that really makes you wonder what would happen if those two titans did collide – it's a superb addition and one that doesn’t overstay its welcome.
Once again you can create your own wrestler too, although why you'd want to is beyond me, as the main attraction here are the old school superstars. If playing on your lonesome or sinking 50 hours into making a character that you'll never use isn't for you, you can head online to get your jollies, although be warned now, you should expect some lag, especially when the action gets a little bit hectic. Still, there are plenty of chances to showboat in front of your friends and almost as many match options to choose from as in the single-player, so at least those looking for a bit of longevity can find it here. Laggy longevity that is...
Sadly the achievements here are a bit more humdrum than this game deserves either, especially when you are tasked with completing all of the Path of Champions events at least twice and polishing off the roster three times with different characters too. That’s before I even mention the need for a stack load of online wins as well as completing the Fantasy match ups twice too. "Sigh" is the word you're looking for. In all honesty, the amount of grinding and repetition required here is enough to douse the ardour of even the biggest wrestling fan, and the few fun achievements are lost along the way, which is a shame.
For WWE fans past and present, WWE All Stars has plenty about it to enjoy, the only problem is the fact that the core combat is nowhere near as intuitive or slick as the actual presentation. Playing with the Legend characters is a ball, especially when watching some of the awesome Fantasy match ups, but things soon become repetitive and the overly shallow nature of the game seems far more apparent. Sadly, WWE All Stars is a long, drawn out two count rather then the almighty, undisputed belt winning three count we had hoped for.
The voicework is actually pretty decent and soaking in some of the ridiculous one-liners and colour commentary is what wrestling is all about.
The over the top wrestlers and moves look amazing, and nothing beats watching the classic intros and clips. However, the actual arenas feel a bit empty and static, which kills the vibe... as does the lag online.
While the moves look amazing the game is not as intuitive as it should be for a big, arcade-style brawler. Things are sometimes too finicky and the AI is pretty brutal, even on the easiest difficulty.
This is a superb wrestling package, with a top notch roster, clips and game modes galore. Just seeing those classic intros alone is worth the price of admission.
While the list encourages you to dabble in most of the modes, there is some truly awful grinding hidden away here, including completing the Path of Champions events at least twice, which sucks the fun out of the proceedings.
For wrestling fans WWE All Stars is a top notch title, especially the Fantasy match ups, but it soon becomes repetitive pretty quickly for the average gamer. The controls are nowhere near as simple as they could have been and the AI is pretty tough, especially when you’re outnumbered. It’s certainly better than Legends of Wrestlemania was, but still fails to climb to the dizzy heights of a must see pay-per-view event.