I will admit that, when I was a kid, I was a huge fan of wrestling. My time was during the days of Hulk Hogan, Macho Man and, of course, the Ultimate Warrior. So, whenever THQ decides to bring these icons back into the mix, I usually have a soft spot for it. WWE All-Stars is a convocation of the aforementioned legends and some more recent superstars in an arcade brawler that is supposed to be accessible to just about anyone. Wrestling fans may be disappointed by the lack of features, but for someone like me, this is truly a fun romp with my childhood.
As far as modes are concerned this game contains the quintessential favorites such as versus, cage matches, elimination and most other wrestling standards. The two standouts are the Path of Champions and Fantasy Warfare, the latter being the more entertaining. In Fantasy Warfare there is a collection of matches between rivals that have never faced off against each other. While this may not seem that special, wrestling fans will adore the cut scenes before each event as they are clips and videos that are spliced together to set up the match. It’s very nicely done and promotes the fan service.
Path of Champions is not as impressive, but still adds a little spice. Basically, you have three roads to take with each one ending up at a final battle against The Undertaker, DX or Orton. The cut scenes are nicely done and keep the flow. Even with the cut scenes though, the mode is still just a series of ten matches that range in variety and have no real bearing on the final match. You can also hop online for matches and, from our experience, it was relatively smooth with minor lag at times. There is also a create-a-wrestler but, let’s be honest, this is not a game that you will want to create your own character in.
The roster for the game is impressive and disappointing at the same time. While all my favorites are here, including Macho Man, Jimmy Superfly and The Ultimate Warrior, there are some omissions and poorly scheduled DLC. The character select screen is littered with questions marks that show what was omitted to make way for paid DLC in the future. I am all for extending a game’s life with more content, but when it is this blatant, you can’t help but feel a bit ripped off; like you got an incomplete product right out of the box.
As you can probably imagine, this game does not play like most wrestling games. The controls have been shaved down to simplistic button presses, but at the same time, contain an unnerving amount of depth and complexity. Sure, striking and grappling your opponent is as easy as mashing buttons, but when it comes to performing actions such as rope running, turnbuckle climbing and the like, a whole new slew of buttons come into play. Sometimes, it can be a bit overwhelming how many different actions can actually be performed. This is not a game that anyone can pick up and play and perform all the moves.
You can counter attacks, but your timing has to be near perfect. Finishing moves seem simple at first until you realize that if the opponent manages to hit you during your taunt, it is reset. The game is full of awkward design choices like this, making it feel like an arcade game with a hidden complexity that most casual fans are not going to bother to master.
It also doesn’t help that the AI in the game is so sporadic. I found myself jumping into various matches and being completely dominated the entire match, only to hit restart and find myself dishing it out instead. There is no real strategy, as the AI will win if it wants to win. This results in more frustration than anything as the loading times between matches is abhorrent. It becomes a double-edged sword, as the game is fun and casual when it wants to be, and then it throws something frustrating in the mix to somehow ruin the experience. Still, if you are a fan of wrestling and have always dreamed of matching up The Rock and The Ultimate Warrior in a tag team match without the cumbersome controls of most wrestling games, this is your chance.
The characters in the game portray the action figure style with disproportionate bodies and gigantic muscles. This adds to the unrealistic sense the game delivers. Colors are also vibrant and full of primary tones and lots of flash. This game was designed to look as goofy as we remember wrestling, and the team has done a good job. Venues are nicely animated and everything moves at a solid clip. I love touches such as the intros and voice work, it is nice to hear Howard Finkle once again announcing the wrestlers.
Speaking of audio, the commentary by J.R. and The King is well done and follows the match quite well. The intro music is ripped straight from childhood and the effects are decent enough. The voice work for the wrestlers is definitely well done, especially in the Path of Champions mode. Overall, the game definitely has plenty of fan service poured into it so if you are a fan of the particular roster, this is your game.
WWE All-Stars is not going to set the world on fire with any of its features, but it still manages to be fun, thanks to nostalgia. If you are like me and grew up with a lot of these wrestlers, you will find plenty of fun to be had here. If you are a hardcore wrestling fan, you are no doubt going to find something to complain about, as this game doesn’t bother remaining true to the sport in most scenarios. I recommend checking out the demo and, if you enjoy the way it plays, don’t hesitate to pick it up. There is certainly plenty here to keep you occupied for a while.
Review copy provided by publisher.