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The WWE Smackdown! vs. Raw series has always been a very technical, controls focused game. This has resulted in many non-hardcore wrestling fans being put off by the inaccessibility of the franchise. THQ San Diego (comprised mostly of people who worked on TNA Impact’s video game) and Yukes have teamed up together to rectify that problem with their arcade style fighting game, WWE All Stars. All Stars features legends and newer wrestlers, and attempts to combine them in a way that sucks in the causal wrestling fan, but also the fan that has been watching since Hulkamania started running wild in the ‘80s. But is WWE All Stars just another failed attempt to try and please everyone? Or is it something that will stay in your Xbox 360 for days?
WWE All Stars’ visuals
are one of the more striking things in the game. The characters look like the
old action figures we all used to play with as kids (and eventually rip apart),
they’re obscenely muscular and everyone’s face looks like they were ran over by
a steam roller. In WWE All Stars though,
this is not a bad thing. It sets up the arcade style feel really well and makes
you appreciate the out of control moves even more. Apart from that, all the
stages look really nice and the vibrant color palate makes the game very
appealing and fresh to the eyes.
As it is with every wrestling game ever, the announcing is horrid. Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler deliver a very flat and lifeless commentary throughout the course of your match. They also love saying very non-descript things such as “Well that move looked bad” or the always famous “He’s doing really well.” The sound itself, as long as it doesn’t involve announcers, is great. The moves all have a vicious thud to them that makes them seem even more painful than moves in the more “realistic” WWE Smackdown! vs. Raw series.
Like the commentary, WWE games are notorious for having long load times. And sadly, WWE All Stars is no different. The load times can at times be up to twenty seconds long. Which may not be a lot but when you’re running a gauntlet of ten men, with each match lasting around five minutes, and then having to wait through that load time after every fight, it can be debilitating.
A big issue that can arise in making a game that will feature both legends and new wrestlers is choosing the correct lineup. THQ San Diego has thankfully done a great job at assembling a near perfect group of characters. While there obviously are some annoying exclusions such as Chris Jericho and The Road Warriors, (save it for the DLC, I suppose) the band of characters in WWE All Stars all work well together and manage to provide some very interesting Fantasy Warfare matches.
Fantasy Warfare is a mode in which two stars are pitted against one another and are given a slight pre-written storyline to lead you into the match, for example, the greatest Scottsman, Roddy Piper or Drew McIntyre? And my personal favorite, better lifestyle, CM Punk or Stone Cold? These matches are accompanied by a pre-composed video package featuring your two stars. The video packages are surprisingly well done and help make you feel like the match you’re performing in has an actual story behind it. For the most part, these combinations are a blast to play and serve up some satisfying nostalgia that games such as Legends of Wrestlemania failed to deliver.
The other mode WWE All
Stars features is the Path of Champions mode; which is similar to the Smackdown! vs. Raw mode Road to
Wrestlemania in a sense that you go through multiple matches that eventually
lead up to one big battle. There are only three Path of Champions scenarios, (Undertaker,
Randy Orton, and a tag team story featuring DX) which is disappointing but to
add salt to the wound, none of them seem as story focused as I would like. They
each have three cut scenes throughout the story and while every one of them looks
fantastic, I still wanted more of them. The voice work in the cut scenes is
perfectly executed and the animations of the wrestlers (and of Paul Bearer of
course) are stunningly accurate to how they are in real life.
As mentioned previously, WWE All Stars is not a viciously controls focused games. There a wide variety of separate moves to do but not to the point where a person just picking up the game feels as if they have no clue what they’re doing. Almost every move is mapped to the face buttons in some way or another. You execute separate moves by doing combos and then hitting a face button to slide into the next move. This is all executed very smoothly and looks great. Reversals are done by simply pressing RB whenever the button prompt pops on screen. Reversals may seem like a small thing but they can drastically turn the tide of a match. On top of that, almost every reversal looks damn awesome. It will normally involve some body contorting that seems a bit inhuman but still believable enough to not break the experience entirely.
While WWE All Stars does have a few more issues such as a lag heavy online and poor character customization, it managed to do exactly what everyone wanted it to do, be accessible but still an absolute joy to play. Because of this and many other small achievements such as the splendid graphics and animations, WWE All Stars is one of the best wrestling games out there and by far the best one to come out on next generation consoles.