WWE All Stars
In the 1990s I caught the wrestling bug hard. Friday nights were reserved for ‘RAW is WAR’, I began to purchase official and unofficial monthly wrestling publications and at one point I even joined one of those e-wrestling roleplaying sites. And to think, the 4-5 years of wrestling fandom that followed could all be traced back to the time my classmate gave me a measly one day loan of developer AKI’s WCW vs NWO: World Tour on the Nintendo 64.
These days, I, like many that became addicted to the WWF ‘Attitude’ era, are disconnected from the present-day, PG-friendly WWE world of gimmick and charisma-free bodybuilders and the post-modern 1980s Hulk Hogan-style superhero that is John Cena. How can WWE and THQ possibly get a retired wrestling fan like myself interested in their latest video game product, WWE All Stars? Surprisingly, it wasn’t that difficult.
As the name suggests, WWE All Stars celebrates not just the latest but the greatest of WWE Superstars, with a roster that offers Sheamus and Kofi Kingston alongside ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage, Andre The Giant and even Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts. It’s a great concept mined to it’s full potential, particularly in a scenario mode entitled Fantasy Warfare.
Fantasy Warfare is typical of the entire All Stars package – flashy, lovingly-designed but overall, a little shallow. Simply put, this mode allows 15 different fantasy pairings, with each fight featuring a full video package beforehand. Who is the greatest WWE warrior – The Ultimate Warrior or the ‘Celtic Warrior’ Sheamus? Obviously, we’d easily pick the former yet after watching some glorious past and present pre-hype footage; we couldn’t wait to see regardless.
The retro appeal of All Stars permeates throughout the entire package, with Jim Ross returning to commentary and even Howard Finkel brought back as the ring announcer. The game’s bare-bones story mode, meanwhile, The Path of Champions, comprises three ten-fight ladders that ultimately end in one final boss – both members of DX, Randy Orton or a 90s era Undertaker. Again, this is another relatively shallow mode heightened by its retro appeal – watching a CG Paul Bearer cutting a promo before our story path began was a real thrill.
Gameplay-wise, All Stars has much in common with the classic WWE WrestleFest coin-op, both in its gameplay and distinctive art style. Combat in All Stars is simplified in the extreme, favouring ridiculous slow-motion signature moves and jaw-dropping sights over a deep fighting system. You’ll literally be able to strike your opponent from the top turnbuckle no matter their location, while pinning an opponent is a case of gradually taking down their health until a kick-out (wagging the analogue stick like a maniac) is no longer physically possible. TKOs also abound and are nearly always a surprising, welcome sight.
All Stars’ art style has drawn significant attraction, mostly unfavourable, pre-release. Suffice to say, if WWE Superstars actually did not resemble their All Stars counterparts, the WWE Talent Wellness Program would probably be under federal investigation right now. Truth to be told, the art style is great – it fits the tone of the game and provokes fond memories of hyper-muscled WWE action figures, a child’s over-the-top action figure fight creation in line with the theatrics of All Stars’ bouts.
Soaked in retro appeal but sorely lacking in depth, All Stars would be a fine budget title or downloadable release, yet its depleted roster and simplistic array of fight modes and play styles means criticisms that the game was rushed to take advantage of Wrestlemania 27 cannot simply be swatted away. As a full-priced title, we simply can’t recommend WWE All Stars at this point in time, though anyone that wants to throw caution to the wind and revel in the undeniable appeal of WWE’s past and present colliding will still find plenty to justify their decision.
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