Reviewed: April 17, 2011
Released: March 29, 2011
I have to admit, when I first heard about WWE All-Stars, I was a little bit skeptical. I hadn't followed professional wrestling in well over fifteen years. I still had a soft spot in my heart for the WWF of my youth, however, and decided to give the game a shot, based its the high-flying, high-action take on wrestling, and its revival of the superstars of my youth. While the end result might have been a little too simplified and streamlined for its own good, WWE All-Stars still ends up being a compelling ride that manages to capture the energy, drama, and personalities that made me love wrestling.|
Pitting classic wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, the Undertaker, and Andre the Giant against modern titans like Kofi Kingston, Sheamus, and CM Punk, WWE All-Stars eschews more technical, rules-heavy wrestling for a fantasy-like approach. Wrestlers typically pitch each other into the air, or make ten foot vertical leaps before a suplex or piledriver. Combined with the use of iconic moves, and the way the game represents each wrestlers' style, the game ends up being rather exciting and kinetic, even if it is solidly absurd and unrealistic to the bone.
WWE All-Stars breaks its wrestlers into four categories: Brawlers hit heavy, with unblockable strikes and longer chains of hard strikes. Grapplers can combo their moves into devastating strings of slams and suplexes. Acrobats flip off of their opponents, the turnbuckles, and the ropes, managing an aerial assault against opposing wrestlers. Finally, Big Men can tank damage like it's going out of style, charge aerial attacks for later, and launch opponents into the air with a hard hit. Each of these classes is definitely distinct from the others, and each of the wrestlers has their own benefits within the class, to represent their personal style of fighting. The classes are probably WWE All-Stars' biggest triumph.
Matches typically take place until a single pin, though, at least against the computer, knocking out a weakened opponent with a well-timed super-move seems to happen much more often. For players who've worn out the tactical value of one-on-one single-fall matches, the game offers three person, four person, extreme rules, and cage matches. While the three and four player matches are rather exciting, and ramp up the chaos that's the game's strong suit, the extreme rules matches and cage matches each have some pretty significant problems.
The extreme rules match is a bit of a misnomer, since the game's default rules are already rather extreme. During the normal course of play, wrestlers can wander around outside the ring, there are no rope breaks, and any given wrestler is free to take a single chair shot on an opponent with no penalties. All the extreme rules match does is remove this past restriction, and add a few new weapons, which is a bit of a disappointment. The cage match, while operating as advertised, relies on a rather difficult button-mashing mini-game to oppose an opponent's attempts to escape, which can be a bit of a pain when facing the computer and its preternatural mashing capabilities.
Beyond the normal exhibitions, however, the game also features two modes that celebrate the history of the WWE. The Path of Champions serves as the game's story mode, where the player fights other wrestlers in various themed matches to secure the right to fight against The Undertaker, Randy Orton, or DX in a championship match. The game's use of promos is right on key with the Undertaker's hearkening back to the 1990s, especially. The other mode, Fantasy Warfare, sets pairs of wrestlers whose personalities or styles complement each other, and prefaces every match with a highlight reel that underscores the historic importance of the match. I hadn't cared much about professional wrestling for a long time, but each of these modes made me pretty damn excited about it again, at least for the time I was playing.
Naturally, the game also includes multiplayer, create-a-wrestler, and all the other bells and whistles that have come to be important in a wrestling game, but perhaps the biggest value that this game provides is that it serves as a sort of museum, a marker of where the WWE's been, and where it is today. There are certainly some weird things around the edges (A skinny grappler picking up Andre the Giant, flipping him into the air, and then suplexing him looks nothing short of incredibly weird, and sometimes attacks will visibly miss but still hit, in what could either be an homage to professional wrestling or a straight-out bug in a clever disguise), but the game as a whole seems like a love letter to the organization's history.
There might not quite be enough to warrant picking up the game if you're not going to be playing with friends, though if you were, it'd probably be a blast. For the solo player interested in the past of the WWE, it's still worth a look, even if it's not quite worth dropping $60 on at the moment.