WWE All Stars - Review
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WWE All Stars attempts something a bit different with the wrestling genre and the WWE license. An arcade style brawler, it pits a roster of past stars against some of today’s finest and simplifies the more realistic move-sets of games like Smackdown vs. Raw. Concerns such as body proportions and gravity have been discarded, resulting in impossibly beefed-up wrestlers leaping ten feet in the air and tossing each other around like rag-dolls.
WWE All Stars is as colourful as its roster of wrestlers, which includes past greats such as Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior and Stone Cold as well as current day stars like John Cena and Randy Orton. There are a handful of unlockable characters and more are promised as DLC. Both sides of the roster are well balanced, with no discernible advantage in choosing the legends over the current pretenders, or vice versa. No matter their era these great hulks fill every inch of the screen and there is a real sense of weight and power behind each slam and blow.
The mix of old and new offers the opportunity to stage “what if” matches. Finally, we may conclusively answer questions such as "Who is slower - Big Show or Andre the Giant?" or "Who is the toughest Scot - Roddy Piper or Drew McIntyre?" The Fantasy Warfare mode takes full advantage of this, pairing similar wrestlers in a collection of battles for the ages. Each of these bouts is preceded by entertaining TV-like segments comparing the two wrestlers and making you believe that they are squaring off through the mists of time. This provides a great deal of fan entertainment, but is unlikely to be of interest to those less knowledge of WWE lore. However, there is enough elsewhere to keep any brawler happy, WWE fan or not, including the Path of Champions and its three story campaigns.
The controls are easy to pick-up, and somewhat limited in their scope, featuring a collection of grabs and strikes (strong and weak), the results of which can be altered with a flick of the right stick. Counters and blocks are mapped to the triggers, which are tricky to master as each move requires different timing to successfully reverse. Signature moves are earned throughout the bout and are mapped to a combination of the grapple or punch buttons and powerful finishers are made available once certain conditions are met, offering a gloriously OTT and satisfying end to each match.
Action is viewed in a more close-up fashion than other games of its ilk, highlighting the combatant’s freakish size and physic but taking away from your sense of the surroundings – much more akin to a beat-em-up than a wrestling game. There are a number of events including tag-team, cage matches and triple threats, but these slight variations fail to disguise the limitations and repetitiveness of the action and moves on offer.
Online matches bring out the best and worst of WWE All Stars. Finding ways to defeat your opponent and triggering your finisher at the optimal moment to score the pin or KO is hugely satisfying. However, the limitations of the tricky reversals come to a head when battling a human foe. Bouts can quickly descend into a competition of who has the best counter timing – or who has the best luck with spamming the triggers - as moves are countered back and forth. No matter the grapple, element of surprise or health level, virtually all standard moves can be countered, which becomes increasingly frustrating against human competition and certain CPU opponents.
The biggest stumbling block is the incessant load screens. By far the most bothersome is the caching data screen, a five minute waiting period (on the PS3) which you must sit through EVERY time you fire it up. By the time you are finally in control, you may well have moved onto something else entirely.
Once you have reached the main menu, you will sit through a further three load screens before you take control of your chosen character in an exhibition match - once after character selection, another after a brief ring announcement and finally after the unbelievably dull entrances. This puts a very real dampener on what should have been an ideal game for playing in short bursts. If you only have twenty minutes to spend gaming you may well find yourself reluctant to load up WWE All Stars, aware that so much of that time will be eaten-up by the caching data and load screens.
Those looking for a Smackdown vs. Raw clone will be disappointed as WWE All Stars lacks the depth and polish of that series. It’s no simulation, happy instead to be an over the top brawler with larger than life characters doing larger than life things. Its simplicity and horrendous load screens do hold it back, but it is still a quality piece of disposable entertainment; capable of appealing to both wrestling fans and those who remain perplexed by grown men grappling in pants.