WWE All Stars is Here To Chew Bubblegum and Kick Ass, and It’s All Out Of Bubblegum
Just in time for WrestleMania 27 comes WWE All Stars.Like WrestleMania, All Stars is truly a showcase of the immortals and brings some much needed rejuvenation to THQ’s prized WWE franchise. Fans of all ages will recognize superstars and legends on the roster, and will appreciate the amount of thought that was put into bringing out the best in each superstar and legend over the course of their career.
The brainchild of Sal Divita (producer of NBA Jam) and THQ San Diego, it is no surprise that All Stars plays much like WWE’s version of NBA Jam. Moves are pure spectacle and insanity. Superstars often fly 20 feet in the air (sorry, no BOOM SHAKA LAKA from JR or King) when hit with either a superstar’s signature move or finisher. This makes for some, in the words of Joey Styles, OH MY GOD moments such as hitting Edge’s spear on someone doing a move off the top turnbuckle, or going coast to coast with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat.
While the Smackdown vs RAW series is known for playing more like a simulation, All Stars is definitely its arcade counterpart. Game modes include Fantasy Warfare and Path of Champions. Fighting game fans will appreciate the tower structure of Path of Champions as it is very reminiscent of Mortal Kombat’s arcade mode, though fans of Smackdown vs RAW may scoff at the lack of cutscenes limiting the overall story. However, Fantasy Warfare does a great job of satiating fan’s desires for storytelling–THQ did a supreme job of fashioning these rivalries by creating compelling and memorable vignettes for each match.
Playing on Xbox Live or PSN is an absolute blast–especially in any of the multiplayer elimination matches. Gameplay is smooth–without much lag, although players will have to adjust their timing slightly when pulling off combos and mid-air RKOs (remember when I said OH MY GOD moments?).
The roster is deep–very deep. WWE Superstars and Legends are divided up into characters classes with their own unique fighting style–brawler, acrobat, big man and grappler. Character models reflect more of the LJN action figures from the 80s. Many older WWE fans will appreciate the appearance of newcomers such as Macho Man Randy Savage (not going to lie–I’m a mark for Savage), The Ultimate Warrior and Ricky Steamboat, while younger fans will recognize Kofi Kingston, Sheamus, and John Cena. With more superstars and legends to come via DLC, it is perhaps the best roster in the history of any WWE title. Alternate attires reflect different eras of WWE, in addition to superstars and legends movesets. Players of all ages will appreciate the commentary by WWE Hall of Famers Jerry “The King” Lawler and Jim Ross–which provides some of the best play-by-play in a WWE title to date.
WWE All Stars is not without its faults. Load times remind me of Bobby Hennan’s quote about The Iron Sheik at WrestleMania X-Seven–by the time WWE All Stars loads a match we may already be playing WWE All Stars 2. However, when the matches do load it’s all high octane from that point on–even during fatal four way matches. Match types are a little bare bones, but this is THQ San Diego’s first go-around at the title, and they have a solid foundation to build off of. The control scheme is a bit complicated for new users to pick up as some button combinations such as pin and climbing the turnbuckle are the same and often make way for blunders mid-match. An on-screen tutorial ala Smackdown vs RAW 2011 would be a welcomed addition.
As a former intern for both WWE and Pro Wrestling Illustrated and playing my first WWE game on a WrestlMania: The Arcade Game (another Sal Davita production) cabinet at the Howard Johnson’s my family used to stay at, this truly has made me excited for THQ wrestling titles again. While Smackdown vs RAW does a fine job of providing the simulation of weekly broadcasts and PPVs, All Stars provides tfantasy side of WWE. The matches we used to have with our plastic wrestling rings and figures–doing larger than life versions of favorite superstars moves and creating epic rivalries, All Stars does a great job of capturing the essence of what it truly means to be a fan of WWE.