WWE All Stars Hands-On Preview – Grappling With the Stars
Written Wednesday, March 16, 2011 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
If you told us that a WWE game featuring chunky stylised action figures for wrestlers sounded like a good idea, we'd have recommended a course of medication, a strait-jacket and a few years in a padded cell. Then again, if you'd have said putting men in pants and having them pretend to beat each other up sounded like a good idea, we'd have also had you sectioned. But then that pretty much sums up WWE All Stars, which takes its cue from WWE Smackdown vs. Raw and then stretches the boundaries beyond the constraints of boring old reality with even more extreme wrestling action.
Pitting WWE Legends of yesteryear against the brash Superstars of today, WWE All Stars could well be the perfect way to settle those age-old arguments about which wrestler is a true all-time great, and All Stars really does have the bases covered with its generous roster of grapplers. On the Legends side, you've got the likes of Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, Mr Perfect, Sergeant Slaughter and 'Macho Man' Randy Savage facing off against established wrestlers from the current crop of stars, such as Rey Mysterio, John Cena, Big Show, Kofi Kingston, The Undertaker and Kane.
Of course, there's some overlap there and wrestlers like Undertaker or Triple H wouldn't be out of place on the Legends roster, despite still being active in the WWE today. How Undertaker is still participating in the WWE we'll never know, but he's still here in All Stars and just as menacing as ever. Which brings us neatly onto the game's stylised look, which is pleasingly chunky – a word you can't help using when referring to WWE All Stars – nicely animated and perfectly in keeping with the game's accessible arcade remit. The entire product looks bold, colourful and well-presented from the menus to the arenas and rings.
Don't be fooled by its looks though. WWE All Stars is still pretty challenging and surprisingly deep. Going hands-on with what is almost the finished product, we're given free reign to play whatever part of WWE All Stars we like, from the straightforward Exhibition matches to the 'Path of Champions' story mode. Starting with a simple match up as Stone Cold Steve Austin against John Morrison, we quickly get to grips with the intuitive controls, which maps strikes and grapples to the face buttons, while reversals and finishers are on the controller's shoulder buttons.
We immediately learn that spamming the crap out of the quick strikes on the square button is a sure-fire way to daze an opponent, although some are quick to hit back with a counter. Grapples and slams are a great way to wear down a rival even more and hitting L1 at the right time as indicated by the icon that flashes up underneath your health bar, enables you to pull a quick reversal. It's an easy win for Stone Cold, as we fill up his special bar – divided into three segments allowing for up to three reversals or one finisher – and unleash his signature stunner move, resulting in a satisfying KO victory.
Next, we decide that we need to delve into the create-a-wrestler menus to see how it compares to WWE Smackdown vs. Raw, and the good news is that it's almost every bit as deep and gratifying. The only glaring omission is a complete lack of female wrestlers, meaning that if you want to create a grappling girlie, you're shit out of luck. Still, there's plenty of options for building your very own bespoke wrestling mutant, so that's exactly what we do. He's called Bill (imaginative, I know) and he has a mop of flame red hair, a gigantic purple moustache (yes, you can manipulate the size of facial hair), a bright red fedora, light-grey skin and red wrestling gear, as well as hideously morphed facial features and body proportions. The range of options is staggering and you could potentially waste hours perfecting your creations.
We decide to take Bill down the Path of Champions, which opens with a challenge issued by Undertaker's manager Paul Bearer in a cutscene. Facing The Undertaker at Summer Slam is the goal for this particular section, but that means going through a series of gruelling tests first. There's Elimination matches and other match types to work through before the main event, and each one is pretty unforgiving. Path of Champions could conceivably take a very long time to get through if you take into account all of the retries you may have to endure. Three matches in, we leave a defeated Eddie Guerrero, Mr Perfect and Jimmy Snuka in our wake, but it's time to try something else.
In Exhibition mode, there's standard versus matches, tornado tag, steel cage and elimination to sample, but we can't resist the lure of the extreme rules option, broken down into 1vs1, tornado tag, triple threat, fatal 4 way and handicap matches. A simple 1vs1 sounds good enough, so it's into the ring we go. Extreme rules means that anything goes, so like the old WWE hardcore matches, there's weapons like steel chairs, ringside bells and other blunt instruments to bludgeon your opponent with. Sadly though, there's no announcer's table to slam your rival through, no taking the fights backstage and therefore no scope for really exploring outside of the ring. Given the extreme, exaggerated nature of the game, this could prove to be a missed opportunity, but the action in the ring is still good, clean fun nonetheless. Battering Shawn Michaels and flooring him as Bret 'The Hitman' Hart, all it takes is holding the left trigger for a pin and a 1,2,3 count signals another victory.
Fantasy Warfare is the final mode we sneak a quick peek at before our hands-on session draws to a close, and it's another aspect of WWE All Stars that could prove to offer a great deal of longevity. Picking a side from Legends or Superstars, you'll determine who is the greatest big man, most charismatic, the most acrobatic and so on, through a series of match ups between similar wrestlers from past and present. Again, it's enjoyable stuff and the no-nonsense OTT gameplay fits in with the sports entertainment ethos that the WWE prides itself upon.
WWE All Stars isn't nearly as deep and fully-featured as its WWE Smackdown vs. Raw stablemate, but it is an altogether different beast, offering solid, immediate wrestling action with a resolutely arcade twist. With friends, it's bound to be a good laugh and will settle many a dispute, while in single-player, All Stars should deliver more than enough options, modes and matches to keep the most ardent WWE fan happy. There might not be female wrestlers or backstage wrestling and there's less match types than Smackdown vs. Raw, but don't let the cartoon visuals fool you. WWE All Stars should still bring a fairly sizeable can of whup-ass when it releases on March 29th in North America and April 1st in Europe. Whether it'll drag you away from Smackdown vs. Raw however, is another question entirely.