I picked up WWE All-Stars while taking advantage of Gamestop’s 25% bonus trade-in deal this past week, and I can’t help but compare it to NBA Jam. It embodies the spirit of the over-the-top high-flying acrobatics of NBA Jam from the juiced up looking wrestlers to their gravity defying signature moves. I really haven’t followed the WWE since the early 2000’s, but I found myself experiencing a bit of nostalgia while playing WWE All-Stars because of its wide range of grapplers on its roster. The whole All-Stars theme has allowed THQ to include both old and new legends of the ring such as Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, and The Rock, as well as some of the newer Superstars like Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio, and John Cena. Even though this game may not be worth the $60 price tag to non-wrestling fans, it definitely should be added to your rental queue.
The Awesome – NBA Jam Style Gameplay, Replayability, Solid Visuals
The Not So Awesome – Finicky Controls, Only 30 Wrestlers, Obscenely Long Load Times
NBA Jam Style Gameplay
Without a doubt, the only reason I picked up this game was because it had that NBA Jam style of gameplay going for it where the laws of gravity don’t exist, and the characters look like something out of a Saturday morning cartoon. I haven’t really followed the sport of wrassling for quite sometime, but when I saw WWE All-Stars visual style and non-traditional gameplay, I had to break out my speedo and give the wrestling genre another go. How could you not want to play a wrestling game that featured a character style that could even put NBA Jam’s big head mode to shame? I love the decision THQ made to make the wrestlers look like they just ate the entire World’s supply of D-Ball for breakfast. I mean the 30 wrestlers in this game all look like they took more HgH than Barry Bonds could have ever dreamed of injecting into his gut!
HgH Look to the Max
What makes the wrestler’s looks even more comical is the fact that they can pull of moves that aren’t much different than the atmosphere breaching dunks of NBA Jam. So you basically have these Hulk-like wrestlers that can literally jump out of the ring and execute their signature moves as if they had rocket boosters strapped to their feet. These special moves are all accompanied by a gratuitous use of the bullet-time effect, and even harken back to the fatalities found in Mortal Kombat, by having the screen go dark and a special little tune play when one of these super moves are pulled off. These signature move moments will get you out of your chair, and in my case I even added my own sound effects like I was a 10 year old kid playing with some wrestling action figures. You know, I through in some “Booms!” and “Whacks!” just to add to the sensationalized effect that WWE All-Stars isn’t shy from exploiting.
Outside of the visual similarities to NBA Jam, WWE All-Stars also shares the game’s overall functionality as far as gameplay goes. For the most part all of your moves can be executed by the face and shoulder buttons on the controller, so there’s no need to learn complex button sequences to pull of your particular Superstar/Legend’s move set. Even the signature moves and each characters finisher can be executed by combining a few buttons together. I’m a big fan of this arcade like move system, because the last thing I want to do is learn a 6 button press combo just to pull of The People’s Elbow! It would be a major pain is the a*s to have to learn multiple move sets for the wide variety of wrestlers found in this game, so I’m glad THQ made the gameply very simple to execute. If you’ve enjoyed the recent release of NBA Jam then you’ll have no issue with playing its wrestling cousin, WWE All-Stars.
WWE All-Stars other similarity to NBA Jam is the fact that it is highly replayable. The Exhibition mode provides quick access to some wrasslin action, which can range from Steel Cage bouts to Fatal Four Way challenges, and can casually be played with friends or against the CPU. I would imagine that a game like this would be fairly popular in a dorm room setting where the old winner stays format can be setup. If you want to try your hand at the single player focused game types you can hit up the 3 Paths of Champion scenarios, as well as a Fantasy Warfare component.
In the Paths of Champions setting you can choose to either take on the Legends Path (Fight against the older wrestlers from the WWF days), the Tag Team Path, or the Superstar Path (Wrestlers from the recent years of the WWE). Each path will put you through about 10 different matches that vary in flavor, and end with a boss. There’s a nice variety of match types in each path, so it’s not like you’re going to just be doing the same thing match in and match out. Plus, there’s achievement incentives to keep you stepping through these paths, so if you’re a cheve-ho WWE All-Stars will keep you coming back for at least a few sessions.
The Fantasy Warfare matches provide hardcore wrestling fan’s with some “What-if” types of scenarios. There’s a variety of challenges that will pit old wrestlers versus new ones, which I’d imagine give the WWE fanboys some sort of chub to take one. All of these scenarios feature some sort of Superstar taking on a Legend in a variety of match types. Like I said, this is the gametype that most of the die-hard wrestling fans will probably get the most out of, because it does feature wrestlers from the past and present day of Vince McMahon’s troupe of sports entertainers.
I was quite impressed with the level of detail that WWE All-Stars has when it comes to its overall graphical qualities. The juiced up wrestlers do have a cartoon look to them, but each of them stay true to their real life counterparts. There’s a very high level of polish that went into each character’s look, as well as their trademark move sets. Each wrestler’s animations stay very true to what you’d see on a typical episode of RAW or Smackdown. The character models are very crisp with decent looking textures, and there doesn’t seem to be any frame rate issues while executing some of the fast moving, high flying, and gravity defying moves that this game pulls off.
The Rock Smelling What He’s Been Cooking
Every character, even your own (Create a Wrestler), has a distinct look and feel to them that really adds a nice touch to the arcade-like gameplay. Every character also has their own entrances that stay true to the real life spectacle that you’d see at an actual WWE event. These sometimes long intros are also rendered in a pleasing style that captures the actual look and feel of these grandiose entrances that each wrestler has. You will get bored with these after awhile, but they do look spot on to the actual pyrotechnic infused entrances from the WWE’s live events.
As you can see WWE All-Stars is an arcade wrestling game done in the same vane as NBA Jam. It has a unique look to it and current-gen visuals, but it’s overall gameplay harkens back to the days of fast paced arcade action. Unfortunately, not everything is hunky-dory with this game as you’ll see in the next section.
The Not So Awesome
While the moves themselves aren’t hard to execute I found them to be slightly wonky while trying to string together a WWE worthy combo. The controls just never quite feel like they’re responding to your desired inputs. Blocking is by far the biggest pain in the a-hole when it comes to this game. You use the RB button for strikes, and the LB button for grapples, but if you don’t time the button press perfectly your attempt to defend yourself will go down the drain. You’re also supposed to be able to execute reversals if your opponent gets you into a situation, but the window to execute these reversals is smaller than a fat guy’s ding-dong. Even with an on-screen cue to hit the reversal button being displayed I’ve found it to be more about luck than timing when it comes to parrying an attack.
Getting Out of the Cage is More Challenging due to Wonky Controls
Don’t even expect to try and block basic attacks either. Your told to just hold down RB to protect yourself from incoming punches and slaps, but I have yet to see this actually work. I somehow still get blasted by my enemy’s attacks even though I’m blocking like I was told to. Again, it seems that if you don’t hit some magic window while trying to block some punches you’re going to find yourself getting pummeled by your opponent.
Running is also a hit or miss operation when it comes to execution. You’re supposed to just hit RT to start a run, but I’ve found on many occasions that I need to hit RT multiple times before my meat head of a wrassler will go into a sprint. Don’t expect to run out of the way when a wrestler takes to the top ropes, because more often than not your character won’t even begin to run until it is too late.
All of these issues also play into WWE All-Stars cheap difficulty settings. I’ve found that even playing on Rookie resulted in me getting my balls kicked in due to some actions my character took without me directly inputting the commands to do. The cheap difficulty is very clear in elimination matches where your two opponents seem to rail on you without the thought of beating each other up in the process. Really, this game’s cheapness comes from the fact that you can’t block in this game, so if you get jumped by the bad guys there’s a good chance that you’re going to get stuck in some sort of face bashing, body slamming dishwasher, which you can’t escape until your nearly beat to exhaustion. I definitely found myself chest pressing my last fully functional controller during certain matches in WWE All-Stars, so be prepared to scream and yell a few times while playing this game.
Only 30 Wrestlers
I really would’ve liked to see more than 30 WWE wrestlers in this game. You can create your own with vast amounts of toggles, but I feel like there should have been closer to 45 pros in this game. The worst part is that the 30 characters that do ship with this game aren’t even all unlocked. You have to beat both sides of the Fantasy Warfare matches to permanently unlock all of the wrestlers for use (Can use a code, but it has to be put in each time you load the game). You can cheat this if you want by using another controller, so that’s why I feel the locked characters are pointless.
I would’ve liked to have seen Mick Foley and other wrestlers from the hay day of the WWE.
Old vs New
Some of the newer stars that are included in this game aren’t even familiar to me because I no longer watch the sports drama on TV. I’m sure they may release more via some DLC, but I don’t think 30 wrestlers is enough for a game that is all about fighting with the cartoon versions of your favorite grappler.
Obscenely Long Load Times
I don’t know what it is about this game, but its load times are some of the longest I’ve experienced this generation. This is even evident after installing the game to my HDD. Some of the between match load times last close to 45 seconds. If you choose to leave character entrances on you should expect waiting upwards of 2-4 minutes before your next match actually gets underway. For the life of me I can’t really figure out what the hell this game is loading that requires it to take so long. It’s not like it has to render huge levels with varying textures and scope. I mean it just has to load the ring, some cheap looking fans, and your wrestlers, so why does it take longer than an RPG to load the next match? Trust me, for those of you that share a similar level of patience to me, these long loading screens will definitely leave a bad taste in your mouth.
The Final Verdict
WWE All-Stars may suffer from long load times and less than responsive controls, but it’s still a blast to play a wrestling game that is more similar to NBA Jam than an actual wrestling title. The over-the-top signature moves and character models are a blast to play with, and each time you pull off a finisher for the pin, you’ll find yourself doing the 3 count along with the fans. It’s a great game to just throw in and have fun with for a few hours, and even though it starts out kind of hard, the gameplay will eventually settle into your brain, and you’ll slowly find yourself putting on a show just like the real WWE Superstars do week in and week out.
Real Macho Man Wishes He Still Looked Like This
I give it an EB 7/10, and recommend it as a must rent for those of you that have ever been a fan of Sports Entertainment. At $60 I can’t really say its worth a buy to everyone, but if you’re a wrestling fan I wouldn’t feel like a scumbag telling you to go and buy it. There’s a whole bunch of fun in slamming Hulk-like roid lovers in a fashion that makes you feel like your character is as strong as Superman himself. Check out the trailer below to see if this game is right for you, and if it is you can score your copy here. You’ve been smell, lel, lel, lel, lel, lel, what the Buddha has been cooking…
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