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WWE goes over the top with All-Stars

Apr 1, 2011

By John Powell - G4 Canada

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WWEPlaying 'WWE All-Stars' is like watching a match between John Cena and Cody Rhodes: you are either going to really like it or really hate it.

Not really a wrestling game like 'Smackdown Versus Raw' and not really a fighting game like 'Street Fighter', 'WWE All-Stars' is a hybrid title, which is why it has been designated as an 'arcade'game.

I quibble with the term as that suggests an arcade title is less challenging or more simplistic than you standard fare, which is not true at all. It is like calling Triple H the "Cerebral Assassin" when he is more of an educated bruising brawler than a squared circle strategist like a Ted Dibiase, Randy Orton or 'Nature Boy' Ric Flair. Sorry, Jim Ross.

Let's say 'WWE All-Stars' was crafted as "pick up and play" and leave it at that.

WWE Maybe the 'arcade' label has stuck because 'WWE All-Stars' is all about exaggeration. The characters are cartoon versions of themselves with gargantuan muscles and features. They look more like action figures than human beings. Except for the basic moves like punching, kicking and slamming, the maneuvers are the kinds of dazzling feats akin to Marvel and DC superheroes. Andre The Giant's Chokeslam launches his victim to the arena rafters then slams them down with a devastating, rippling shockwave. 'Macho Man' Randy Savage spins and soars in the air as he executes his Flying Elbow Smash that bounces the victim off the canvass as if a ten-ton truck had been dropped on them. All of the wrestlers can batter and beat a foe in midair with hang time that any NBA star could only dream of possibly clocking.

The tone, portrayal of the WWE superstars and their moves is far different than 'Smackdown Versus Raw'…in a good way. Having Andre The Giant move around like the Jugernaught or Rey Mysterio Jr. swing around like his idol Spider-Man is unusual but fun.

WWE The drawback of all this 'arcade' style of play and larger-than-life atmosphere is the combat system really suffers as do the matches. 'WWE All-Stars' is more about luck than strategy. It is more of a combat or boxing game than a wrestling game. It is all about combo attacks and timing rather than outsmarting your foe.

The approach you take with 'Mortal Kombat' or 'Street Fighter' is the same approach you should take here but even then, so many things will just not make sense like just running around drains your energy metre and makes you vulnerable to attack. You cannot get away from many of the top rope, leaping or off-the-ropes attacks because no matter where you run to, your opponent will follow and hit his move. You can run but you cannot hide.

Although it is said you can reverse moves by pressing RB, it doesn't work well no matter how well you time things. Since the game places so much focus on combo attacks, there will be many a time where you will sit and watch, punching that unresponsive RB button, as your rival just bashes you from pillar to post like a rag doll. The top tier matches in 'Fantasy Warfare' and 'Path of Champions' feature wrestlers who reverse almost everything you try to do to them. You just gotta keep on the attack or Restart if things are not going your way.

WWE Because of these issues and more, 'WWE All-Stars' can be a frustrating game to play especially if you are used to the 'Smackdown Versus Raw' mechanics, style. The rules of engagement, defence and strategy just don't apply and that can handcuff fans of THQ's outstanding wrestling game library.

The theme of pitting old school legends against the modern stars of the WWE makes for some intriguing angles and matches. In 'Fantasy Warfare' mode, players can represent either side in a gauntlet of fantasy matches. The matches are all packaged up well with slick promo trailers introducing them. 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin takes on C.M. Punk in a battle of the extreme lifestyles. The legendary Eddie Guerrero challenges Rey Mysterio Jr. to determine who might be the greatest high-flier. Sgt. Slaughter and Jack Swagger lock up over who is the more dedicated patriot.

In the other major mode of play - "Path of Champions' - the theme of present day superstars versus timeless icons also plays itself out. You can elect to battle your way to face The Undertaker, Randy Orton or D-Generation X in the three pathways. Be warned, the singles paths are spotted with triple threat and four-way dances in which everyone's first priority is to get rid of you and not the other opponents. The A.I. blunder is so maddening when you are double and triple teamed, unable to get a move in edge-wise.

WWE There isn't much to 'WWE All-Stars' beyond Path of Champions, exhibition matches and Fantasy Warfare though. There is no Universe Mode, the main-eventer of 'Smackdown Versus Raw 2011', but you can create your own characters and take the fight to Xbox Live to challenge other jabronis from around the world.

'WWE All-Stars' reminds me of 'Mouth of the South' Jimmy Hart's wrestling stables from years gone by. Oftentimes, he had great stars like King Kong Bundy, Rick Rude, Bret Hart, Ted Dibiase, The Honkytonk Man, Greg Valentine, Terry Funk and Randy Savage under his tutelage. Other times, he had to take what he could get from the likes of Lanny Poffo and Danny Davis. 'All-Stars' is a mixed bag too. If you can get past the awkward controls and sometimes aggravating gameplay, you might just enjoy the inspired 'Fantasy Warfare' and 'Path of Champions' modes. If not, you might just feel like a jobber who just received an Avalanche and a five count pin from King Kong Bundy.


WWE WWE All-Stars
Format: Xbox 360
Publisher: THQ
Developer: THQ
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
Official Site:
Rating: 6 / 10


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