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May 17, 2011
WWE All Stars - PS3 Review
Release Distributer Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
31/3/2011THQTHQTHQ San Diego1-22-4
Media HDD Space Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating
Disc0MB720pNoNoPG

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Wrestler bodies have been, well, exaggerated.
Ever since THQ got hold of the rights to make wrestling games, the genre has earned both critical and mainstream success. While the Smackdown vs Raw games provide and engaging simulation of the world of wrestling, WWE All Stars takes a completely different route, opting for arcade-style action with over the top moves and a heavy emphasis on fun rather than simulation. If any game should be suited to such an approach it's wrestling, so the question is, does THQ have another winner on their hands, or is WWE All Stars a pretender to the title? Read on...

WWE All Stars brings together a thirty of the biggest name wrestlers of the past and present, letting you pit them against one another to find the all time best. Representing the classic wrestlers of the past you'll find Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Andre the Giant among a host of others. The list of modern day superstars includes John Cena, Triple-H, The Undertaker, The Big Show and Sheamus. Basically it's a who's who of wrestling's past and present, and fans should be very happy with the lineup.

There are four game modes to play; Exhibition, Fantasy Warfare, Path of Champions and online matches. Exhibition is self-explanatory and allows you to select any combatant you like in any of the different match-types available. In terms of the different match-types there are your standard one-on-one fights, Tornado tag-team (where all four wrestlers fight at the same time), three and four-man eliminations where the last man standing wins, extreme rules fights (the only rule is there are no rules) and steel cage bouts where the first man to climb out of the cage wins.

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John Cena Vs The Rock in WWE All Stars.
Fantasy Warfare features fifteen fights pitting wrestlers with similar tendencies from the past and present against each other in dream matchups that should appeal to fans and newcomers alike. Each of the fights is introduced with an engaging video clip featuring real-life footage of both combatants in their prime. The videos do a great job of giving newcomers an insight into the personality and careers of each of the wrestlers. Among the fifteen matches you can determine the greatest big man in a contest between Andre the Giant and the Big Show, the greatest warrior between the Ultimate Warrior and Sheamus and the greatest superstar between Hulk Hogan and John Cena. Not all of the matches are of such high quality (Jimmy Snuka vs Kane, Ricky Steamboat vs Kofi Kingston anyone?) but the introductory video makes them all worth playing at least once.

One-off matches are all well and good but for those who want a bit more excitement there is Path of Champions, where you take your favourite wrestler on a quest to win the championship belt. There are three different paths available to you; one to best the Undertaker at SummerSlam, another to beat Randy Orton, and a third where you try to win the tag-team title off of D-Generation (Triple H and Shawn Michaels). Whichever path you choose you'll have to win nine lead up fights before getting a shot at the title. All three paths have a story told through three short cut-scenes, though it has to be said the story is minimal and the only enjoyable one, for me at least, was the D-Generation path. The Undertaker and his manager Paul Bearer were a bit too weird for my liking, while Randy Orton was boring and devoid of any real character. Fans might get a kick out of these though, as I assume they're playing their real-life roles in the cut-scenes.

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The legendary Hulk Hogan.
Once you've chosen your wrestler and match type you're on your way. Each fighter has their real life ring entrance in the game, though few but the most ardent fans will care much either way. While WWE All Stars takes a vastly different stylistic approach to wrestling than the Smackdown vs Raw series, the control scheme remains much the same. To summarise, square is a quick attack, triangle is a heavy attack, ‘x' is a quick grapple and circle is a strong grapple. Strikes can be blocked with R1, and grapples can be defended with L1. Whoever initiates the grapple can follow it up with an attack of some sort, be it a throw or a strike. As the attack is launched there is a small window of opportunity for the move to be reversed, by pressing L1 at exactly the right moment. L2 serves multiple functions including, pinning your opponent, entering or exiting the ring, picking up objects such as chairs and crutches as well as climbing the ropes.

As you deal damage to your opponents you earn boost which can be used to run (with R2) or launch charged strikes (hold down square or triangle). The boost bar is segmented into three blocks, and anytime a block is full you have access to a signature move; a strong and irreversible grapple that deals heavy damage, by pressing two face buttons at the same time. These moves can also stun or daze your opponent, giving you time to launch another attack before they're able to defend themselves. Each wrestler also has a Finisher bar that builds up, and when it is full they can launch an even stronger attack that does devastating damage. If your opponent is low on health a finisher will actually knock them out, eliminating them from the match.

There are plenty of other attacking moves in the game including a variety of running attacks, heaps of moves from the top rope (especially for the acrobats like Eddie Guerrero and Jimmy Snuka), the Irish Whip (throwing an opponent into the ropes) and its accompanying follow-up moves. During matches where you have multiple opponents you can switch between targets by flicking the right-analog stick. It is also possible to land combos with both strikes and grapples if you transition from one move to another quickly enough. Some moves will send opponents flying into the air and when this happens it's possible to juggle them with well-timed strikes before finishing with a grapple.

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Just tossing him around.
All match-types can be played online in either ranked or unranked matches. Whether you choose a ranked or unranked match you have the choice to create your own match, join the first available or view a list of all available matches and pick the one you want to join. There is a leaderboard for you to check your progress against the rest of the online community in each match-type, as well as a link to invite your friends to a match, as well as see any invitations you've been sent. Setting up and starting a match is a straightforward process, while the matches themselves will be affected by the speed of each player's internet connection. In my experience the game ran smoothly, though you'd better be ready with your reversal timing or you're in for a difficult time.

Although WWE All Stars can be an entertaining game, there is no doubt it suffers from a few problems. In terms of gameplay, reversals, for which you only have a split-second to perform, become all-important. As the game gets tougher your opponents become reversal experts, so if you're not able to match them in that department you'll find yourself on the end of a right royal pummeling. The same is true of online matches and this can suck a lot of the fun out of the game. Another control issue is the amount of work the L2 button does. It is responsible for pinning, entering and exiting the ring as well as climbing the ropes among other things, and as you can imagine this doesn't always work well. Take for example, a situation where your opponent is on the ground hurt near the corner of the ring. In this case pressing L2 may make you go for the pin, but you might also find your wrestler exiting the ring, or climbing the ropes instead. The lack of precision can be infuriating if you're engaged in a close bout.

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Winding up for a massive punch.
Another issue is that the game is quite shallow. Once you've played through Fantasy Warfare and won the three different Path of Champions titles, there's not a lot to bring you back. Trophies encourage you to defeat the entire roster with particular wrestlers, or win all Path of Champions titles with the same fighter, but these are more of a grind than flat out fun, something only the die-hard fans will enjoy. There is no game install necessary to play the game, but each time you load up the game it will cache data, a process that takes around five minutes. I'd rather have had the option to install game data and put up with the wait just once, but so far as I can tell there isn't such an option. The in-game load times too are over-long too, though turning off ring-entrances will almost halve the loading, which may appease some gamers.

Visually the game goes for an over the top look throughout, and it works very well. Characters have barrel-sized chests, tree-trunks for legs along with cannon-sized arms. They have muscles that would turn the most dedicated body-builder green with envy too. Despite the over the top design, all wrestlers look like their real-life counterpart, right down to some of their in-ring mannerisms and signature moves. During some of the heavier attacks it's common to see wrestlers hurled fifteen feet into the air before hurtling back to earth with big impact. When you land a signature move or finisher the colour fades out of everything except the wrestlers, time slows down and shockwaves emanate on impact. They are a spectacle no doubt, and a lot of fun when they're done successfully.

There are six arenas in total, though to be honest I hardly noticed the difference between them. The crowd is similarly generic wherever you fight, but the in-ring action is where it's at and it looks great. Only at the busiest of times is there any slow down, and even when it happens it is very minor. All of the wrestlers move well and can transition fluidly from one move to the next. Costumes and tattoos have been recreated accurately too, which is sure to please WWE fans.

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WWE All Stars is out now on PS3.
Outside of the theme music used for each fighter there isn't a lot of music in the game. From my limited knowledge of the WWE (mostly gained through the Smackdown vs Raw games) the music for each wrestler is what they used during their career, which can only be a good thing. The commentary sounds as though it has been lifted directly from Smackdown vs Raw, and while it is enthusiastic it is often drowned out by the action in the ring. The sound effects are great, and all sound sufficiently powerful to fit the over the top action. The voice-acting during Path of Champions is average, though the script may be the real culprit (the D-Generation path excluded), while the voiceover during the Fantasy Warfare video introductions is top-notch.

WWE All Stars is a game that will appeal to a specific group of people – those that love the WWE, and anyone looking for an arcade-style brawler. If you fall into either of these groups you'll have a lot of fun with it, though the fun will be rather short-lived. If you don't fall into either of those groups, this game is highly unlikely to convert you. WWE All Stars knows what it wants to be – a WWE-themed arcade brawler - and it achieves that goal to the exclusion of all else. It's over the top, exciting wrestling action; take it or leave it.

Review By: Mike Allison

GRAPHICSExaggerated character models and crazy moves that send wrestlers fifteen feet in the air are par for the course. All real-life mannerisms and moves have been accurately replicated.
81%
SOUNDA bit up and down but crunching sound effects and authentic ring-entrance music set the mood well. The voice-acting and commentary won't win any awards.
75%
GAMEPLAYAs an arcade-style brawler it succeeds for the most part. However an over-reliance on well-timed reversals sucks some of the fun out of things.
70%
VALUEWWE All Stars is an arcade-style title, so the lack of depth can be partly explained away, if not forgiven. There are ten unlockable wrestlers, three unlockable arenas and plenty of unlockable costumes. Still, in 10-hours or so you'll be out of new things to do.
65%
OVERALLWWE All Stars doesn't try to be anything other than a wrestling-themed arcade brawler. It succeeds in this goal, warts and all. If that's your thing then you'll have plenty of fun, but otherwise it won't win you over.
70%

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