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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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