WWE All Stars Xbox 360 Review

March 31, 2011 by  
Filed under Features, Reviews, Xbox 360

Publisher – THQ – Developer – THQ San Diego – Genre – Fighting – Players – 1-4 – Age Rating – 16+ – Other console/handheld formats – PS3, Wii

Wrestling, with its impossibly resilient wrestlers, outlandish storylines and such, is hardly what you’d called realistic, so it’s a bit of a mystery why there hasn’t been a video game for years that has further exaggerated its OTT nature.

WWE All Stars is the opposite to WWE Smackdown! vs. Raw, giving wrestlers superhero like physiques, whilst all their famous manovoures are delivered with a comical and often gravity defying sense of force. Juggling is also a possibility, resulting in an uncommon wrestling and fighting hybrid that goes to efforts of pleasing fans of both genres.

The roster encompasses wrestlers both past and present, so current favourites like John Cena, Rey Mysterio, CM Punk, The Undertaker and Randy Orton are all here whilst past grapplers like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Mr Perfect, Bret Hart, Hulk Hogan, Andre the giant and Eddie Guererro are all accounted for, though it’s pushing it to say Kofi Kingston, Jack Swagger and such belong in amongst this elite group.

The game engine is simply stunning on an aesthetic level. All of the wrestlers are action figure like caricatures, granting the game a visual style that’s all its own, whilst the animation is excellent, with transitions between moves being smooth and not robotic like the lazy Smackdown! vs. Raw series.

John Cena and the ring are about to take a beating.

Each of the 30 wrestlers are split into classes, there are four of these: Acrobats are the high flyers, Grapplers are able to smoothly chain moves together, Brawlers are the most combo heavy, and finally big men are tricky to ground. Learning the discrepancies between the classes is of importance, particularly if you’re playing against a skilled player.

Mechanically the game utilizes a paper-scissors and stones system, akin to the legendary No Mercy where tactical use of moves can cancel out your opponent’s choice of attack, for instance a strike can negate a grapple, whilst a weak grapple attempted at the same time as a strong one will always come out on top. This grants not only a strategic layer to the matchups but also a risk and reward element that is sorely missing in the Smackdown vs. Raw series.

There’s a heavy emphasis on counters, and every move in the game can be reversed, so even reversals themselves can be countered. This doesn’t necessarily mean that every match is a counter fest that would rival Kurt Angle’s entire ten plus year career, as the reversal system is reliant on precise timing and will punish wild button mashing. But it’s a rewarding facet of the game, both for the stylish and smoothly animated visual payoff and the defence aspect that it brings to your game.

The fighting game influence sees a momentum meter replaced with traditional health bars and achieving victory through knockouts is a fairly common occurrence. Action is always arcadey, with wrestlers never staying grounded for long and complexities such as location specific damage are completely ignored. It’s hardly going to appease those seeking a simulation of the wrestling art form.

As far as modes go, the meatiest single player offering is Path of Champions, in which there are three separate objectives, one being an attempt to beat the legendary Undertaker, another sees you trying to capture the title from Randy Orton, and finally there’s one that has you assembling a tag team (oddly of which, you can’t play in co-op) to eventually take on Degeneration X. All three have just 10 matches and are light on story and what’s there isn’t terribly interesting either. A somewhat cheap way of extending the longevity of the mode is that going through with each wrestler will unlock additional attire for the respective wrestler, as well as their entrance and finishing move for the create a wrestler portion of the game.

Fantasy Warfare is all about the matchups that are never likely to happen and is the only method of unlocking wrestlers. It sees modern day wrestlers taking on their past counterparts, so for instance there’s the Big Show vs. Andre The Giant, John Cena Vs. Hulk Hogan and Randy Orton Vs. Jake “The Snake” Roberts. All the matches are introduced by cleverly put together video packages, each of which does a good job in granting additional excitement to the impending match.

Arenas, old and new, are featured.

That’s about your lot for single player focussed content, of which is likely to be disappointing for those expecting something as weighty as the Smackdown vs Raw games. There are not many match types on offer either, though thanks to the proficient mechanics they’re all thoroughly entertaining, particularly for offline multiplayer bouts. Online is also unsurprisingly included, though is at this point a bit hit and miss, which in combination with the emphasis on timing is simply unacceptable.

There’s one-on-one, triple threat, fatal four way, tornado tag and elimination match types, though oddly no ladder or traditional tag team matches, both of which are a major part of the wrestling industry.

Perhaps the most notable of the match types that the game has to offer is the cage match. It has sensible mechanics, where when you ascend to the top of the cage, a mini game kicks in, where you must stop a pointer within a sweet spot five times and, in a nice touch, even if your opponent scrambles up and pulls you down, it will still remember all of your successful attempts.

With Smackdown! vs. Raw becoming increasingly dated with every new game WWE All Stars is a breath of fresh air. Its core gameplay and delightfully outlandish action is immensely enjoyable, whilst its marriage of wrestling and fighting results in a game with broad appeal. Its biggest failings, the online multiplayer and lack of content are hard to ignore, though with THQ’s biggest grappling franchise struggling to get even some of the simple aspects right these days, the fact that WWE All Stars gets all the basics right is cause for celebration.

8/10

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