Finally, a game that realises what stupid-fun wrestling is!
Let me just clear one thing up: I love wrestling video games, I have done for years and years and I've loved the sports entertainment it's based on for even longer, but I swear if I have to play through the same Raw VS Smackdown game again, I'm going to give myself a Stone Cold Stunner. Luckily, WWE All Stars is not the same Raw Vs. Smackdown game. THQ have given their wrestling series the NBA Jam make-over, and let me tell you, it's much better for it. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed Raw Vs. Smackdown, but I always found it a little weird to have such a serious simulation-style game based on a sport that's fake. Luckily with All Stars, that's never a concern. Everything about this game, from the characters to the moves they pull off, is over the top, and it's all the better for it. From the very start, it's obvious that the game's main theme is just making sure that you have some big dumb fun. The roster is made up of 30 wrestlers: 15 legends and 15 wrestlers who are currently the modern day superstars. Now, I haven't watched the WWE since it the mid-90s and we were allowed to call it the WWF without fear of upsetting some stupid long-haired hippy trying hard to save a rare species of plant in some country nobody gives a shit about, so I have no idea who most of these people are - CM Punk? Kofi Kingston? Pfft, whatevs. But the chance to put The Ultimate Warrior up against Stone Cold Steve Austin? GIMME A HELL YEAH! The only real disappointment here is a lack of female wrestlers. I know women's wrestling is seen as more of a novelty, but are you seriously telling me that in the 30+ years of WWE wrestling, there's not a single female wrestler that you could've squeezed in here? No Debra? Sable? Mae Young? What the hell, THQ! Don't make me lay the smack down on your candy asses!
oh man, this is gonna hurt If those wrestlers aren't enough for you, you can always create your own wrestler. This section of the game is a little bit of a let-down, as it doesn't truly allow you to have the same level of creativity as in other WWE games, and a lot of the options are very cookie-cutter style options, especially in terms of giving your character personality, however if you've got the time to burn on this, you can still make yourself a pretty good wrestler. The game's modes are fairly straightforward: exhibition matches for the one-off games, which then break down into all the recognisable game-types. Even here, the game's been simplified; there's no rope-breaks, all the tag-team matches are Tornado tag-teams, and there's no count-out. In fact, you've really got to go out of your way to get disqualified.
MACHOOOOOOOOO! The controls is also simplified too, making it easy for anyone to pick up & play and to go along with it, the combat system is also simplified - even the special and finishing moves are all the same 2-button combination. It is easy to let loose with som button mashing, however a lot of the reversals and defensive moves are timing based, so you're going to need perfect timing if you wish to get past some of the harder matches, which can be quite frustrating at times. Eliminating your opponent is a lot more fun in All Stars too, as it's usually a lot easier and more satisfying to knock down your opponent than to try for the pin. Each wrestler has a health bar, so just wear it down with your series of grapple and striking moves, then once you've built up your Finisher meter, feel the smile on your face grow to Joker-esq sizes as you see the beauty that is the finishing move. It really is a thing of beauty the first time you pull of a ridiculous and gravity-defying finisher. I can't quite put it into words, so just watch the majesty that is Hulk Hogan laying the smack down on some random Jamaican dude that nobody cares about:
As you can see from the video, the sound effects that go along with the visual presentation fit perfectly, with all the right bone-shattering sound effects and slow-motion sounds that give you just enough time to yell OH NO HE DIDN'T! The only disappointing part of the game really comes in the form of the commentary. They got the perfect choices for this game as the commentary by having Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross, but all the commentary is just painfully bland and really does sound like they've phoned it in. It's repetitive at best, and enough to make you reach for the 'mute' button. If they end up releasing another WWE All-Stars game (and I honestly hope they do), improving the commentary must be the first thing on their list of things to improve. If you're after a game-mode with a little more substance, there's the Path Of Champions. At a base-level, it's really just a preset series of 10 matches, but it does tie them together nicely, and even adds in some great entertaining cut-scenes. Despite the characterture appearance, they've really managed to nail down these characters, making the albeit long cut-scenes much more enjoyable to watch that you'd first expect. When you're done with the PoC mode, there's also a mode called Fantasy Warefare. This is almost in the same vein, where by it simple sets up some pre-organised match-ups, but does set them up quite nicely - most matches have a great video intro, showing real-life wrestling intros, and matching up the best of the best in fantasy matches.
putting the "SLAM" into Summerslam Like NBA Jam, the pure joy out of this game is the multiplayer, especially when those other people are sitting with you on the couch. I tried playing a few games online, but only got match-ups with people in the US, and when a lot of your defensive moves are based on timing, even the slightlest problem with lag will see you pinned to the mat for 3 in just a few short minutes. But instead, invite a few mates around, hand them each a controller and I guarantee you'll be yelling at each other to KNOW YOUR ROLE AND SHUT YOUR MOUTH.
• Finally great to see a wrestling game that's replaced 'simulation' with 'fun'
• Devastating over the top finishing moves
• Easy to pick-up controls
• Endless replayablility
CONS• Commentary is woeful
• There's still some great wrestling names that are missing here
• Online play seems more like an afterthought, and lag is a real issue
SUMMARYIt's been years since a wrestling game has truly embraced the sheer stupidity that is wrestling - and I mean that in the best way possible. WWE All-Stars has finally made the right move and ditched all the supposedly high-brow technique and simulation of what you see on TV, and given it it's much deserved NBA Jam-esq treatment. I can't remember a time when a multiplayer game like this brought me such pure joy, and is more than easily recommendable to even the most cynical wrestling fan - hell, even if you don't like wrestling, this game is still worth a shot. And that's the bottom line, because Stone Cold said so!
[this review was originally posted on australiangamer.com]