Retro meshed well with modern; pick up n' play done right.
Let's cross off the first and foremost bulletin point of any THQ wrestling game, hell, the "THQ Wrestling Game Promise" if you will: All Stars has broken online gameplay. Must you know how they've done it this time? Certainly, you can connect to other human beings over the Internet, so it beats that Xbox WrestleMania title by a default. In this game, however, it's lagging network code, followed by unblock-able, irreversible combos that assure if you don't get the very first hit in an online match you've already lost.
It's as if either THQ or the WWE fails to throw enough money at their product for focus testing, polishing, quality assurance, you name it. No surprise that they shut down the division that produced this game. It's probably because they spent too much and did too much right by everything else about the game (besides the online) that they put THQ's other grappler "WWE '12" to shame.
While it can be repetitive, and you'll wish they made more retro promos than the spectacular Undertaker & Paul Bearer one, WWE All Stars is a knife through the air of the stagnant RAW franchise THQ has been churning out since 2004. Gone is the methodical pacing, as well as the overdose of moves, button configurations, mini games, and area of effect systems. All Stars is a return to form of the original SmackDown! PSX games, or the In Your House arcade game, maybe even WWF Attitude for the N64. Fast, simple, fun. Winning and losing sort of happens like a Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter game; it's all about timing. Strategy comes down to, "Am I gonna grapple now because he's expecting a strike?" This simple gameplay engine is nearly flawless, and is what separates this game from such garbage as Legends of Wrestling that delivered old school characters without a decent game to back 'em up.
WWE All Stars is a terrific budget game. It sacrifices such malarkey as awkward, dialed in, voice over filled career modes, make-your-own finishing moves, choose your adventure story-lines, as well as the ability to fight in the arena crowd or parking lot. But this game spices things up by capturing the nostalgia of 80's and 90's wrestlers and making them fit in with contemporaries, all in a game that's easy to pick up and play but challenging enough where victories aren't guaranteed.