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only search AE

 

Platform

Playstation 3

 

Genre

Fighting

 

Publisher

THQ

 

Developer

THQ San Diego

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

March 29, 2011

 

 

- Arcade-like experience forgoes realism for quick-paced action
- Over-the-top visuals and animations bring wrestlers to life (even the dead ones)
- Many unlockable characters, stages, and features

 

 

- Load times can be frequently overbearing
- Lacking in commentary and personality
- Finicky reversals require precise timing

 

 

Review: WWE All-Stars (360)

Review: Legends of Wrestling (XB)

Review: Fire Pro Wrestling Returns (PS2)

 

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WWE All-Stars

Score: 7.5 / 10

 

wwe all-stars          wwe all-stars

 

I hate to be the one to break this to you, but Professional Wrestling is not real. The sooner you come to terms with this revelation, the sooner you can get on with your lives and enjoy the genre for what it is: a guilty pleasure.

Which is why it seemed somewhat ironic whenever developers would try and create a plausibly realistic wrestling game based on the “sport”, and also why WWE All Stars deserves more than just a couple of glances; THQ’s fantasy mash-up of wrestlers both old and new embraces the genre’s wacky characters and over-the-top acrobatics and focuses on a purely arcade-like experience.

There’s no real underlying plot to WWE All Stars; the game merely plucks some of the most recognizable wrestlers both past (Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, The

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Undertaker) and present (John Cena, The Rock, Kofi Kingston) and allows players to set up their own dream matchups, either by 1 on 1 bouts, Tag Team matches, or a free-for-all Elimination. The closest thing to a story mode would be the Path of Champions mode, where players engage in a series of bouts that bring them closer to the title match against several wresting legends (such as The

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Undertaker and Degeneration X). These modes feature cutscenes where the respective wrestlers (or their promoters, in the case of Undertaker’s Paul Bearer) taunt players in the usual over-the-top demonstration that the wrestling genre is known for.

Again, All Stars embraces the wacky world of wresting, and nothing exemplifies that clearer than the game’s visuals; if Tecmo’s Dead or Alive engine is infamous for its exaggerated portrayals of over-endowed women, than the Unreal Engine is similarly known for its glistening giants of muscular beefcake. Every wrestler is souped-up with steroids, with bulging torsos and square-jawed faces, which does greater justice to these wrestling legends than reality ever has (no receding hairline for the Hulkster in this game, and the screen practically shakes as Andre the Giant stomps his way onto the ring). While at times the effect is practically cartoonish, including Ultimate Warrior looking like a shaven Blanka, it’s a complimenting effect that trades photorealism for personality.

The ridiculous visuals carry over to each wrestler’s animations with perfect accuracy, from their iconic entrances to their signature takedowns. The audio plays an important part as well, with each wrestler’s theme song playing out along with voice recorded dialog from wrestlers and ring commentators alike.

 

Gameplay-wise, WWE is a lot like its star wrestlers: simple-minded but bursting with muscle. Players have access to two attack buttons (medium and heavy attacks) and two grab buttons (short range and long range grabs), along with the ability to block attacks. Aside from learning what type of attack or grab to use (not to mention which combination chains best), it’s also fundamental to learn how to counter attacks and throws; the former can be done just before an attack lands, but the latter requires pressing the shoulder button at the right time via the on-screen indicator; pushing the button too soon or too late will do nothing to save you from a head-slam onto the mat, but a successfully-timed press will lead to a reversal throw. It can be difficult to memorize the timing, as each wrestler has their own unique moves and throws, but mastering the art of reversals can lead to some truly exciting matches, especially when counter-reversals come into play.

 

wwe all-stars          wwe all-stars

 

And that’s not mentioning the dozens of context-sensitive moves and abilities; From jumping off the turnstile to tossing an opponent out of the ring, to hitting them with a foldable chair or pulling them down from a chain-link fence, if it’s a move you’ve seen on TV, you are certainly encouraged to try it in this game. There’s no time limit in any of the modes, and the object is to damage your opponent enough that he won’t be able to pull out of a three-count pin; However, for an assured victory, you can deal a heavy finishing move that’s pulled off by either a super takedown (which can only be performed once the meter fills up) or the more literal Finisher move (which also involves a meter). These devastating dish-outs of pain are among the game’s flashiest moves, making use of slow motion and pulse-pounding sound effects to really get the painful point across.

As fast-paced as the action can get, some lengthy load times tend to slow things down; even with the required hard drive install, the wait time before a match starts can get rather irksome, especially when playing the Path of Champions mode. Worse yet, small pockets of loading can lead to offline lag within the game, such as sound effects coming out of sync (or even worse, wrestlers glitching out, almost like some of them learned the Force and is levitating opponents away with a wave of their hands). The loading also makes the Create a Wrestler feature more cumbersome than it should be, with players forced to endure small pockets of loading when scrolling the available outfits and styles for their lumbering likeness to appear among wrestling’s greats.

And even though each wrestler is unique in appearance and moves, the game starts to invoke feelings of déjà vu, due mostly to the lack of voiceover clips (not counting the cutscenes in Path of Champions) as well as the repetitive and otherwise dull announcer commentary. More voiceovers from the actual wrestlers (or sound-alikes, for those long since passed on) as well as more emphasis on the legendary rivalries/team-ups would have resulted in a more nostalgic aesthetic as well as add more life to a game that falls just slightly short of its lively visuals.

For those gamers who have steered clear of wrestling games due to uncertainty over their quality, rest assured that WWE All Stars is a safe bet that doesn’t shy away from the wackiness of its sport, but embraces it fully. There are many unlockables to earn, and much fun to be had among friends both offline and online. Whether you’re an oldschool vet of the Hulkamania era or a devout follow of Stone Cold’s gospel, you’re bound to have fun having both sides smack each other over the head with chairs.

 

- Axel Cushing

(May 5, 2011)

 

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