WWE’s video game universe has returned to the world of arcade style fighting, and the end result is a game that puts every Smackdown vs. RAW to shame in terms of overall enjoyment and excitement.
Sporting one of, if not the, best rosters in a WWE game, All Stars features 30 of WWE’s best (15 current Superstars and 15 Legends). Among these legends are high profile names like Ultimate Warrior, TNA’s Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage, Bret Hart, Eddie Guerrero, Shawn Michaels, Mr. Perfect, and Ricky Steamboat (among others).
We know the roster is loaded with talent (either actual talent like Perfect or in name only like Hogan), but how are the modes and the gameplay? Is it worth $60? Does a WWE game finally have good online play, or do we have another lag infested mess on our hands?
Fantasy Warfare – The main single player mode of WWE All Stars, Fantasy Warfare is a collection of 15 matches pitting a WWE Superstar against a WWE Legend to see who is the greatest.
Initially, you’ll have to unlock new matches in the series by playing and winning a Fantasy Warfare match, but after you unlock all the matches you will be free to go back and choose to play whichever fantasy match you want whenever you want. And you’ll want to play a few matches at least twice, as this mode is how you unlock new wrestlers.
Some of the matches are between characters that are unlocked from the beginning, others will be between a locked superstar and an unlocked superstar, and still others will be between two characters that are both locked. You unlock a superstar by playing as that superstar and winning the match.
For example, Kane and Jimmy Snuka are both locked, so while playing the “Ruthless Aggression” match you choose Kane and win, and you unlock him. Play the match again as Snuka, and win, and unlock the Superfly.
Each match is preceded with a really good video package featuring the two stars. These packages are every bit as good as the standard ones you seen on TV hyping up a pay-per-view match, and they can really get you into the match that is coming up next. The edits during these videos make it look like the superstar and the legend are really in a feud.
My favorite is the one for the CM Punk vs. Steve Austin match, in which it appears that Punk and Austin are having a back and forth promo that fits perfect.
Unfortunately, as good as these videos are, there’s not a whole lot to this mode to make you want to come back to it multiple times once you’ve unlocked all the matches and all the superstars. It is definitely a great starting point for when you first get the game though.
You should be able to breeze through it in a little over an hour depending on whether or not you watch the videos, and you’ll be able to unlock all the characters and move on to the more exciting modes.
Path of Champions – This is the “story” mode of the game, although there’s really not a story to be told.
There are three paths; versus Undertaker, versus Randy Orton, and tandem versus DX.
The story is your character has to work his way through a series of nine matches in order to face Undertaker at Summer Slam, Randy Orton at WrestleMania, and DX at WrestleMania. These are championship matches, and are the only time you will see titles in this game.
Matches get progressively harder as you move your way up the ladder, and THQ has done a good job of offering up some variety by injecting Extreme Rules, Steel Cage, Three Way Elimination, and Four Way Elimination matches.
The Elimination matches can be a little difficult, since the other characters have a tendency to gang up on you, but thankfully THQ didn’t make you wrestle handicap matches in these modes (as they love to do in story modes for other WWE games).
There’s a few cutscenes for each path, and these are really well done. There’s a lot of detail going on in these scenes, and they’ve done a great job of nailing the atmosphere of Undertaker’s Funeral Parlor, the facial expressions of Randy Orton, and some really good voice work by Paul Bearer, Undertaker, Randy Orton, and Triple H & Shawn Michaels.
The scenes are short, but not too short and can be skipped, something you’ll probably want to do during other playthroughs. And believe me; if you want to unlock everything and get all the trophies, you’re going to be playing this mode a lot. Each time you beat it, you unlock a new alternative attire for whichever superstar you used.
Most of the 30-man roster has one alt-attire; however some have more than one, which takes an additional playthrough with that character to unlock his second one.
Or you can just use a cheat code and unlock everything in one fell swoop, but where’s the fun in that?
These paths really don’t take all that long to run through, depending on your play style, difficulty, and how good you are.
Create A Wrestler – The correct term might be “Create a Superstar,” but they’re wrestlers to me. I don’t personally care for these modes and never really have. For starters, I’m just not that good at it, and secondly I’d rather be playing a match than morphing some CAWs jaw. However, I did spend a little time with this mode for the purposes of this review, and what’s here is okay.
Compared to the Smackdown vs. RAW games, the options here are pretty basic and even limited at best. There’s no paint tool, and with the design choices and decals, you’re just not going to encounter too many created wrestlers that are accurate representations of a real wrestler. That’s okay to me, I don’t need to have AJ Styles’ large AJ tattoo if I’m making an AJ CAW.
You can have up to 15 created wrestlers, but I’ve only created one: Ron Paul. Does it look like a beefed up All Stars version of the good Representative? Yeah, to me it does, but it took about 25 minutes and is probably decent at best. Ricky Steamboat is my favorite character to play with, so I gave Dr. Paul Steamboat’s moves and Big Show’s knockout punch for a finisher (that’s just how Ron Paul does things, a no flash common sense knockout).
Now some might complain about the lack of being able to create a move set or even having moves that aren’t used by in-game wrestlers, but I actually love that aspect. This prevents people from creating a move set with the best, or easiest/quickest to perform, signatures. This feature of only being able to use superstar move sets helps to keep online play balanced. But going back to my Ron Paul CAW, here’s one limitation I don’t particularly care for…
I wanted Paul to come out to Sheamus’ entrance (his walk and taunt), but I couldn’t do that and still use the music I wanted to use. When creating a Ron Paul character and not having the ability to use a custom song, there’s really only one choice in All Stars and that’s Hulk Hogan’s “Real American” (I am a real American, fight for the rights of every man).
The only way to use that music was to choose Hogan’s entrance, which means my Paul CAW wearing a suit now imitates Hogan’s shirt tearing; and that’s cool for Hogan, but I don’t particularly like my Ron Paul doing the motion because it looks stupid.
The CAW mode in this one isn’t overly deep, but it’s good enough. And you’ll want to create a wrestler for the trophies/achievements and to unlock some extra arenas.
Also, let the record show that DX is not the greatest tag team in WWE history. Per my play through of the tag team Path of Champions, that honor belongs to the fierce tandem of “The Big Red Machine” Kane and “The Champion of the Constitution” Ron Paul.
Online Multiplayer – If you’ve had your feel of facing off against the CPU, then online is where you’ll want to go to spend most of your game time.
Unlike the last few SvR games, the online in All Stars actually works, and works pretty well most of the time. The games I’ve played online have varied from no lag (standard 1v1) to a little lag (four way elimination, and Tornado Tag). Even when there is noticeable lag, there isn’t enough of it to ruin the match or make you exit it out in frustration.
It really would have been a shame if this game would have been plagued with the same online issues that, to me, rendered SvR 2010 and 2011 virtually unplayable. Thankfully, the experience here is very good and should keep you coming back for many months (or longer depending on how SvR 2012 turns out) for your wrestling fix.
There is one slight problem I have with All Stars online though, at least as far as the Playstation 3 version is concerned. You can choose between Player Matches (unranked matches, invite your friends) and Ranked Matches. There’s a leaderboard for the various match types that Ranked Matches impact. This seems to be a broken system though. I’ve won ranked four-way elimination matches and singles matches, and yet my record still shows as 0-0 and my rating/score as 1500. It’s been this way for a couple of days now, so it’s not a case of the board just not updating at the time I checked.
Because of this, I’ve been playing mainly Player Matches, and they’ve also been a bit easier/quicker to get into than their ranked counterparts. The broken leaderboards aren’t a major issue to me personally, but there are those who care about such statistics, and so it needs to be looked into.
The Bottom Line – WWE All Stars is not the perfect wrestling game, but it comes as close as any wrestling game has since WWF No Mercy a decade ago. The game is easily accessible, and while there is a learning curve to do some of the more advanced moves and combos, this is really a pick up and play arcade fighter that should appeal to all kinds of gamers and of all ages.
Unlike its simulation based big brother, All Stars doesn’t set out to capture the television experience of a WWE broadcast. It’s fast paced and over-the-top, exactly like having a crazy match with your action figures back in the day (or presently for the younger fans). It’s also a throwback to the more exciting wrestling and arcade games of the 90s: WWF WrestleFest, WWF RAW, WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game, and NBA Jam/NFL Blitz.
The graphics are great (I really like the zoomed in camera style too), and the controls are fantastic once you get the hang of it.
If you’re used to playing Smackdown vs. RAW, you’re going to need a few minutes to adjust because this one isn’t complicated and convoluted like the controls for that series have become. The control scheme here is a lot like WrestleMania 2000 and No Mercy; face buttons for the attacks and grapples, trigger buttons for reversals, and thumbstick for moving around.
It’s really quick to get the hang of, and I personally vastly prefer this system over SvR’s. Some might say it’s a “button masher,” but it doesn’t have to be and won’t be if you’re actually trying to master the game and do specific moves and combos.
All Stars does have its flaws, but they are minimal. There are issues here and there with wrestlers clipping through one another and the ring (not nearly as severe as SvR, thankfully), and moves missing on screen yet still being sold as connecting (which might be the most realistic part of the game). And the game sometimes hangs up for a split second immediately following a KO.
The limitations in the Create-A-Wrestler mode hurt the game a little, but if you’re like me and don’t really care about creating your own wrestlers, this isn’t a big deal.
My biggest complaint with the game however is the loading times. I’m a patient guy, but the loading before matches is boarding on ridiculous with about a 20 second wait. For a game as fast paced and all about the action as this, and where matches are usually over before the five minute mark, these excessive and long loading times kill the pacing and briefly take you out of the game. If there is an All Stars 2, which I hope there will be, then these load times must be shortened.
Having spent a considerable amount of time with the game, and still learning new stuff about it, I can easily say that this is the best, and most fun, wrestling game since the trio of WCW/NWO Revenge, WrestleMania 2000, and No Mercy for the Nintendo 64 over a decade ago. If you haven’t gotten it yet, do so as soon as possible. It’s a blast to play both online and offline, and easily worth the money (the 360 and PS3 versions at least).
WWE All Stars gets a four out of five: GREAT.
* A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review.