WWE All Stars is unlike any wrestling game you have ever played. The action is fast, the characters look like action figures, and the gameplay is ridiculously over the top. The result is a game that feels more like an arcade style fighter than anything else, especially when compared to the Smackdown vs. Raw series. This is the first WWE game in a long time that’s actually fun to play.
With a total of 30 playable characters to choose from (with more coming as DLC), the WWE All Stars roster features a solid mix of current Superstars and Legends at your disposal. On the legends side, there’s Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, The Rock, Stone Cold, Mr. Perfect and many more. Aside from the oddly misplaced Drew McIntyre, the list of current WWE Superstars is just as impressive. Some of the highlights include Triple H, Randy Orton, The Undertaker, and CM Punk. Fans will be pleased to know that good ‘ol JR and The King have reunited once again to provide commentary. It gets repetitive fast, but you won’t even notice it half the time.
Even though everything is exaggerated beyond belief, it’s easy to notice the small details in mannerisms for each superstar. The developers did a great job making sure that each wrestler looks and feels unique, adding even more variety to an already diverse roster. The movesets, for the most part, are specialized to portray each wrestler’s style. THQ went a step further and split everyone up into four categories – Brawler, Big Man, Acrobat, and Grappler.
The character classes are the real game changers. For example, Rey Mysterio can jump around the ring, bounce on the ropes, and do crazy flips at almost any given moment. Bret Hart, on the other hand, can link moves together to form long chains of grapples. Brawlers like Stone Cold can unleash flurries of strikes and can even charge up attacks that lead into unblockables. As for the Big Men, the only three in the game are Andre the Giant, The Big Show, and Kane. These wrestlers are difficult to knock down and can easily juggle opponents in the air using stored charged attacks.
The gameplay mechanics are what sets this game apart from the Smackdown vs. Raw series. There are two types of strikes and grapples for each wrestler, consisting of quick and strong variations. During a grapple, pressing any of the four face buttons will result in a different move. Unlike recent WWE games, the right analog stick is not used to perform grapples. Instead, it’s used more as a supplement, allowing you to change the type of hold done during a grapple. It’s also used to change between targets in matches with more than two opponents.
WWE All Stars is a surprisingly deep game with an interesting combo system. By performing a string of attacks into grapples, you’re given the opportunity to do even more moves. It’s a somewhat complicated setup that’s going to take players awhile figure out. As a match progresses, you’ll gain energy that can be used for signature moves. Some wrestlers have more than others and you can do different moves depending on the situation. Sometimes you need to be near the ropes or have an opponent leaning on a turnbuckle. Signature moves can also be done while running or if an opponent is on the ground.
The way finishers are performed is initially confusing. The easiest way to land one is to first knock your opponent down. Then you need to hold the two shoulder buttons together to activate the move. This will cause the opponent to automatically wake up dazed and confused, seamlessly leading into the finisher (which can be countered). If you tap the shoulder buttons together instead, this will only store the finisher for later use. It’s a far riskier method since it can be interrupted, although it might be better in some situations since it’s not as telegraphed.
Thankfully, the old setup of having two counter buttons is back, with the left shoulder button assigned for grabs and the right assigned for strikes. You can even reverse a move in the middle of an animation and that reversal can be reversed by the other player. If you press either counter button at the right time during a prompt, you can even prevent your opponent from reversing. In SvR2011, you could just mash a button to counter moves. WWE All Stars actually requires proper timing. The implementation is quite possibly the best it has even been in a wrestling game.
Just like a fighting game, WWE All Stars has health bars. Once the meter has been fully depleted, performing a finisher will automatically lead to a knockout. For whatever reason, you can’t disable KO’s. If you’re looking for a simulation wrestling game with long drawn out matches, All Stars is not for you. Submission holds are nothing more than moves that do damage, and while pinfalls are possible, it’s pointless since you can guarantee a victory with a finisher. Having the option to turn off knockouts would have been nice.
The AI is huge improvement over the last few WWE games. The behaviors are aggressive and the counters are sometimes ruthless, but not enough to cause frustration. You might even find yourself having a great back and forth match. That said, that are a few moments when the AI gets wonky and either doesn’t know what to do or just spams high flying moves off the turnbuckle. Triple threat matches are also a pain since human players tend to be the primary target no matter what. Since this is an arcade style game, wrestlers are constantly “no selling” moves, making it even more difficult to deal with 2-on-1 situations.
You won’t find much variety in terms of gameplay modes. There’s your standard 1-on-1 versus, triple threat, fatal 4 way, handicap, tornado tag, steel cage, extreme rules, and elimination style exhibition matches. That’s it. All of the match types, aside from steel cage, are practically the same and offer very little variety. You can’t even defend titles, which are almost completely missing from this game altogether. Aside from exhibition matches, there’s Path of Champions and Fantasy Warfare.
Path of Champions is basically a ten match gauntlet leading up to battles against The Undertaker, Randy Orton, or D-Generation X. There are a few promos thrown in for fun with decent voice acting from the WWE Superstars, but that’s it. Completing a path with any given wrestler will unlock an alternate costume. Some characters have more than others.
Fantasy Warfare pits legends against current superstars in straight forward 1-on-1 fights. There are 15 matches in total, including Eddie Guerrero vs Rey Mysterio, Mr. Perfect vs The Miz, Jake “The Snake” vs Randy Orton, and HBK vs Undertaker. Completing each fantasy will unlock new characters to use in exhibition mode. The only aspect that really stands out are the promos hyping up each dream match. It’s really well done and there should have been more.
There’s also a very underwhelming create-a-superstar mode. You can’t even edit the movesets of the current roster, let alone choose moves for your created character. You are forced to choose a moveset that’s already being used by someone on the roster. The only thing you can change is the finisher. It’s amazing how limited the design choices are, as well. It’d be surprising if anyone can make a decent wrestler.
The lack of modes is really a missed opportunity. It would have been neat if Hell in a Cell or Ladder matches were in the game. THQ could have easily gotten away with making up insane modes just for WWE All Stars. Can you imagine fighting backstage and Pedigreeing someone off a skyscraper? That just screams awesome.
Online is where you’ll spend the majority of your time. You can play against random people in player matches, ranked matches, or invite friends to private sessions. All of the match types in the game are available online. Lag wasn’t an issue for 1-on-1 matches and countering was still possible when properly timed. There wasn’t much of a delay at all, if any. Even matches with four players was more than playable, with there being a very slight delay in inputs. It wasn’t game breaking at all but it did chug more often than not. Despite that, the netcode is easily better than anything from the Smackdown vs Raw series.
The online interface could have been better, though. You can only see who you’re playing against right before the match starts. After that, you’ll never know who your opponent is. If you’re a PS3 owner, you can’t even use the Players Met list as a reference. If you had a good match and want to run it back, you have to remember who you just played off the top of your head. The way disconnects are handled is an even bigger flaw. If you’re doing a fatal 4 way elimination match, for example, the game ends as soon as one person pulls the plug. You can’t even tell who disconnected, so there’s no way to report the player. You just have to accept having your time wasted.
It’s also worth noting that fatal fourway matches had random framerate drops while playing offline. We only received a PS3 copy to review, so it’s unknown if that’s an issue for other versions. WWE All Stars requires 366 MBs of hard drive space and there’s already a patch. For some reason, the game needs to cache data to the hard drive each time the game is booted up. This happens even if it’s already installed on the system.
- Gameplay that is simple to pick up and play, yet takes time to master
- Roster is diverse and each wrestler feels unique
- Fantasy Warfare promos are awesome to watch
- Online actually works well
- It’s simply fun to play
- Lacks variety in gameplay modes
- Entrances are pointlessly short
- You can’t disable KO’s
- Create a Superstar fails in pretty much every way imaginable
WWE All Stars is a difficult game to assign a score to. Despite being a barebones product with many flaws, the gameplay is top notch. With all the crazy over the top moves that defy the laws of logic, every match is a spectacle. This is easily the best WWE game THQ has produced in a very long time. If you’ve grown tired of the Smackdown series with its glitches, unplayable online, and sluggish gameplay, you’ll appreciate WWE All Stars even more. Just don’t expect it to be a wrestling simulator, because it’s far from that. It is, however, a rewarding and competitive fighting game that deserves your attention.