|System: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PS2, PSP|
|Dev: THQ San Diego|
|Release: March 29, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
The WWE's SmackDown vs. Raw series has been extremely successful as a simulation series. The series thrives on precise gameplay and strategic moves in the ring, and has delighted fans over the years with its realistic portrait of sports entertainment. WWE All-Stars is not like that at all. If the SvR series is the wholesome Raisin Bran of the WWE game world, then WWE All-Stars is the Fruity Pebbles. It doesn't have any of the substance or nutritional value of the former, but it tastes awesome, and has a whole lot of color.
Just by looking at the game, you're able to get a feel for where this game is targeted. Instead of realistic muscle-bound models, wrestlers look like action figures that have beefed up considerably. Everyone from John Cena to Rey Mysterio has larger-than life muscles, and look more like their action figures than their actual personalities.
But that is really the point of WWE All-Stars. If the characters that you see in the SvR series are a mixture of persona and athlete, WWE All-Stars is all persona. Whatever their in-ring gimmick, SvR plays it up to the nth degree. It is just impossible to play this game without a silly grin on your face. And fortunately, this extends beyond the visuals, as the gameplay is just as over the top, if not even more so.
The battle system in the game has a very simple combo-based structure that encourages you to smash your enemy with regular button-mash attacks, and then charge up to perform devastating special attacks. The special attacks are really the most fun aspect of the game, as you can perform fantastic feats like the Rock Bottom from twenty feet in the air or a Sharpshooter that looks like it would break a man in half. Of course, these amazing moves are accented by fantastical red, blue, and yellow flares that just highlight the game's cartoonish appeal.
The battle system is certainly stylish, but the good news here is that it is extremely functional as well. Most of the attacks are simple one-button affairs, and combos rarely require the type of precision you would expect with brawlers like Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter. The game is meant to be as inclusive as possible, and it took me about five minutes to learn the battle system once I got my hands on the controller. And once you really get going, it is hard to put down.
The real cornerstone of the gameplay, however, is not the battle system but the game's smart use of a "class" system, which separates the roster into four distinct fighting styles: Acrobat, Big Man, Brawler, and Grappler. Each of these classes comes with its strengths and drawbacks, and a lot of the fun comes from trying new classes against each other. Although you might not think a small acrobat like Rey Mysterio could take down a big man like The Big Show, anything is possible in WWE All-Stars, and I was continuously surprised by the ridiculous moves I could pull off in the game.
But of course, WWE All-Star's biggest strength lies not in its visuals, or inclusive gameplay, but in its killer roster. Though you'll see a lot of familiar faces from both the SvR series and the short-lived Legends of Wrestlemania series, WWE All-Stars has managed to sneak in a few surprises, including fan-favorite "Macho Man" Randy Savage. The roster is split into new blood and all-stars, so if you are a relatively new fan of the WWE brand, you can expect to see plenty of familiar faces, including Kofi Kingston, Sheamus, and Drew McIntyre. Of course, on the All-Stars side, you can expect mainstays like Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Sgt. Slaughter, Bret Hart, and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.
Although playing around with all the superstars in exhibition mode is undoubtedly fun, we were also able to spend considerable time with one of the game's signature single-player modes: Fantasy Warfare. This mode is a treasure trove for big WWE fans and pits unlikely superstars in epic matchups. The game features matches for things like "Best Lifestyle," which features Stone Cold Steve Austin and CM Punk, and "Pride of Scotland," which features a cross-generational match between Rowdy Roddy Piper and Drew McIntyre. One of the coolest things about this mode, is the story for the rivalry is established with cleverly edited footage from real WWE matches, which makes the rivalry seem like a "real" WWE storyline. Though plenty of these matches could never happen in the ring due to age or circumstance, it is great to see them played out in WWE All-Stars in a way that seems true to the spirit of the WWE.
In addition to the exhibition and fantasy warfare modes, there are also several story modes you can work your way through, and of course, online modes. There is plenty to do in this game, and the incredible style and accessible gameplay is sure to make this a hit with both the die-hard WWE fans, those who only have a passing interest in the franchise, or old-timers that just want to re-live the "good ol'" days. But no matter which of these categories you fall into, you won't have to wait long to check out WWE All-Stars, as it releases later this month!
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Senior Contributing Writer