WWE All Stars Review

By Mike D'Alonzo - Posted Mar 30, 2011

Where THQ's Smackdown vs. RAW franchise has always been about a totally immersive WWE wrestling experience, both backstage and in the ring, they've decided to go a completely different way with WWE All-Stars, a game that is a simplified, completely over-the-top wrestling experience. Think SDVR meets NFL Blitz, and you're most of the way there.

The Pros
  • Simplified gaming experience makes wrestling more fun.
  • An over-the-top sport deserves an over-the-top game.
  • Fantasy Warfare is awesome.
The Cons
  • Still a button-mashing frenzy.
  • Some of the timing in the game is off.
  • AI is often too dominant.

WWE All-Stars Review:

Where THQ's Smackdown vs. RAW franchise has always been about a totally immersive WWE wrestling experience, both backstage and in the ring, they've decided to go a completely different way with WWE All-Stars, a game that is a simplified, completely over-the-top wrestling experience. Think SDVR meets NFL Blitz, and you're most of the way there.

An arcade-style fighting game, with mechanic to match, WWE All-Stars really puts all of the action in the ring, and lets you fight using current WWE Superstars and WWE Legends to create dream matches that fans have long wished for.

This Match Is Scheduled For One Fall...

What you'll likely notice first with All-Stars is that the style of presentation has changed quite a bit. The wrestlers are cartoon versions of themselves, with their most prominent features overblown and stretched in delightful ways, and they look like titans in the ring. The animations, too, are completely over-the-top and hilarious. Simple moves like Mr. Perfect's Perfectplex look a whole lot better when flipping through the air and leaving a ripple effect in the ring, as if some genuine seismic activity has just taken place. Neck breakers actually crunch with the breaking of necks. Even Andre The Giant is able to sell a finishing move as if it's the most devastating thing on Earth.

In short, the style of the game captures the ethic of professional wrestling perfectly. This is exactly the sort of thing that matches the nature of the sport. Yes, there's wonder to be felt in the technical prowess of actually accomplishing these things in the ring, and Smackdown vs. RAW captures that nicely, but this isn't about that. It's about the sort of giddy, ridiculous, physically impossible action that we, as fans, are asked to take as written each and every night. You think it's hilarious that someone can be beaten and broken in ways that would kill them if this were an actual fight? You will, then, delight over the animations that take that to the farthest extreme possible.

This, of course, extends to the roster in the game, a stable of wrestlers that will make even the most casual fan drool with anticipation. From new stars like The Miz, Randy Orton, Sheamus, and John Cena, to Legends like Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper, the best to ever enter the ring (that don't, at the moment, have some sort of contractual or legal difficulty with WWE...I'm looking at you, Ric Flair.) are represented here. And that would be enough, but THQ and WWE have really reached into their imagination to bring us the unexpected. Jake 'The Snake' Roberts is here, as is Eddie Guerrero. Do you miss Mr. Perfect? How about The Ultimate Warrior? They're here, and back in the ring for one more go-round. The permutations for dream matches are seemingly endless, and, if you can't think of them yourself, WWE has already done the work for you...but more on that later.

Stomping a Mudhole and Walking It Dry

Gameplay is nothing innovative. The best that can be said about it is that it removes some of the complexity of the button mashing that you experience in SDVR, and replaces it with button mashing you're more comfortable with, not too different from a Street Fighter game. This means you'll be able to pick the game up and play it without too much difficulty, which is clearly what THQ intended. However, it's still a button masher, no matter how you slice it.

Each wrestler has a set of moves that is a small variation on the wrestler before. It helps if you know who you're playing, because it will help inform you as to what you should be able to do. For example, Rey Mysterio isn't going to have the same pummeling damage standing toe-to-toe and punching as, say, Steve Austin, but he's sure a heck of a lot better off the ropes. Now, it would have been helpful to have a display of each fighter's move set like there is in Street Fighter, because you'd be able to know what you were capable of without having to figure it out by accident.

Also key to getting good at the game is learning to block and reverse your opponent's moves and turn them into offense for yourself, and WWE All-Stars has gone to the work of having a little icon pop up on your screen to tell you when to use the right bumper or shoulder button to do that. The only problem with that is, by the time that icon appears, you're too late. You literally need to develop a sixth sense to determine when your opponent is planning on hitting a move that you can block, and time it perfectly to make sure you do so. It will cause you to wonder why they even bothered, and it's going to get you in a lot of trouble.

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Of course, the best defense can be a good offense. And that might work with your friends, but the AI is a whole lot less forgiving. They'll be able to reverse your best moves with such frequency that you'll never be able to string enough together to do significant damage unless you're lucky, or you manage to figure out how to reverse them and break their momentum.

Once you do, it doesn't mean you're in the clear. It seems that you can have an AI opponent literally to the point where they're going to need to be hooked to an IV to stay alive, and then they can hit their finisher out of nowhere, while yours takes much longer to accomplish, needing, of course, to sate your need to taunt them before you do.

It can be frustrating, but if you know what you're getting into before you do it, it's a little bit easier to take.

They Said It Would Never Happen!

Remember those dream matches I mentioned earlier? Well, there's a mode in WWE All-Stars called Fantasy Warfare that puts current Superstars and Legends together in themed matches that tests the best in both men. Do you like high flyers? How about Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero? Innovative offense? That'd be Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat vs. Kofi Kingston. They even get creative enough to do things like pit CM Punk vs. Steve Austin in a match to see if Punks straight edge lifestyle is more valuable than Austin's hedonism. Perfect.

And, in what is my single favorite thing about the game, the folks at WWE have cut promos for these matches, using old and new footage to recontextualize the matches and make them current. These cutscenes are absolutely brilliant, and you'll find yourself watching them over and over again.

Also fun is the Gauntlet mode, which allows you to fight through a gauntlet of superstars to get to a big match. For example, if you want to end your run by fighting Undertaker at SummerSlam, you're going to have to go through ten other matches and a ton of current and former superstars to do it. However, they keep the program on the beam by doing animated cutscenes throughout with the likes of Paul Bearer to remind you of your ultimate goal. Super fun.

Of course, you can create your own superstar, and that can be fun, but both the roster of available and unlockable fighter will make that sort of an afterthought. There are tag team and cage matches, too. The game is surprisingly deep without too much fat in it. You certainly won't be wandering around backstage looking for a storyline to get into. All of that happens in the ring, and so much the better.


In the end, WWE All-Stars is a really fun game that just kicks out before it can get to classic status. There's a lot of replay value in it, and WWE fans will mark out all the way through. They've managed to capture the fun of fighting games, and the fanaticism of wrestling, and put it in one package. There's not much farther they can go with the concept, except for perhaps adding other superstars via DLC, but that's a good thing. It's a lovely little stand-alone game that's a lot smarter than it looks, which is what wrestling's really all about, isn't it?