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WWE ALL-STARS – XBOX 360

Posted by Hollander Cooper On March - 29 - 2011

In 1996, glass shattering in an arena could mean only one thing: Stone Cold Steve Austin was about to make his way into the ring. Fans would scream, hold up “Austin 3:16” signs, and eagerly anticipate the beer drinking, smack-talking wrestler’s epic entrance. In mere moments he would descend upon the ring, half-empty beer in hand, ready to deliver a can of whoop ass. It was, of course, all staged—a work—and the events of the night had been meticulously planned by dozens of writers. The “athletes,” while certainly athletic, were more actors than sportsmen; but that wasn’t important in 1996, just as it wasn’t important in 1986, or ’76. All that was important was Stone Cold riling up the crowd, punching someone in the head, dropping a heavy leg across their chest, and eventually giving an opponent his finishing move: the Stone Cold stunner. It didn’t matter if his adversary was double his size or half his size. Since it was staged, all that mattered was the entertainment. Enter, WWE All-Stars.

WWE All-Stars — Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

Developed by THQ San Diego

Published by THQ

I suppose that’s why I always saw wrestling as an extension of comic books or, more accurately, the battle between superheroes and supervillains that takes place in comics. The athletes don’t actually exist in the real world; they’re being played. The Rock is Batman, his theme is the Bat Signal, and he’s entering the ring to beat up The Big Show, who might as well be Bane. One look at them and you know that the bigger guy would win in an actual fight, but this wasn’t an actual brawl, it was a battle of titans, and it didn’t matter who was more talented or skilled, just what would be a better story. That, right there, is the issue with most WWE games in the past. They’ve taken something that, in reality, isn’t a sport, and made it into a sports game. Fake characters were bound to rules and THQ pretended that no one ever told them wrestling wasn’t real.

Few wrestling games have taken advantage of the silly, over-the-top nature of professional wrestling, which is why, at the conceptual level alone, WWE All-Stars is a better game than THQ’s other WWE games. All-Stars takes the world of wrestling and filters it through the eyes and mind of a nine-year-old, standing in the front row of Wrestlemania III and watching Hulk Hogan pick up the seven-foot four-inch André the Giant and slam him into the mat. Sure, in reality it was more of a slow drop, but in that kid’s mind Hulk Hogan picked up André, spun him around, and slammed him down so hard the building shook. In All-Stars, that’s just what happens.

It feels as though this mindset permeates every area of the game. Athletes from every era of wrestling come out to fight, including legends like Rowdy Roddy Piper, Jake the Snake Roberts, and Macho Man Randy Savage, as well as current classics like John Cena, The Miz, and HHH. They’ve all been given a superhuman coat of paint, turning the already massive stars into absolute monsters. Hulk Hogan’s 24” pythons look more like 72” anacondas, and even smaller fighters, like Rey Mysterio, have morphed into absolute tanks of humans. This aesthetic continues into the fighting itself, which has choke slams that involve fighters jumping ten feet in the air, and power-bombs that toss wrestlers across the ring. Finishing moves, in particular, are given a completely unrealistic (but entertaining) spin, looking more like something from a Dragonball Z game than a typical WWE title. The Rock leaps over ten feet in the air to deliver a Rock Bottom, and Randy Savage does a backflip to the ropes before executing a flying elbow drop that causes shockwaves to shake the ring. It’s silly, it’s completely unrealistic, and it’s the best thing in the world.

And these moves aren’t necessarily difficult to pull off, either. All-Stars put a lot of effort into simplifying the gameplay that has become overly complicated over the years. No one lies on the mat for too long—that’s not fun. There’s very little time spent transitioning between grapples—that’s boring. Instead, it draws obvious influence to the arcade cabinets of old that helped established fandom in wrestling games, by making sure the controls are easy to pick up, and difficult to master. It’s simple to learn how to grab, run, and punch, but figuring out the timing of different moves and reversals becomes key to success the more you play. It’s not about learning combos; it’s about remembering when to hit the reversal button, and hoping you catch your opponent off guard. Reversals, while not entirely important at first, become a key element of the mechanics over time, so learning when to tap a shoulder button to block a blow becomes key to success.

It’s the wrestling game fans have been waiting for, but… That’s right, there’s a “but.” Fans of wrestling know that there’s always a caveat when it comes to WWE games, and All-Stars is no different. While it’s fun, there are elements simply missing from the game, and it falls in the uncomfortable zone in-between what gamers expect from a downloadable title, and what they want for a retail release. Beyond exhibition and online play there are two modes: “Fantasy Warfare”, which pits legends against superstars in 15 matches to find out which fighter is the most “charismatic” or “high-flying” of all time, and “Path of Champions”, which brings players through a gauntlet of ten fights in order to challenge a belt holder. Together, they make up maybe an afternoon’s worth of enjoyment, but when it’s over, it’s over. There’s no career mode, no story, and none of the modes that have made THQ’s other wrestling games popular over the years. Sure, there’s a robust create-a-fighter option, but without an entertaining campaign to play through the fictional fighter is left with far too things to punch. There’s a shortage of match types, too, leaving players without Royal Rumbles, table matches, ladder matches, or any of the other gimmicks Vince McMahon has thought of over the years. There’s cage matches, but they’re likely the least fun of the bunch, and it feels as though it would have taken a lot more to justify the price.

That said, there’s a lot to like in the game. Strong voicework, funny visuals, and impressive gameplay will be enough for fans who have been waiting for an arcade-inspired WWE title, even if the price isn’t right. Hopefully THQ gets some entertaining DLC pushed down the pipe, because adding in additional fighters might help justify a $60 price tag, but even then, I’m hoping that they learn their lessons from this iteration, and take another shot at the All-Star series in another year or two. It deserves more, and should be a full, fleshed-out experience if they want it to succeed. Otherwise, they can add it to the long list of wrestling series they’ve made that have ended up face-first on the mat.

74/100 – Above Average

WWE All-Stars is available on March 29 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, and PlayStation 2.


3 Responses so far
  1. Vince Vazquez Said,

    I really don’t wanna be that guy, but you totally just said, “Jake ‘the Snake’ Robot” in the review. I mean, sure it’s wrong. But man – how cool (and how messed up) would Jake Roberts be if his gimmick was both carrying a snake around AND being a robot!?! XD

    I love All Stars since I got it yesterday. Great review!

    Posted on March 31st, 2011 at 4:50 AM

  2. Hollander Cooper Said,

    Fixed, and yes, that would be an amazing wrestler. Maybe the snake could be a robot, too…

    Posted on March 31st, 2011 at 12:01 PM

  3. Luke Brown Said,

    Pretty spot-on review, but I disagree about the character creation. It’s a huge step backwards for THQ, and the options are less than were in some early WWE titles. Character creation is such a vital part of the WWE video game experience, and I feel like they really dropped the ball by shortchanging this aspect so much.

    Posted on April 6th, 2011 at 10:19 AM

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