- Buy the Game
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
t’s been awhile since I was even remotely interested in professional wrestling – first as a child, and then again in college – but you’d be amazed at just how quickly it all came back to me while playing THQ’s latest wrestling game, “WWE All-Stars.” That’s definitely part of the appeal, as it taps into your childhood memories of watching Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant duking it out at WrestleMania, and features a roster of 30 fighters (comprised of Legends like Macho Man and The Rock, and current Superstars like The Undertaker and John Cena) that any generation of fan can appreciate. But while “WWE All-Stars” has the makings of a fun brawler for the casual gamer, the experience is marred by too many annoying flaws to make it as great as the WWE’s storied history deserves.
Though there isn’t exactly a Story Mode, per se, Path of Champions gives you the opportunity to select a fighter and compete in one of three ten-match gauntlets that end with you facing off against either The Undertaker for the World Heavyweight belt, Randy Orton for the WWE Championship, or D-Generation X for the Tag Team title. The matches range from classic 1v1s, Triple Threats and Fatal 4-Ways, as well as the odd Steel Cage or Extreme Rules match. And then there’s Fantasy Warfare, a series of challenge-based matches that pit Legends versus Superstars in the kind of what-if scenarios that WWE fans could only dream about. Of course, the best part about these particular matchups isn’t playing them, but rather the really cool video retrospectives that preface each one.
Still, there’s plenty to enjoy about the gameplay itself, particularly because it differs so greatly from the more simulation-heavy titles in the WWE series. Though there’s a bit of a learning curve in perfecting the timing of reversing your opponent’s attacks, it’s a lot easier to pick up and play than most wrestling games, with only four basic offensive moves. There are different variations of attacks that can be performed (like what buttons you push after initiating a grab, for instance), but you can get by just fine using the same handful of moves. Additionally, every wrestler has four tiers of health (represented by green, yellow, orange and red), and the more health you lose, the easier it is to be pinned. You can fight your way out of a pin by mashing on the four face buttons or frantically moving the analog sticks, but if you’re knocked out by an opponent, it’s over.
Where the game really shines, however, is with the Signature Moves and Finishers – gravity-defying special attacks that fit in nicely with the game’s cartoonish, over-the-top aesthetics. Signature Moves are performed by filling up your Energy Meter with every punch, kick and grab, while Finishers are earned slowly over the course of a match and can either be unleashed right away by holding down the right and left bumpers, or stored for later use by tapping the same buttons. The storing system for the Finishers is especially useful, because it allows you to activate it in a much smaller window of time and pretty much guarantees that you’ll be able to execute it without it getting broken up.
Unfortunately, the game has a few glaring issues that sometimes make playing it more trouble than it’s worth. Perhaps the worst offender of the bunch is the load screens, which are unbearably long and quite frequent. From the time you set up a match to the time it actually begins, there are no fewer than four load screens that you have to sit through, and that’s with only two wrestlers in the ring. The more wrestlers you have fighting, the longer you have to wait, because each entrance is loaded separately. The AI is also pretty awful, with Triple Threat and Fatal 4-Way matches usually resulting in the human-controlled player getting ganged up on by the CPU. It’s so frustrating that you usually have to exit the ring and play chicken just so you have a chance to survive.
My experience on Xbox Live wasn’t any better, as online matches tended to be incredibly laggy, while the Create-a-Superstar feature is so lackluster that it almost feels like an afterthought. Granted, I’m not sure why anyone would even want to create their own character when the roster features just about every major WWE wrestler of the past 25 years, but the option is there if you want it. It just feels a little pointless when you’re playing a game called “WWE All-Stars,” as the title seems to suggest a certain level of elitism to the proceedings. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case, because while the game definitely has its strengths, it’s hardly worthy of the “All-Stars” moniker.