WWE All Stars
The Ultimate Warrior is nuts. We don’t mean Jim Hellwig, the man behind the facepaint, but the character itself. Running like a loon to the ring, the nostalgic vision of seeing him already completely out of breath before having a match in WWE All Stars instantly fills your heart with joy.
Admittedly some 13 years after he left the wrestling business it’s more comical than it was back then, THQ’s latest sports entertainment outing prides itself on tying into those memories while backing it up with a more than decent game underneath.
In case you’re not aware, WWE All Stars takes the superstars and legends from World Wrestling Entertainment and puts them in another universe, figuratively speaking.
Physiques are exaggerated, moves over the top and the feel is arcade-focused, a country mile away from its elder brother: the SmackDown series.
Those who have played TNA iMPACT! will instantly see some similarities; THQ San Diego was formed out of the remnants of the same studio, meaning a lot of the positives from that game have found their way into this, the highlight of which is the reversal system.
Although initially difficult to get your head around, it soon unravels to become the game’s highlight, giving every match you compete in an edge and, often, sparking off unexpected hysterics as two wrestlers somehow manage to reverse manoeuvre after manoeuvre.
The way it’s been incorporated is stunning as well. Moves seamlessly link into one another and turnarounds that don’t seem possible somehow manage to become a reality.
As mentioned it’s not as easy as just smashing any button and you’ll need to sacrifice some patience trying to work out the timing but once it clicks, All Stars shows its trump card.
Unlike a certain other franchise as well, it doesn’t all fall apart outside of this. Even when you’re not blocking a Hurricanrana by turning it into a powerbomb, the hard-hitting and exaggerated style – every move is delivered with serious force and really looks like it hurts – is satisfying and engaging to play.
Feeling a lot like cult classic WCW/nWo Revenge, even an exhibition match has the potential to become an All Stars classic.
THQ San Diego seems aware of this, though, as a tremendous amount of concentration has clearly been put into the basic one-on-one contest. Unfortunately, its pitfalls emerge at a greater level.
We’re not going to sit here and get on All Stars’ case for its presentation because, frankly, it’s brilliant. The problem is there’s just not enough of it.
Competing in a run of ten matches to face The Undertaker and seeing the Deadman and Paul Bearer taunting you from the funeral parlour is like taking a step back through time.
The same can be said for the Legends vs Superstars matches. Each is preceded by a short promo video, stressing why each wrestler is such a talent and why the meeting of the two is a bout for the ages.
Admittedly Sheamus wouldn’t be our top pick to face off against The Ultimate Warrior, but the concept is clever and applied by people who clearly understand and get pro wrestling.
That’s why it’s so baffling that away from such avenues there’s not a lot to do. There’s no crazy storyline mode that would suit this game near perfectly, and even the Path Of Champions falls short as there’s only three to choose from.
We understand the whole ‘we were focusing on the engine’ line, but that doesn’t stop us from being disappointed. Just to preempt what the developer would say, we guess we’ll have to wait till the sequel.
With that in mind, WWE All Stars is a fantastic entry into THQ’s wrestling canon, and one that shows the future may actually be bright for the genre.
Despite our mum telling us years ago we’d grow out of pro wrestling, we haven’t, but the dwindling run of SmackDown games were worrying us that we were done within its digital field.
Thankfully, this changes all that, and if it can go from strength-to-strength and ram itself to the brim with options, modes and a bigger roster, All Stars will be leading the pack.
We can only hope that sparks some creativity across the pond, leading to an epic battle that hasn’t been seen since WWF, as it was, and WCW went head-to-head during the Monday Night Wars.
A great first effort although not without flaws, WWE All Stars offers a damn fine experience and a ton of potential. Pro wrestling has returned, dear reader, so whatcha gonna do, when an oversized Hulk Hogan runs wild on you?!