Review: WWE All Stars
Posted 25 Apr 2011 at 14:07 by Franklin Hughes
|"a little strange in a game that promises "matches that have never happened before" that there are actually three matches in the Fantasy Warfare mode that have indeed happened before."|
While THQ's flagship WWE brand is the Smackdown vs Raw series from time to time they have tried to bring out spin off games in the interm between the previous years SD vs Raw and the likely next yearly update. While the SD vs Raw games are more of a WWE Simulation trying to maintain real physics rules and allow the player to recreate the feel and spectecle of the show; WWE All Stars takes the "spectacle" and "over the top" element of the WWE and expands on it.
So while both All Stars and SD vs Raw share the same basic premise, video-game wise they offer differing experiences with All Stars being highly Arcadey as opposed to SD vs Raw's simulation sytle. The main selling point for All Stars is that it is built around the idea of "What if" matches. Taking wrestlers from years gone by - "Legends" - and pitting them against "Superstars" from the current WWE roster, promising match ups that have never happened in the real show. Kind of like a discussion boxing fans might have about, "Who would win if Muhamhed Ali (in his prime) fought Manny Pacquiao".
These "Fantasy Matches" take place in one of the games two scenario modes, "Fantasy Warfare". At the beginning you only have one match choice, Ultimate Warrior vs "The Celtic Warrior" Sheamus, in a match to decide the WWE's greatest Warrior. Complete this as either character to unlock the next match and so forth, with a total of 15 matches in all. This mode is nicely presented with a full on WWE promotional video playing before each match detailing each wrestler and explaining why they would make a good match up if they could have fought in the real ring. Using actual archived WWE footage and dramatic voice overs, it gives a great sense of building up the occasion for a classic match up. However it is somewhat let down by the lack of something similar to follow the matches as they just end as normal like in the exhibition mode with no extra celebration or cut-scene of the victor. It's also a little strange in a game that promises "matches that have never happened before" that there are actually three matches in the Fantasy Warfare mode that have indeed happened before.
To accompany the idea of the "Fantasy Matches" and to add to the arcade style of gameplay the game goes to a few extra lengths to go even more over the top than the actual TV show does. Character models are over exaggerated with massive pecs and biceps making them look more cartoony or like action figures than the more accurate models you would be used to from the SD vs Raw games. Action Figures seems to be a good description as while the body and limb animations are fine there are no facial expessions at all. Mouths don't open, eyes don't move and expressions don't change, much like plastic action figures.
Once you get down to the actual gameplay of fighting in a wrestling match don't be surprised when the laws of physics, mainly gravity, cease to function. Remember this is all about fantasy and being over the top, so while basic punches and kicks might not provide anything unexpected, land a heavy blow and watch as the opponent bounces 5 - 6 feet in the air. But the coup de tate for the fantasy realm here is the signature and finishing moves which sees the action go into slowmotion with one character lifting another and jumping 15 - 20 feet in the air and depending on the move maybe adding a couple of somersaults for extra flare.
All of the above details lay the ground work for what could have been a very entertaining game. However sadly it does find itself letdown by a number of things. Firstly options, Professional Wrestling whichever brand you watch is known for having many different match types and usually video game counter parts try to provide as many as possible. Here there is very little variety, you can have standard matches, tag team matches, extreme rules matches (adding weapons), and steel cage matches. No ladder matches, no tables matches, no iron man matches, not even a Royal Rumble option which is odd considering the roster has the perfect number of 30 characters for a Rumble. Tag team matches are also only limited to "Tornado Tag" matches, where all 4 wrestlers can be in the ring at once and there is no actual tagging involved. And while 30 characters may seem pretty good (15 Legends and 15 Superstars), when compared to Smackdown vs Raw 2011 which has just over double that amount it seems a little lackluster to say the least.
Gameplay wise things look up at the beginning when you see you have a choice of controller input, Wiimote, Classic Controller and even Gamecube controller. While the game tried to have a bit of dept to the gameplay with light and heavy strikes and grapples that can be stringed together like a combo, you may find you can just easily bash away at the "light strike" button and just keep smacking the CPU character until your signature and/or finisher move gauge fills. If you are playing with a friend however it is slightly more enjoyable and you can find yourself trying to master the art of countering as a human opponent offers much more challenge than the CPU does. Multiplayer is restricted to local play though as there is no online modes to speak off.
The second scenario mode in the game is the "Path of Champions" mode, which has 3 title paths for you to choose from. The WWE Title vs The Undertaker, Heavyweight Title vs Randy Orton or the Tag Team Titles vs D-Generation X. This feels like a missed opportunity as it is just reduced to a "fight 9 matches then fight the boss" deal. It is interspersed with some nice FMV's of the antagonist giving a bit of trash talk but as these are just limited to them talking to you, there is no rebuttle from your choosen character to add to the atmosphere of the scenario. In comparison to the "Road to Wrestlemania" story modes that have appeared in recent SD vs Raw iterations which fully recreate the sense of rivalry seen on TV, the limited nature of the Path of Champions mode just makes the game feel even further rushed.
Another highly lacking area is the Create a Wrestler mode. Usually nicely fleshed out in other games here it is but a shell. While you can let your imagination run in the visual aspect of your creation, you'll find when it comes to assigning a move set you are limited to just templates of the move sets of the wrestlers in the game. You can't pick and choose which kind of punches, kicks and grapples you want to try and make a uniquely styled brawler. The only variation of the standard template you get is you can have a different finisher to whoevers moveset you had chosen.
And finally the real killer of this game, which might have helped salvage it a little, is the sound. Musically and commentary wise it is fine, though expect to here the same commentary phrases repeated alot. But when it comes to the in ring effects it is a mess. The sound effects of puches and kicks are very poor and provide no real sense of any impact. The crowd appear non-existent add no atmosphere at all. When characters get dropped from a great height in one of the over exaggerated special moves the sound of the impact sounds no greater than if they had just tripped and fallen over. And speaking of the special moves, when they are used all sounds vanish or slow down with the slow motion effect, but the moment just seems silent. As if there was an effect that was meant to go in there but was forgotten about. Sometimes there is a "Bionic Man" type sound effect but it doesn't happen all the time... even with when the same move is used twice. And speaking of missing sound bites, go for a pin, you'll see the numbers 1, 2, 3 appear on screen but there is no sound bite of a ref, or even the crowd counting them. When you do win the match there is no sound effect for a ring bell signalling the end of the match. There is a voice over of an annoucer declaring, for example; "And your winner" followed by an odd pause "The Rock". As if there should be something else like "by pin fall" or "by submission" whichever applied between the "winner" and the wrestlers name, but instead it's just this awkward silence. All of this just helps to further detract from what could have been a decent wrestling arcade experience.
WWE All Stars on paper has potential to be a very entertaining arcade game, taking the spectacle of the WWE and going more over the top than even the show does. But it is sorely let down by lacking options, poor gameplay and horrid sound design that drag the experience down. WWE All Stars feels more like a rushed experiment in different character model styles and a less simulation type game.
N-Europe Final Verdict
If you are looking for a new wrestling game you'd be better off looking for SD vs Raw 2011 or wait for the inevitable SD vs Raw 2012 at the end of the year.
Different Arcade Style
Fantasy Warfare mode nicely presented
Poor Sound Design
Lacking Options and match types
Very Poor CAW mode