WWE All Stars Review (Xbox 360)
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Article 1: WWE All Stars Initial Impressions
Classifying a wrestling game as "arcade" is a bit of an oxymoron to me. With spectacular showmanship, high-flying acrobatics, bright colorful costumes and dialogue that has more in common with a soap opera than a major motion picture, the very essence of the WWE is over the top, and WWE All Stars nails this atmosphere better than any wrestling game in recent memory. With a great roster and a control scheme that is almost as good, you'll be hard pressed not to fall in love with THQ's rookie wrestling franchise.
When inside the ring, the action is fast, furious and fun. A new, simplified control scheme and combo system leads the way in All Stars, encouraging experimentation with the strong/weak punch and grapple buttons. There's definitely a sense of N64 nostalgia in this title, and anyone who was a veteran of games like WWF No Mercy on the N64 should feel right at home here. Even better than the control scheme is that each character, even within a class, feels distinctly different at least partly because of the signature moves There is a ton of replay value here for those looking to learn how to succeed using each character, and there is even more value here should you want to unlock each character's alternate ring gear, along with capturing every Achievement/Trophy.
My only issue after spending multiple hours with the game during my review process is that certain aerial moves off the top rope seem a bit over-ranged. What I mean by this is that high-flying acrobats like Rey Mysterio are at times able to hit you from off the top rope even when you are clear across the ring. These moves can easily be avoided by sprinting your wrestler out of the ring before the flyer lands, but it is still annoying.
Outside of the issue mentioned above, I enjoyed every minute I spent in the ring playing All Stars. There is a slight learning curve considering the game does not include a combo list or signature move explanation in-game, but if you can dedicate the relatively short and enjoyable two to three hours to learning the game's mechanics, you will be rewarded with an over the top and unforgettable experience.
Gorgeous, colorful graphics, coupled with cartoonish action figure-esque player molds is a recipe for success for this wrestling fan. The wrestlers in All Stars ooze character, and perfectly capture the flamboyancy of the '80s, attitude of the '90s, and pretty boyism of the modern WWE -- complete with authentic, yet short, ring entrances. In motion the game looks great, and there is a definite sense of polish to the game's animation blends.
Where All Stars excels in terms of presentation is in the game's Fantasy Warfare mode. Prior to each fight beginning, you will be treated to a three-to-five minute video blending archival footage of the two fighters that are selected for the match. These videos are masterfully produced, and set the stage for the ensuing battle better than anything I've seen in past wrestling games. In fact, I even found myself watching some of the videos multiple times and skipping the matches -- they are that good.
The weakest point of All Stars deals with the game's in-ring announcers. Jerry Lawler and JR commentate ringside, and 99 percent of what they say sounds like it was taken directly from THQ's Smackdown vs. Raw series. Thankfully, the announcing is mostly drowned out by the ring noises, and if all else fails, you can mute the duo entirely.
I was able to get in roughly 25 matches online with the game and experienced minimal lag. All the match types available offline are available online in both player and ranked matches. In the games I played, the most lag was experienced in match types with more than two opponents, like fatal four ways or tornado tag matches. Even during those brutal battles, the lag was intermittent and did not bring the gameplay to a complete halt.
The overall interface online is a bit archaic and there are no unlockables (outside of achievements/trophies) for battling it out online. It would have been great to see some type of online progression system where you could earn championship belts to wager against other opponents. But there is always next year I suppose -- this is a rookie franchise afterall.
For an "arcade" game featuring the amount of different wrestlers and different character classes, All Stars is incredibly balanced. Each individual wrestler seems to have a weakness that can be exploited, and discovering this weakness is where much of the fun comes in while in the ring.
CPU AI is incredibly competent in the game, and at no point did I ever feel as if the game was cheating me, even at the higher difficulty levels. If you master the control scheme and reversal timing, you should have no trouble competing even at the highest difficulty levels or online.
With characters, arenas and alternate wrestler costumes all unlocked through multiple playthroughs of the game's various modes, All Stars will keep you busy for a long time. The game's Path of Champions mode will take roughly six hours if you want to complete all three chapters, and Fantasy Warefare tacks on another hour or so. Additionally, mastering each character's signature move sets and nuances will require you to drop extra time into the game.
Finally, with a robust create-a-character feature included, and DLC characters already confirmed to be inbound, WWE All Stars has enough content to keep the most avid wrestling fan busy for quite some time.
As I mentioned in my initial impressions article, I found it difficult to identify major flaws in All Stars. Here at OS we like to pride ourselves on the fact that we review a game based on what it includes, and not what we wish it did. Strangely, a "wishlist" is where my main complaints come into play with the game. I wish the game's roster included the likes of Razor Ramon, Mankind and the British Bulldog. I wish the game included a way to share created wrestlers online like SvR. I wish the game included a Royal Rumble. And where are the Divas?
What is included in the game amounts to a tremendous building block for the future and that's all that matters right now. THQ has an all-star franchise on its hands, and most importantly of all, a game that has me excited about the future of console wrestling all over again.
Visuals: Outstanding over-the-top character models that are complemented by smooth, stunning animation blends results in one of the best looking wrestling titles ever.
Audio: Easily the weakest aspect of the game. Subpar commentary by JR and Lawler is mostly drowned out by generic sounds of sweaty grown men pummelling each other.
Learning Curve: No in-game tutorial or combo list is a bummer. Expect to invest a few hours learning the controls and gameplay nuances.
Lasting Appeal: Each character will take hours to master, unlocking alternate gear for each wrestler is a one to two hour time investment, and multiplayer -- online and off -- is addictive as it gets. This game definitely has legs.
Score: 8.5 (Great)