The world of wrestling has changed dramatically over the last twenty years. The wrestlers have got less camp, the storylines far more realistic, and the action has really taken a step up in terms of quail… hang on, what am I saying? What a complete load of bunkum. Nothing has changed. Sure, there is probably more emphasis on wrestlers having incredibly ripped physiques, but that’s about it. You still got your body-oil and glow-stick style man-on-man smackshun. For those who haven’t been into wrestling for a while, don’t worry, it’s just as gay as it ever was.
And that’s so easy to see in WWE All Stars. It compares the latest and the greatest, and the former invariably stack up as poorer cousins. Which is really rather sad. Personally, I would have loved to have seen a straight old-school wrestling game with just the biggest and best there ever was. Sure, that could include modern-day wrestlers, but having folk like Sheamus, whoever he is, and Drew Macintyre, in the same ring as Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior is something of a joke.
Still, it’s not made solely for me (although I think I do form at least half of the target demographic). No, this is a game made to appease all, and as such comes off rather insipid. Indeed, there are a lot of problems with it, not least of which being the fact that this smacks of the first in a series. We’ll get on to that later, but for the minute, lets look at what it does right.
Well, first off, there’s a bunch of video included in the game, and watching 80’s and 90’s wrestlers strut their stuff really is a joy. It’s limited and cut to ribbons, but you still get to see Hulk Hogan slamming Andre the Giant. Big tick. Well done THQ. More of this in the inevitable sequel.
Then there is the gameplay itself. In many respects, it feels as if someone in the game design department managed to somehow pass a big golden turd, but everyone else in the office thought they could do the same, and immediately dropped their kecks and crimped off a big, smelly fat one. Sadly, none of these were golden. By the time the game was due to ship, they’d got rid of most of the faeces, but because they spent so much time cleaning and polishing the glorious golden toilet trout, they didn’t have time to make very much around it.
What you have with WWE All Stars is a great core game. The mechanics are much like the ‘old days’ of Smackdown, and the visuals a fair step up. Moves are silly and the general feel is of an arcade fighter of considerable merit. The real problem comes when you notice that there just isn’t enough game. There’s no massive multiplayer melee’s, the most you’re going to get is four on the screen at any one time, and there’s no standard tag matches, which is a real shame. It’s gone for the snazzier match types, like cages, and fatal four-ways, but left out things like manager matches. This is true of the story mode as well. There’s no multiplayer story mode, despite there being the perfect opportunity for one, and the single player campaigns are all pretty weak in terms of story.
To reiterate the point, this solid core of gaming extends to the visuals as well. Characters are great (as well as the pretty standard create-a-fighter mode), but the entrances are weak, and it never feels like you’re really having a proper wrestling match as every event and location has the same level of difficulty and flair.
One big gripe I have is that there is so much possibility for a truly spectacular game here, and I get the feeling that THQ is going to screw it up just like they did with the Smackdown! series. I can tell you where this franchise is going, if it’s going anywhere, and that’s down the tube. The second iteration may be quite good, and probably wont require any changes to the core gameplay, but after that they’ll start rebuilding it from the ground up (publisher speak for arbitrarily screwing around with a franchise with little to no regard for the game). Still that doesn’t matter at the minute, but it could have included more video, more story and more interesting little nick-nacks to keep you playing. At the minute, the sum total to keep you playing past the six hours of actual game in there is unlocking new characters and a few ridiculous trophies.
WWE All Stars is a beer-with-mates game if ever there was one. It’s great fun, but missing a few essentials to make it truly great. For me the highlight was playing as Hogan, Warrior and Macho Man Randy Savage, but I don’t know how far that appeal will go with others. It’s missing a lot, but it’s also undeniably the best wrestling title out there at the minute, bar none. So, what ya gonna do brother? Well, I’d suggest buying it.
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