When you think of wrestling you probably imagine muscular men dressed up in spandex throwing each other around a ring until one of them gets too tired and the other one sits on them to claim his victory, and I can assure you that WWE All Stars stays true to this, but just does it in a different way to the usual WWE games we’ve seen over the years. Most WWE games tend to be simulation-based, but for the dedicated wrestling fan WWE All Stars is very much an arcade fighting game. So is this change enough to appeal to non-wrestling fans?
Loading the game for the first time was a bit of a nightmare - with a large patch followed by a long loading time. Eventually the menu appeared along with a familiar face on the right showing off his impossibly muscular physique – Hulk Hogan. There are a large number of different game modes in WWE All Stars. The Exhibition Mode features Standard matches, Tornado Tag Team, which is where four fighters enter the ring at one time, Steel Cage, where you must weaken your opponent and escape the cage around the ring, Extreme Rules Match and Elimination, which pits more than two fighters against each other and the last man standing wins. Aside from this there is the Path of Champions Mode, which has three different challenges to take. The first is having to survive ten matches until you finally fight The Undertaker, second being a nine match lead-up to fighting Randy Orton and finally forming a tag team to take on Shawn Michaels and Triple H. All of these challenges are decked out with cut scenes of the opponents showing off how powerful they are whilst trying to intimidate you as you reach ever closer to fighting them in the ring; to be honest, they can be quite entertaining to watch too. The last game mode is Fantasy Warfare, which consists of fights against fighters from different generations, such as Sheamus vs. Ultimate Warrior, Triple H vs. The Rock and Bret Hart vs. Edge. These fights tend to be a bit more difficult than any other mode but once you have the controls down they won’t prove much of a challenge.
Speaking of controls, this game is so simple that it’s actually a bit frustrating, and for the most part it feels like a spam fest with no real control of what your wrestler is doing. The square and triangle buttons perform light and heavy attacks whilst the cross and circle buttons make your wrestler grab your opponent quickly or more controlled and powerful. The L1 button allows you reverse some attacks the opponent throws at you and that’s about it. Pressing either the cross and circle or square and triangle buttons together unleashes your special attacks, providing you have filled your special bar enough through normal attacks, and is the most interesting part of the fights, as they are completely over the top and entertaining to watch. One of the most frustrating aspects of the game is at crucial moments in a fight, such as being pinned down while on low health, you will see a small circle appear on the screen asking you to press a button to get out of being pinned down but there is no indication as to what you are actually meant to be pressing, and apart from spamming every button until you figure out what to press there is no way to find out.
There are a good thirty wrestlers in the game, each with their own signature moves and iconic look. Even if you aren’t a wrestling fan you will certainly recognise some of the stars. To add to the arcade feel of the game all the wrestlers have unnaturally proportioned bodies with normal sized legs and gigantic torsos, and in some cases the wrestlers just looked plain fat, for example, during Hulk Hogan’s entrance he rips off his top and all you see is a ridiculous looking man emerge. Strangely, as well, the graphics, although nicely presented, aren’t really fantastic yet the game takes an obscenely long time to load and sadly this really harms the overall experience of the game. As an example, there is a loading screen between choosing a mode and choosing a character, another one between this and the entrances of the two wrestlers, another one between this and the actual fight and also after a match it takes a while to get back to the main menu. The safest thing to do would be to install the game to the hard drive to try and cut these times down as much as possible.
Sadly, for non-wrestling fans this game will be very short lived, but I’m sure dedicated fans will find hours of enjoyment if they can look past the horrific loading times. The arcade feel is a nice change from the usual simulation and aside from playing online, which suffers from some lag, local multiplayer would provide the most fun from this over the top edition to the world of wrestling games.