Hands-on: WWE: All Stars gets us to rumble
We brawl through a truly unique wrestling game.
I only have vague memories of watching wrestling matches growing up – wrestlers like Macho Man Randy Savage and Andre the Giant are all I can remember before I weaned myself off wrestling in favor of watching Martha Stewart (don’t judge me). But professional wrestling has lived on despite my betrayal, and over the years has transitioned from TV to video games. At their New York event last week, THQ finally revealed some more details about their latest wrestling game, WWE: All Stars. Not much has been said about the game since E3 last year, but THQ was ready to spill the beans and give us some hands-on time.
WWE: All Stars is different to previous wrestling games in that it focuses more on the fun element of brawling with superstars rather than spending hours building up a career, defeating a huge roster of players, managing your stats, and other often cumbersome items found in regular wrestling games. This time around the game just wants you to pick up the controller and have a good time. To do this, the first thing that THQ decided was to make this game both look and play differently from past titles. Each wrestler has an exaggerated look with beefed up muscles, and can pull of some over the top moves like jumping ten feet into the air and power slamming their opponent. THQ were clear to state that this over the top feel was what set this game apart from other wrestling games – the emphasis here really is to pick up the controller, select a wrestler, and go crazy.
The game has a huge roster of talent divided into wrestling legends and current superstars, so that gamers can choose from talent both past and present. The wrestlers are further divided into four categories: Brawler, Grappler, Acrobat, and Big Man. I chose to play the game as Sheamus, a wrestler from the ‘Brawler’ lineup of the game (and who was actually standing a few feet away from where I was playing). Brawlers specialize in brute attacks and combos, and are able to charge up their attacks and do some considerable damage. Grapplers can have some fun tossing their opponents around the ring, Acrobats can do great aerial moves and attacks, and Big Men can take heavier damage and can execute some deadly (yet slow) power attacks. The variety of wrestlers on show means that there’s someone to suit everyone’s taste and wrestling style.
Once you get into the ring, you’re in for some seriously good fun. A quick tap of the face buttons will execute a quick or powerful strike or grapple, and you’re able to chain together attacks to whittle down your enemy fairly easy. As you rain in the blows, you build up an energy meter which is split into three sections. As soon as you fill in a section of the meter, you can execute a special attack that demonstrates the ‘over the top’ feel of the game – my character grabbed his opponent, threw him up in the air with one hand, jumped up, and then slammed him back down into the mat, complete with shockwave effects. The more sections you build up of your meter, the more outrageous your special move will be, making for some truly interesting gameplay.
While previous wrestling games have often been hampered by complicated controls, the control scheme in WWE: All Stars is very simple and highly intuitive. Your moves vary depending on which direction the analog stick is facing, and special attacks are as simple as tapping two face buttons together. Even the finishing moves are a breeze to pull off, and after a few minutes of gameplay I was able to flawlessly manhandle my opponent around the ring. It’s clear that THQ wanted to make a game that was accessible to players of all ages, and eliminated the need to memorize complex button presses and special moves.
WWE: All Stars can’t be billed as a serious wrestling game because of its exaggerated styling and moves, but it was never really meant to be a serious wrestling game. What it has turned out to be is a great arcade wrestling game with an impressive lineup of talent that is sure to get any wrestling fan eager to get their hands on a copy of the game. The easy control scheme makes it simple to pick up and play, and this certainly broadens the game’s appeal to reach more than just the hardcore wrestling fan. It’s going to be interesting to see how the game is received once it is released, but so far it’s shaping up to be a fun ride.