WWE ALL STARS

WWE All Stars
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WWE ALL STARS



Written by Chris Price
14 Thursday 14th April 2011

Shedding the ‘Federation’ from its title (in a failed copyright war with animal-loving World Wide Fund for Nature), entertainment certainly emphasises the company's interest to embrace other media channels. And with revenue totalling $122.5 million in the last quarter of 2010, the numbers are undeniable. Also, toy partnerships outperforming DVD sales shows the WWE’s increasing reliance on a younger audience.   

Wrestling games have mirrored the aura of the product. The ‘90s brought the superstars. The spectacle of stepping into the spandex of The Showstopper Shawn Michaels or The Excellence of Execution Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart, delivering their signature moves in a simple fighting game. The millennium brought 3D and the attitude-era of Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock. And the Smackdown series cemented the PS1 as the ring-rat’s console of choice. But it’s never gelled 100%. Unable to create a charismatic, engaging gaming experience, often bogged down by extraneous elements or losing the feeling of power delivered by a right hook from a ripped 250 pound muscle-head.

The Japanese have led the way: fight-heavy Toukon Restuden became Yuke’s PowerMove Pro Wrestling, and the audience-graded ring dynamics of the Fire Pro Wrestling series has been around since the early ‘90s. But the US nailed the sweet-spot between Tekken weighting and WWE moves and showmanship with the pseudo-wrestling of genre-defining Def Jam Fight for New York.

So WWE All Stars, sensibly, takes its cues from the latter. Dispensing with the Def Jam: Fight for NY violence (no curb-stomping here), All Stars is the first WWE title that truly wears its PG-rating proudly. Taking the more wholesome elements of the recent history, it’s about recreating dream matches from 30 of the company’s biggest personalities. Four broad groups: acrobats, grapplers, big men (CEO Vince McMahon’s personal favourite) and brawlers. The Rock, Rey Mysterio and Triple H go to war with The Ultimate Warrior, Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat and 'Macho Man' Randy Savage.

Interaction is simple. A staple of quick attacks, which can be blocked and reversed when signified by a momentary glow from the character. Simple combos are easy to execute, whipping opponents into the ropes, bouncing them around the ring. And each combination builds your power bar, which enables you to unleash special attacks, then a finisher. And the finishers, just like the wrestlers, are exceptionally stylised. It’s larger than life goes hyper-real.

The speed, charge bars and simple controls allow you to worry more about combinations than injury management, like the Smackdown vs Raw franchise. In that respect, it’s very much a return to classic WWF arcade games of yore – quick brisk matches with button bashing aplenty and strings of reversals (once you’ve nailed the frisky timing). Unlockable characters delivered through surreal career modes (only slightly less logical than the real thing).

On the downside, load times are pretty excessive when compared to the length of matches. And many an armchair fan will tell you how commentary can make a five star match, but Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler and Jim Ross really phone in their vocals, which can grate on a long session.

With very little past the signature moves, the OTT approach to everything will only get non-fans so far. The laboured career mode may not appeal to everyone. But THQ have succeeded in delivering that mesmerising casual short-burst excitement of having US wrestling flickering away in the corner of a sports bar. It’s a game that laughs in the face of logic and constantly let’s you know it’s all for the sake of spectacle and show.

WWE All Stars is big, dumb and plenty o’ fun. It’s an arcade brawler and proud of it. It’s visually impressive and entertaining - and risk-free as far as impressionable little ‘uns go. For an industry very much stuck in its ways, breaking with tradition is rare, but in this case, it's a glimpse at an interesting new world of possibilities.

www.wweallstars.com

WWE All Stars is out now Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PSP, Wii and PS2

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