WWE All Stars Preview
After the last few installments in the vastly ambitious WWE Smackdown vs. Raw series, I really didn’t expect THQ to want to take a step back and look at making a wrestling game with a pick-up-and-play kind of fun. Sure, the last few games’ minute detail and very deep creation modes are great, but they’re finely tuned for the most serious of wrestling fans, and it’s tough trying to get your buddies to play if they’re not into the WWE. When it comes to just getting two muscle-bound dudes in the ring for some high-flying, ridiculous action, it’s been a while since we’ve seen a WWE game actually deliver.
But that’s all about to change with WWE All Stars, which will not only put the fun and over-the-top action back into wrestling games, but it also matches up the 80s era of the original WWE superstars with today’s biggest names. Only a relative few of the names have been announced, but with yesterday’s wrestlers like the Macho Man Randy Savage and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat combined with today’s stars like John Cena and Kofi Kingston, we’ve already got some of the biggest names in the WWE representing 25+ years of pro wrestling.
Each superstar belongs to one of four fighting styles: acrobat, brawler, grappler or big man. Acrobats can quickly and easily fly off of the turnbuckle or ropes (and will home in on their targets better when airborne), grapplers can string together wrestling throws and submissions, brawlers can use strikes to a huge advantage, and big men are tough to damage and knock down while swatting smaller dudes off of their feet or out of the air. All wrestlers take on one of those four as a main style, and that determines the kind of striking, grappling, and high-flying moves they have, and then they often have a secondary style that adds a bit of flair (and strategy) for when you’re shutting down your opponent’s offense or just combining moves together into a string.
Speaking of combos: you’ll need to learn your superstars’ combos well, as more than a few fighting game conventions have been cribbed for All Stars - not the least of which is the ability to juggle your opponent in mid-air for either a multi-move grapple combo. Or maybe you just want to put together a good old-fashioned string of attacks that keep the enemy airborne. Not only are these series of moves completely unrealistic and hilarious, but there’s some depth here with the reversal timing, chaining of attacks, and mixing up of strikes and grapples.
The usual wrestling rules have been modified for fun here, as now the area outside the ring is now fully your playground with no count-outs. Rope-breaks for pins and submission moves are gone, and while you can dig out some objects to smash people with (like metal chairs that dynamically deform when they make contact with someone’s dome), you’ll get warnings and eventually a disqualification if you overdo it. Still, this is a pretty rules-free interpretation of what was already a pretty chaotic system, and frankly, it’s way more fun than I was expecting to have.
The looks of each wrestler have also been tweaked. The Rock looks like he just dropped in from a stint fighting Locusts in Gears of War, while even the small, wiry guys like Rey Mysterio are muscle-bound hulks. At first I was disappointed in this look, but after seeing a dude get bounced 15 feet into the air after getting slammed onto the mat, I quickly let it go and just decided to go along for the ride.
The action revolves around your ability to predict incoming strikes or grapples and defend accordingly (as you can only defend against one at a time), and use timing to pop out of a grapple if you get caught in one. Offensively, you’ll want to string your attacks together, and when you gain a star, you can choose to use it for a huge running attack, or roll out a big Signature Move (which is often difficult to set up). Finally, you can charge up a big finishing move which your opponent will see coming, but if you can do enough damage first and unleash your finisher, you’ll often knock out your opponent outright - no pins or button-mashing required.
You’ll quickly find that even if you’re not a fan of wrestling, the tight, fun, and simplistic action will suck you in, keeping you playing for one more match. Since the demo version we went hands-on with had only 1v1 matches with a relative few superstars, It remains to be seen what other modes or match types will be included, and the longevity of this game almost surely depends on the number of ways you can throw guys into the ring for beatdowns.
The full roster will surely be slowly trickled out as the release date nears, but the full list so far includes John Morrison, Triple H, Kofi Kingston, The Big Show, Andre the Giant, Rey Mysterio, Bret “The Hit Man” Hart, Macho Man Randy Savage, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, Sheamus, The Rock, John Cena, and in a GameStop exclusive, The Million Dollar Man Ted DeBiase Sr. and his son, Ted DeBiase Jr. The number of uncovered slots on the character select screen shows us that there are plenty of superstars left to be announced, so of course we’ll be hoping for a good mix of old and new, with unique abilities between them and plenty of charisma to go around. Right now, the big question we have is just how many ways are there to play, because just doing simple matches over and over - online or offline, and even with this focus on fun - could get tiring fast if the developers aren’t keeping us busy.
WWE All Stars will hit all the major consoles on March 29th.