WWE All Stars Preview
At a recent event in San Diego, we got to go hands on again with THQ's arcade-style wrestling game, WWE All Stars. This time, though, we got to see many more gameplay modes, as well as the fully unlocked roster of superstars from both modern day and the classics of the 80s and 90s.
The wrestlers themselves are done in an exaggerated style, with larger-than-life physiques and muscles that have muscles. They plow around the ring at high speeds and have huge, superhuman moves: an armbar makes it look like the elbow broke not even once but, well, twice, and the high-flying acrobatic moves take people twenty-plus feet into the air.
The new stuff we got to see included things like elimination matches where three or four wrestlers are thrown into the ring for an every-man-for-himself brawl, or Tornado Tag where it's two on two, but all four wrestlers are slugging it out simultaneously. (The developers tried implementing traditional tag team matches, but they felt it wasn't well suited for their arcade-y style.)
We got to see new single player offerings as well. Path of Champions has you going up against a series of opponents with various rule sets, leading to a showdown with one of three major wrestlers (and one tag-team duo) that you choose from - it's pretty reminiscent of the arcade modes of fighting games, and for the cutscenes that star your final opponents, all of the original stars were recruited for new voice work. I played through Path of Champions as The Ultimate Warrior, and by the end I had mastered his moves and timing well enough that my final match against the Undertaker was a bit underwhelming, as I had him pinned in less than three minutes. It was tougher than previous matches, though, and we were reversing each other's strikes and grappling moves often, but the AI on Normal difficulty doesn't really use its charge-up meters for the big moves very well. I'm sure that that would very easily be remedied if I cranked up the difficulty setting, though.
Fantasy Warriors is a mode that pits superstars from separate eras against each other in matches that never got to happen. While you can put these matches together easily enough in Exhibition mode, the nice part here is that this mode includes video introductions using footage from WWE broadcasts. It's not dynamically generated or anything - there are about ten in total - but it's a nice touch for fans. The one we got to see demonstrated on the big screen was CM Punk versus Steve Austin as a "Lifestyle Battle" - straight edge or beer-drinking renegade? I haven't been a big wrestling fan since I was a kid, but these scenarios still looked really entertaining in both the video setup and the eventual match.
Created wrestlers are always a big part of these games, and WWE All Stars does not disappoint there. While I didn't really have the time to sit down and create a stable of new superstars, I did play with one that the developers created up on the big screen: Ghandi. Yep, I managed to beat three other journalists as Ghandi, while most of the people at the event looked on. In a party-type setting, this game is a blast and I will say right now that as casual wrestling-action games go, this most definitely channels the fun of the classics like Saturday Night Slam Master or the simpler WWF games from the arcades.
Serious wrestling fans will surely be getting another Smackdown vs. Raw game in the next year or two, and in talking to them, they seem to enjoy the idea of this game - but for them it lacks depth. For me, who has watched very little "sports entertainment" since I was about ten years old, I feel like this game is closer to what I enjoyed the most about wrestling: superhero-like characters doing larger-than-life things in the ring. In that respect, WWE All Stars is starting to seem more like a "sim" to me than Smackdown vs. Raw has ever been. We'll know for sure when it's released on March 29th on PS2 (!), PS3, PSP, Wii, and Xbox 360.