The WWE is full of glitz and over the top showmanship yet the Smackdown vs Raw games have never really get that feeling across. The series has become stale and needs a kick up the backside in order to move forward. It doesn’t help when a game has little to no competition in its’ genre, yes there are boxing and MMA games, but SvR hasn’t ever faced any serious rival for the title of ‘best wrestling game’.
Finally though, SvR has some competition with the arrival of WWE All Stars, a game which greater encapsulates what the WWE is all about. This is a loud, brash, over the top game which is a much needed alternative to SvR. It has a new look, a new style of fighting and brings in a breath of fresh air to the genre.
The premise of All Stars is that it pits WWE Legends against WWE Superstars, in other words legendary figures such as Ricky Steamboat and Hulk Hogan are now able to take part readily in matches against current stars like John Cena and CM Punk. As a big WWE fan, it is super to see the legends take a large role in the game instead of just being unlockable characters as they often are in the SvR titles.
I can’t underline how over the top this game is though; all of the stars who feature are super pumped up in their physical appearance. Imagine Hogan in his prime and add on another shitload of muscle and you will know what I mean. Everyone looks like they have been on roids in this, even wrestlers like CM Punk who have quite a small stature in real life. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it certainly adds to the character of the game, but I do find myself laughing a bit when I see how oversized some of them are.
How the wrestlers look isn’t the end of the over the top parts of the game. C’mon I mean Hogan is in a WWE game even though he is contracted to TNA, it does show how important it is to have a big name feature in the game. I digress; the matches themselves are a joy to behold when watching. Everything is turned up to 13, normal punches and strikes look impactful, but pale in comparison to the bigger hits. I question the decision to give Punk a piledriver as a normal move, but the height he gets before it hits is immense.
When you are ready though, you really need to bust out a Signature move or a Finisher, these moves, made able by filling their relevant meters through performing normal moves and taunts, are crazy big. The screen focuses in, bright colours swirl around the performer and then the slow-mo and huge air time make for a brilliant moment. They are mighty impressive and really show off the fun loving feel of the game.
It isn’t just the visual style that has been changed from the SvR series, the grappling itself has been changed on a fundamental scale. There is a smaller variety of moves to pull off despite there being a strong grapple and a weak grapple. However, this cut down in the number of moves works out quite nicely as it encourages a faster paced match with a greater focus on reversals and chaining moves together to rapidly knock your opponent’s stamina down.
Indeed, with the over the top visuals and the faster paced wrestling there is more than a slight feeling that you are playing a cross between the usual SvR games and a Street Fighter title. This of course is no bad thing considering the fun there is to be had in the Street Fighter games and others of its’ ilk.
So we have a game with a refreshing new look and playing style, it is just a shame then that some of the same old problems from the SVR games rear their ugly heads again. Foremost in my mind is the poor AI. In a three-way elimination match I had one opponent down for a pin and was going to get the three count until the other man broke the count. Where is the logic in that? Another example, I was performing a ground attack which involved numerous hits to the arm, while my wrestler was busy performing his move, the third contestant was wildly jumping up and around trying to do a superkick or some such thing which has no effect whatsoever during my preordained move. Commentary is another weak link, but fortunately it is JR and Jerry Lawler, goodbye Michael Cole.
You can also say goodbye to matches like Hell in a Cell and Elimination Chamber, matches are cut down to one-on-one, multi man, tag, extreme rules and cage matches. It is no great loss losing some of the more overblown match types and the new play style makes up for any major aggravation about the smaller number of possible match types.
Beyond one off matches you also have a story based mode where you can go compete for the chance to fight The Undertaker for the World Heavyweight Championship, Randy Orton for the WWE title and DX for the tag titles. Beyond that you can compete in ‘Fantasy Warfare’ matches to determine the best wrestler in a theme like Best Highflier or Ultimate Warrior; these matches are prefaced by the usual high quality WWE promo videos.
At the end of the day though, you can’t help but feel like All Stars is but a diversionary step from the SvR series with some of the changes seeming like they are more experimental to judge fan reaction than part of a new series. I may be proved wrong, and I hope I am, but despite the fresh feeling All Stars fails to reach the heights it could have by falling down some of the same holes that SvR does. If you find it on offer that I most definitely recommend it, at the standard price of £45 I can’t recommend it quite as high.
Verdict – On Target