WWE All-Stars Hands-On Preview

The crowd is chanting my name in unison. I size up my opponent as his red-glowing body slowly rises from the mat. He notices too late that I am going for my finishing maneuver. I wrap him up in a hold and jump about ten feet in the air, flipping both myself and my foe multiple times in the process. We land on the mat with his upper shoulders making slamming so hard that the ring shakes and ripples. The crowd goes wild. I do pushups on my fallen enemy’s chest as the referee counts the three. This is the over-the-top, ridiculous, and extremely refreshing take on wrestling that comes with WWE All-Stars.

Releasing separately from the WWE’s other grappling franchise, WWE Smackdown! vs. RAW, All-Stars has a style all its own. The vastly exaggerated gameplay and art style echo those of NFL Blitz, NBA Jam, and EA Sports’ various Street series. It’s completely different from the true-to-life interpretation of its videogame sibling. But what makes it different is what makes it great. All-Stars is a fun, fast-paced brawler starring the best WWE Superstars and Legends that brings back nostalgic feelings of the WWE, then WWF, games of old.

The controls can easily confuse anyone who’s a Smackdown! vs. RAW veteran, but it doesn’t take long for that to fade away. Once the controls are figured out, they work incredibly well. Your strikes and grapples will be controlled by the face buttons, blocks are done with R2, signature moves executed with a combination of Square and X or Triangle and Circle, running/Irish whips are controlled with R1, and finishers are used by combining L1 and R1. There are more controls for taunting and performing transitional grapples that are just as easy to take in as the rest.

The game features four different types of styles that characterize each Superstar and Legend based on how they performed in their prime. There is the brawler, acrobat, big man, and grappler. Brawlers focus more on being better with strikes and can put together better combos. They can also charge up punches and some can chain their combos into grapples. The acrobat focuses on doing quick and agile attacks, with their biggest impacts coming from off the top turnbuckle. Big men are hard to knock down with strikes and can absorb a lot of damage. They are also slower than all other types and can actually lock-in a charged strike to use when the player feels the time is right. Grapplers are, obviously, the best at using grappling moves. They can chain together grapples constantly, unlike all the other types that must wait to get up from delivering a grapple before using another.

Each player’s health is peeled away in layers until their final bar is removed. When that happens, the last bar will flash red and the hurting wrestler will suffer a knockout loss if they take a finishing move. Underneath the health bar are five stars that will charge up and can be used to unleash signature moves. The finisher meter charges slower than the star meter, but can be boosted by using taunts.

The Rock shows Bret Hart what it's like to do two front flips out of a suplex.

The over-the-top gameplay will have characters bouncing upwards off of ropes and flying into the air when hit by a strong enough strike. This allows players to catch their opponents mid-fall and combo into more strikes or a grapple. If a character is hit in the middle of the ring from a top-turnbuckle strike, they will fly into the opposite corner. The game’s reversal system is also very fluid and easy to pick up. Players who are skilled enough can chain several reversals into what becomes a nerve-wracking, extremely exciting struggle. Combine these moments with the already absurd tosses and slams and the game provides several amazing, jaw-dropping, "oh snap!" moments.

Pins and submissions are determined by an analog mini-game. Players on the receiving end of these must fill the meter by rotating the stick, while the player giving the pin or submission can rotate their stick to expand the max capacity of the bar. Falls count anywhere and weapons can be used in All-Stars‘ matches, but the latter should be with discretion. The game works on a two-warning system. You get a warning for hitting your opponent with a weapon the first two times. Use it a third, and you run a 50/50 chance of getting disqualified. These elements add a small touch of reality to a game that may at first appear to have very little incorporated.

The game’s roster looks to fill out at 30 when the final version is released. Both the WWE Superstars and Legends will have 15 representatives. Those known of so far are John Cena, Triple H, Sheamus, The Big Show, John Morrison, Kofi Kingston, Rey Mysterio, Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, The Rock, Andre the Giant, Bret Hart, and the recently revealed "Macho Man" Randy Savage. Each wrestler is stylized and exaggerated, but the game still captures their essence and abilities faithfully. No single Superstar or Legend is the same in style, making the game extremely diverse and likely to have players trying out every one of them to find out who fits them best.

There are a few concerns about WWE All-Stars. Stuns, where a player lies down on the mat highlighted in red, don’t normally last as long as they should. Some finishers are also a lot easier to reverse than others, which can create some unfair balancing issues. A lot of matches tend to end in a drag-out fight that finishes in a knockout, really making pins a bit useless. There are also some technical and animation glitches, one of which has wrestlers kicking out just after the referee has counted three. But many of these problems are fixable and the demo version I played was not be the final build.

If you’re looking for a break from the close-to-the-real-thing play experience that comes with the Smackdown! vs. RAW series or just looking for some fun, arcade-style beat-downs, WWE All-Stars is looking to not just fill, but flood that need. The exaggerated visual style is pleasant and vibrant, the gameplay will make adrenaline pump profusely through your veins, and every single wrestler has been done fitting justice. If you’re a fan of wrestling games, the WWE, or stylized arcade titles, then definitely keep both eyes on WWE All-Stars.


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Author: Mike Murphy View all posts by
Mike has been playing games for over two decades. His earliest memories are of shooting ducks and stomping goombas on NES, and over the years, the hobby became one of his biggest passions. Mike has worked with GamerNode as a writer and editor since 2009, giving you news, reviews, previews, a voice on the VS Node Podcast, and much more.

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