Despite a long absence of professional wrestling from my entertainment palette, WWE All-Stars had me intrigued from the get go. Many billed it as a return to the wrestling games of the Nintendo 64 era, something that’s a cross between arcade and sim with plenty of style and substance. In fact it may have been since the Nintendo 64 was out that I’ve even watched the WWE, when it was called the WWF, and when all the “Legends” in the game were current wrestlers. That didn’t discourage me - I’m ready to body slam these young rapscallions in the ring.
This same competition of old vs young is the basic theme for WWE All-Stars. While its not a requirement for the game itself, its definitely an over arching theme. There’s a dedicated mode which sets up matches between legends of the past and current superstars. On the legends end you’ve got the likes of Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Sgt. Slaughter, Ultimate Warrior, Ricky The Steamboat, The Rock, and Steve Austin. For the current superstars roster you’ll find The Big Show, John Cena, CM Punk, Triple H, The Undertaker and others. The final roster has 30 wrestlers (with about a quarter to be unlocked) and there’s more wrestlers planned for DLC.
Along with all these there’s a create a wrestler mode where you can make just about any monstrosity you can dream up. Trust me, I’ve seen some ugly dudes out there. The character models for all wrestlers, while its easy to tell who they are, are extremely exaggerated - almost like action figures. Some are turned off by the style, I rather enjoy it. This over the top-ness is carried over into the gameplay itself. So while the moves themselves might be copies of the moves found in a wrestling ring - the physics of said moves are a little...accelerated. Even better the moves are context sensitive - so while doing something in the middle of the ring might yield a DDT, doing something near the corner might force an opponent onto the turnbuckle and have your guy perform something different. This also applies to a position an opponent is in as you can do things like catch them midair or perform submission moves if they are knocked down.
To me, this is where the game shines. The controls just feel extremely tight and I loved the moves I was able to pull off with ease. Everything just seemed to flow together as you punched, kicked, grabbed and slammed your opponents. There’s also a simple countering system which requires a press of a bumper button at the right time. Counters can be countered and soon you get to that ridiculous punch - counter - punch - counter thing that always seems to happen in wrestling matches...I love it. Eventually you’ll build up a meter of signature moves which you can pull over with a few short button presses - things like Edge’s “Edge-O-Matic” and The Rock’s “People’s Elbow”. Finally you have a meter that fills up for finishing moves and each wrestler has their own familiar and over the top finisher.