On paper, WWE All Stars sounds like an absolutely awesome game.
We're talking about a collection of 30 wrestlers — those who established their legacies decades ago and those who are striving to create one today. That alone means there is a tremendous amount of fun to be had pitting Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan or Jake "The Snake" Roberts against The Miz or CM Punk.
But here's the biggest disappointment with THQ San Diego's newest wrasslin' game: You'll get bored eventually.
I find this problematic because THQ has done such a good job developing its Smackdown vs. Raw series. I expect more because 2K Sports and EA Sports have given more with recent sports games, including NBA 2K11 and Fight Night Champion. And, finally, I want more from THQ because it's the only show in town: The company is in the second year of an eight-year deal that gives it the rights to produce WWE-themed wrestling video games. No competition means that THQ, as The Rock would say, needs to "bring it" every time.
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Here's what All Stars does right:
■ It's fun.
■ The game has an over-the-top arcade approach that is rather enjoyable.
■ The controls are relatively easy to master.
■ It provides an alternative to the Smackdown vs. Raw series.
■ It gives THQ something to build on (and maybe it will erase any memory of that horrendous WWE Legends of WrestleMania game).
At first, I was a little disturbed by all of the flashy colors that highlight your kicks and punches, the exaggeration of blows that knock you dozens of feet into the air and the high-flying acrobatics off the top rope. But it kind of grew on me.
On Raw, the Rock's finishing move, the "Rock Bottom," is a violent maneuver in which he tosses his foe a few feet into the air before the foe hits the mat in a heap of pain. But in All Stars, it's a 20-foot drop that looks paralyzing. The animations give the game more of a feel like NBA Jam, and it makes me get all nostalgic, thinking back to some of the coined versions of WWE arcade games.
If you're new to THQ's wrestling games, it will take a while to adjust to the controls, but the learning curve is brief. All Stars relies heavily on reversals and counters, but you can easily drift into a flurry of button-mashing to keep momentum or prevent a defeat. The strategy for attaining a victory is simple: The more damage you do to your opponent, the more opportunities you have to hit him with your finishing move and pin him.
My biggest gripe with All Stars is that it offers only a few modes — "Path of Champions," a 10-match gauntlet, and "Fantasy Warfare," in which a legend squares off against a current superstar.
Neither mode does enough to distinguish it as anything other than a glorified rendition of exhibition mode. That's troubling when you consider that Smackdown vs. Raw has so many options and a bunch of story lines that act as vehicles to move along the game. It would have been nice to see some type of story line in this game, and maybe I feel this way because I thoroughly enjoyed Fight Night Champion, which has a character-driven story.
All Stars easily could have included a "Legends" mode in which you could navigate Hulk Hogan or The Rock from obscurity to life as a champion. For example, Hogan would battle Andre the Giant for the title at WrestleMania III and, to secure the win, he would need to scoop-slam The Giant and hit him with the leg drop. Just a thought.
All Stars is not a bad game, not at all. You get to play with the legends, and that's the best part. Heck, the Ultimate Warrior's rope-shaking entrance still gets me pumped and makes me want to run through the house knocking stuff over. But All Stars has the potential to be so much more. Simply having a roster that is chock-full of the best wrestlers to step into the ring during the past three decades is not enough.