WWE All-Stars Hands-on Impressions

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Wrestling games have been getting more and more complicated over the years. Players looking to jump into the shoes of their favorite stars are forced to fight their controller in every match, needing to learn needlessly complicated mechanics in order to replicate the sport of professional wrestling. This year, THQ was showing off a number of games at E3 that take advantage of their WWE license, though none seemed as entertaining as the newcomer, WWE All-Stars. As the name suggests, WWE All-Stars is a return to the classic arcade action of the franchise, and takes a path that wrestling fans have wanted the series to take for years, without soiling their already popular Smackdown vs. Raw.

Back in the day, before the player needed to worry about the game being a simulation of what the WWE is pretending to be, everything was much simpler. Wrestling fans of all ages could grab a controller (or arcade stick), pick their favorite fighter, and just wrestle. The top of the screen wasn’t covered with UI, the player didn’t need to worry about being tired or groggy, it was just a hectic fighting game with one or two buttons for strikes, one for blocking, and another for grappling.

WWE Arcade is a return to the roots of the WWE, with simple gameplay that should be easily picked up by anyone willing to give it a shot. The controls are simple, and within a few seconds anyone should be able to understand the basics. When compared to Smackdown vs. Raw, it’s an incredibly stripped down experience, though I hardly doubt anyone is going to complain when they jump into the shoes of their favorite wrestlers.

While on the subject, players are to be greeted by much different fighters than they’re used to. Instead of focusing on realism, the fighters are more caricatures, with tiny heads and massive bodies. At the show, current star John Cena and legend The Rock were selectable fighters, each looking like they did in their prime (plus a few hundred pounds of muscle). Their animations, too, were over-the-top, showing off the game’s much less serious tone. At one point, The Rock picked up Cena for a power bomb and, before smacking him down into the ring, jumped some ten feet in the air. Later, John Cena pulled off a similar move, though he made sure to taunt mid-attack before laying out the Rock. When the fighters hit the ground, sweat explodes off of their bodies and shockwaves are sent out. It’s meant to be larger than life, and it definitely hits that mark.

It’s nostalgic, both in terms of gameplay and style. In a way, it should remind anyone who enjoyed wrestling as a child what it was like to watch the matches through those eyes. The fighters are superheroes, capable of pulling off fantastical stunts, and they’re the strongest people in the entire world. It feels as though WWE All-Stars was made with this mindset, and we’re excited to see how far they are willing to go with it.

There’s a lot to like here, though it seems like it might come up short in terms of a full retail release. Hopefully they’re able to fill it to the brim with classic fighters like Hulk Hogan, Mick Foley, and Andre the Giant to help justify paying $60 for something that feels like it could be effectively made for the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. Either way, it appears to be something different, and seems to raise up above THQ’s other attempts at bringing classic gameplay back in every way. Here’s hoping that we’re still as impressed when the game releases early in 2011.

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Jonathan H. Cooper
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