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WWE All Stars

Starry-eyed

WWE All Stars is a silly, silly game, but World Wrestling Entertainment is pretty damn silly so why not make a silly game about it? This is surely the unashamed ethos of THQ San Diegos venture.

The giveaway is how the game looks. If you thought Gears of War dudes couldve been subtler about their medicinal use than wait til you see the All Stars roster. The Rock, The Undertaker, and Steve Austin have never been this beefcake in their new cartoonish, inflated physiques. Its all part of the All-Stars feel, especially with the hilarious exaggeration of their features. Andre the Giant looks like his face has been stretched in all directions, while Jack Swaggers grin is pretty much his entire head.

While All-Stars sadly stays clear of the ladies, it does put up a great roster featuring 30 Legends and Superstars in a 15-15 split. Playable wrestlers include the likes of Hulk Hogan, Mr. Perfect, Bret Hart, Randy Savage, John Cena, Triple H, Randy Orton, and The Big Show. Theyre also split into four categories. Big men like Andre the Giant are slow but powerful, while acrobats like Kofi Kingston are most powerful when bouncing off the ring ropes. A grappler like Jack Swagger can put together chains of hold moves, while Brawlers are more about punch and kick combos.

With this sense of fun and nostalgia in mind, All Stars presents simple enough controls that newcomers should acclimatize to straight away. Face buttons are weak and strong attacks while shoulder buttons let you run, grab, block, counter, and of course leave the ring. As you successfully put together moves you fill up star slots visible just below the health bar and these correspond to signature Superstar moves.

Activate one of these and youll be treated to a cinematic treat as you, for example, watch Hulk Hogan jump 20 foot in the air in slow motion like a mustachioed white dove before slamming a leg drop onto his ill-fated victim who will bounce and writhe on the mat like a Premier league footballer. With a gaudy range of ridiculous acrobatics and embellished limb breaks, the signature moves are fantastically put together and great to watch if nothing else.

Where All Stars gets bizarre is how it mixes up the more simulation-like play of Smackdown vs. Raw with the chain moves of more arcade-like Street Fighter. It comes more naturally to the brawler wrestlers, but if youre able to throw your opponent into the air after a particularly vicious, gravity-aided move then you actually juggle about him about as if you were Ryu. Maybe thats overstating it, but you certainly keep him airborne for a few extra moves an odd sight tis indeed to see The Ultimate Warrior keepy-uppy Rey Myseterio. The silliness of how it all looks to one side, its in the chaining of grabs and basic punch and kick moves where All Stars looks to have depth.

More skilful players will get a kick out of that more like a kick and a punch and another kick - and they also will with getting their timings right with reversals, which seem to be able to go on forever which is quite amusing. How deep the chaining goes is another matter, and theres some concern that All Stars doesnt sit all that easily between pick-up-and-play and genuine fighting game, although its difficult to make that much judgment from my limited time with the game.

Nonetheless, the variety of modes look a little limited too. While the self-explanatory Create a Superstar looks like a fun enough distraction, the tag team, elimination, steel cage, and extreme rules modes (chairs and weapons outside the ring) all look like fairly expected twists on the main play when one might expect a game like All Stars to be more outlandish. Fantasy Warfare and the Path of Champions look more like no more than predetermined exhibition matches, although fans may approve of the prescribed matchups on show.

Regardless, All Stars seems like a fun step away from the trodden path of Smackdown vs. Raw and certainly looks appealing to WWE fans set your jockstraps and make-up to standby.

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