As mentioned in our list of the best wrestling games, WWF No Mercy is usually the go to answer. The combination of exciting gameplay, deep customisation and nostalgia for the Attitude Era have created this mystique surrounding the game. In the eyes of wrestling game fans, WWF No Mercy is practically untouchable.
But what if we told you there was another way; a better way? A game that takes everything that WWF No Mercy has to offer, and amplifies it to such a degree that the classic game can’t even hold a candle to it? It’s a bold claim to live up to, but WWE All-Stars does just that. Yes, this is today’s freshly served hot take. Strap yourself in.
First things first, when we’re talking about WWE All-Stars, we specifically mean the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions. The game also managed to find its way onto PS2, Wii, PSP and 3DS, but those versions are a hollow shell compared to the delights you can sample on the full fat versions.
Released in 2011, WWE All-Stars was created almost as a celebration of all things WWE. The game contained a roster of 30 wrestlers: 15 current wrestlers (at the time anyway, considering CM Punk was on the roster) and 15 legends. Whilst the “main” WWE games always contained legends, they were never the focus, but All-Stars was built on a foundation of coming for that nostalgia dollar. The whole appeal of the game was watching Hulk Hogan fight Rey Mysterio, or Andre the Giant wrestle Eddie Guerrero.
It was such a big selling point for the game that two separate modes were created based on that concept. Path of Champions was like an arcade/gauntlet mode of sorts, giving you one of three routes to championship gold. The Legend path sees you in the crosshairs of The Undertaker, in his full retro gimmick complete with coffins and Paul Bearer yucking it up next to him. Ohhhhhh yeaaaah, and so on.
The Superstar path tread more familiar waters, putting you on a collision course with Randy Orton as he cuts mediocre promos because that’s what Orton does after all. Lastly, the Tag Team path had you chase after DX, as they cut fourth wall breaking promos like only post-2006 DX can.
Meanwhile, Fantasy Warfare mode asks the age old pub question of “who would win in a fight between X and Y?” Pairing off a legend with a superstar, each fight in this mode is accompanied by a video package assessing the similarities and differences between the superstar and the legend. Whilst some pairings are as trivial as “The Celtic Warrior vs The Ultimate Warrior”, the packages themselves are beautifully done.
Graphically, WWE All Stars showcases all your favourite wrestlers and legends as you know and love them, but here they better represent the larger-than-life persona that they exude whenever they appeared on screen. Each wrestler was a cartoonish caricature of themselves, with their features exaggerated to an insane degree. Andre’s hands are the size of Rey Mysterio, Triple H’s nose could be used as a boat rudder and Hulk Hogan’s 24-inch pythons are more like anacondas.
The cartoonish aspect helps to capture what wrestlers, or superstars if you prefer the Vince McMahon Vocabulary™, are portrayed as in the WWE: superheroes. Of course, it helps that when John Cena hits an Attitude Adjustment, he jumps 20 feet into the air before driving his opponent into the canvas. It’s this outlandish aspect of the game that makes All-Stars as fun to watch as it is to play, and it’s certainly more appealing to a non-fan than any other wrestling game. You could even argue that it helped inspire the likes of WWE Immortals, the mobile fighting game from NetherRealm Studios.
And it is fun to play. Extremely so, in fact. Less of a wrestling game, though the emphasis is on the graps, All-Stars shares a lot more in common with a fighting game. The majority of your offense is tied to combos, though it’s nothing as complicated as something like Street Fighter or Tekken. CM Punk even has a damn Shoryuken, which is awesome by the way.
All-Stars allows for some insane juggle combos that can be performed by everyone with just a couple of button presses. Strikes, grapples and reversals are all assigned to just a few buttons, and special moves are performed with a combination of those buttons. In that way, the combat is reminiscent of a game like Urban Reign, a PS2 era beat ‘em up from Namco, the guys who made Tekken.
By simplifying the control scheme in such a manner, All-Stars removes the barrier for entry that can affect most fighting games and even some wrestling games. Looking at you there, Fire Pro, even if you are fantastic. Because fantastic combos can be pulled off by anyone who plays the game, everyone gets to be the superhero. It’s a win/win situation.
But the real excitement comes from the reversal system, which allows you to counter your way out of pretty much any attack, even other reversals. At a basic level, you can see opponents countering each other punches without a blow being landed, but it can go to some insane places. Just look at the below video and see for yourself.
It’s this hidden depth what makes WWE All-Stars such a rewarding game, and one you should seek out if you haven’t played it already. Though the online servers have long since been deactivated, it’s a worthy use of four controllers. The already insane gameplay reaches a fever pitch once four wrestlers get involved.
Though our dreams of a sequel to this game border upon delusional, what with THQ going belly up a few years back, WWE All-Stars is a refreshing take on the tried and tested wrestling game. Had THQ not gone the way it did, it would have been really interesting to see how this game would evolve in future iterations. Still, WWE All-Stars should be considered amongst the greatest wrestling games ever made.
Like WrestleMania, it’s been a long road to get here, but we’ve reached the end of the week’s wrestling game series. Huzzah! Check out the rest of the series below, and let us know what you think about WWE All-Stars in the comments.
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