I miss WWF No Mercy on the Nintendo 64.
Hate to be the old man in the room, but its greatness has yet to be surpassed by any wrestling game since. Unfortunately, THQ and the WWE decided to give Yukes exclusive rights to develop their wrestling games; none of which even come close.
WWE All Stars is not the game to do that, nor does it try to be. Instead of trying to be a wrestling ‘simulator’, All Stars is an arcade style slobberknocker that may be the most bombastic wrestling title ever.
Right off the bat, it’s clear that any semblance of realism isn’t a priority here. Every wrestler is designed in a style that draws heavy influence from the 1980s WWF rubber action figures. Going beyond that, every move is exaggerated to the nth degree for maximum impact. Particularly, classic finishing moves are given extreme twists to make them look extra painful. For instance, Hulk Hogan jumps a good 20 feet into the air before dispatching of his foes with his signature leg drop. I’m glad that the game fully embraces its arcade-like nature in order to provide maximum entertainment value.
Once you get past how painful all of the moves look, the wrestling action is easy to grasp and fun to play. You get the standard light and heavy attacks, as well as light and heavy grapples, which will form most of your offence. One of the neat touches to the game is how each wrestler ‘class’ has a few unique techniques available to them. For instance, power wrestlers can bounce their opponents off the ground and then juggle them in the air with attacks, or slam the back to the canvas. Technical wrestlers can string together a long series of grapple moves to keep their foes immobilized for extended periods of time. These do add a bit of a neat wrinkle to the action, though their importance to the overall flow of the action is minimal compared to the counter system. Almost every move in the game can be countered with a precisely-timed button press, which adds an extra layer of skill to the proceedings. On top of that, some counter moves can also be countered, which can be really exciting to deal with when two players are repeatedly countering each other until one eventually misses their cue.
The game features the usual gamut of match types, from the standard 1-on-1 to the dreaded cage match. You’ll experience all of them as you play through the game’s two main single-player modes. In the Path of Champions mode, you play through a gauntlet of 10 matches in order to earn the right to be WWE champion. In the far more interesting Fantasy Warfare mode, the game gives you a series of legends vs. modern superstar dream matches to choose from. You pick a wrestler to play as in each match, and try and win it. The matches themselves are no more special than any other, but the pre-match promos that were put together using actual WWF/WWE footage are fantastic. All of them got me super pumped for each fight, even if they were between two wrestlers I didn’t care for. Unfortunately, completing this set of matches happens too soon.
I was really excited to play this game online, but I’ve run into a really weird issue that prevents me from playing it online at all. When I first tried to connect, the game said I had to download a compatibility patch to make it work. When I tried to download it directly from that menu, I got an XBOX error message. Even after downloading the compatibility patches from elsewhere, the game still won’t let me connect online to play. Bummer.
No Mercy this is not, but WWE All Stars is pretty good on its own terms. It’s over-the-top approach to the sport is really fun to play and brings back memories of how I used to see wrestling as a kid. It really sucks that the online modes are completely unusable for me, but maybe you’ll fare better. At the very least, this is well worth it as is.