The biggest date of the WWE calendar is only a few weeks away, and what better way to celebrate the 27th annual Wrestlemania than with brand new arcade brawler WWE All-Stars? With former superstars such as The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin taking part in this year's wrestling extravaganza, as well as a card featuring talent such as The Miz, Randy Orton and Edge, it's fitting that THQ's latest grapplefest should pit the stars of today against the legends of old in a battle to see which era is the best. Never one to shy away from a challenge, DS laced up its wrestling boots, donned the spandex and went to town with a bottle of baby oil, as we accepted THQ's invitation to sample the game at a recent event in London.
The roster isn't the only part of the game that tips its hat to the past. The game looks and plays much more like an arcade game of old than a modern day wrestling simulation. The sprites are big, bold and blocky, which makes each wrestler looks like a pumped up caricature of themselves (but in a good way). Even the smaller guys like Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero and Kofi Kingston have bodybuilder physiques, so you can only imagine what a musclehead such as The Ultimate Warrior looks like. It all seemed much more colourful than recent entries such as Smackdown Vs. Raw too, which seems fitting considering the light-hearted nature of the game.
Hitting enough moves fills up star slots below the health bar and a finishing move bar to the side, which when full enables players to unleash signature moves that typically involve jumping 20ft into the air and slamming opponents into the ground, sending shockwaves across the mat. Alternatively, guys like Macho Man and John Morrison would leap onto the top turnbuckle and jump the entire length of the ring to nail opponents with the flying elbow or Starship Pain respectively. The cinematic signature moves were by far the most memorable and entertaining part of the experience, although it will be interesting to see whether or not they get tiresome with repeated play. For the more scientific wrestling fan, the game features different character types - such as brawler and acrobat - as well as a host of counters and reversals; we were unable to really sink our teeth into these gameplay mechanics and judge the lasting impact that they have on the game.
By far the most promising feature is the 'Fantasy Warfare' mode, which is a series of themed matches pitting legends against superstars. What makes this mode unique is the high calibre promotional videos leading into the matches. Lots of genuine archive video clips are spliced together in order to build up the feuds and, thanks to some clever editing, it all seems like it is happening here and now. An early encounter pitting CM Punk against Stone Cold Steve Austin, for example, uses their vastly opposing lifestyles as a base for the feud. The clips make it look as though Punk is attempting to convert Austin to his old straight-edge society, while footage of Austin showering the ring in beer and talking trash, can easily be taken out of context and applied to this particular encounter.
WWE All-Stars will be released on March 29 in North America and April 1 in Europe on the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PS2 and PSP.