Although far less vocal than fighting and sports game players, wrestling game enthusiasts are intensely particular about their genre; they more often than not, tend to go far lengths to experience new titles or support established franchises. This kind of genre-specific dedication is truly fascinating to me, but comes as no surprise, considering the huge impact professional wrestling has on different cultures. THQ, no stranger to the wresting game genre, is set to release WWE All Stars on March 29th. Although wrestling games seem to come out at a somewhat consistent clip, All Stars looks to set itself apart from the pack by approaching the genre not from the traditional wresting simulation angle, but as a wrestling/competitive fighting game hybrid.
Although this has been done in the past with such titles as WWF Wrestlemania The Arcade Game, Capcom’s excellent Saturday Night Slam Masters, SNK and ADK’s 3 Count Bout, and more recently, AKI’s Gamecube/PS2 wrestler/brawler titles (based on the popular Kinnikuman anime) Ultimate Muscle. Wrestling/fighting game hybrids have had their impact on both the arcade and the console fronts, but have not enjoyed the success of either fighting games or wrestling games. THQ aims to fill that gap, and entice both fighting game players and wrestling enthusiasts, while ideally providing accessible game play that will bring in sports-arcade game players.
THQ has put Sal DiVita in the role of Creative Director to spearhead the development of WWE All Stars. DiVita worked on arcade style sports titles such as NFL Blitz and NBA Jam, so he knows a tiny bit about making your eyes explode. He is backed by Lead Designer Dave Friedland and ex-members of Midway San Diego, also all very versed in over the top sports titles, so the team behind the game is more than capable of creating the arcade look, and more importantly, the feel and pick-up-and-play nature of old arcade sports and fighting games.
In addition to the more arcade sports/fighting game play and look, THQ has chosen to not only use current characters from WWE’s stable of wrestlers, but add a slew of classic wrestling greats. With 15 current wrestlers and 15 classic wrestlers announced, and wrestling stars like Andre the Giant, “Macho Man” Randy Savage to Rey Mysterio Jr. and John Cena, THQ went out of their way to include as many WWE Superstars as they could. With the recent confirmation of DLC, there may even be the possibility of seeing other classic and current wrestlers and possibly even additional venues.
Even with the right developer in place, and all the obvious good intention, a solid fighting engine will have to work as a foundation for the action. It seems like THQ has gone with a completely different (or radically altered) wrestling/fighting engine, as the game plays more like a 3d fighter with an emphasis on linking attacks/juggles and combination throws/grapples. Game play looks fast and fluid with lots of strings/juggles and stagger/ground bounce states for extended combo strings. Characters fall into 4 different fighting classes that cover both fighting game and wrestling archetypes. The categories include the Acrobat, Big Man, Brawler and Grappler. Characters will fall in one of or a combination of those classes, and have some shared attacks, strings and grapples while also having access to character specific special attacks, grapples, pins, submissions and combos. Each character will also have super attacks, much like a super combo in Street Fighter, that they can use after filling a super meter. THQ has made quite the effort to cater to both player bases and has even gotten together with MadCatz to provide a WWE All Stars Special Edition fight stick. It seems THQ means business on both fronts.
Growing up in the arcade scene, I have really fond memories of playing both the 90′s arcade sports games like NBA Jam and the arcade fighters/brawlers like Saturday Night Slam Masters and WWF Wrestlemania The Arcade Game. The time and team couldn’t be more perfect for this type of game and I am really excited to see what THQ San Diego has put together for us. Come on back March 29th for a detailed review of the final build, and videos of Mr. Hawkins and myself going to town on this puppy. See you then!
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