Wrestling video games have come a long way since the arcades of the late 80’s and early 90’s. The first WWE video game ever licensed was WWF (long before the name change) WrestleMania by Acclaim in 1988 for the NES. Moves and wrestlers were limited with names like Andre the Giant, Bam Bam Bigelow, Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage. Since then wrestling games have evolved with every incarnation with small leaps forward in every generation. But it would be WWF Superstars in 1989 that would gain in popularity as the Arcade classic many fans of the generation still remember fondly as it featured a basic grappling system, cut scenes, and even appearances by “Mean” Gene Okerlund and Miss Elizabeth. There was even a referee present in the ring but sadly you’re ability to beat the snot out of him unmercifully wouldn’t come about for another few years. The goal of Superstars was to take your tag team to the top to face the Mega Bucks (Ted Dibiase and Andre The Giant.) With story modes, growing rosters and small new details being added to every new game the Wrestling video game was growing in complexity.
In 1996 WWF In Your House for Playstation was released and would be one of the first “steps forward” in graphics that would be seen among wrestling games. The game featured 10 wrestlers as well as commentary by Vince McMahon and Mr. Perfect. The gameplay was considered more “Mortal Kombat” style as moves were over the top and unrealistic which was even rare among the older wrestling arcade games prior to In Your House’s release. However the enhanced graphics and ability for up to four players to compete at a time was a huge step forward for the genre. The next step forward would be WWF War Zone with it’s more TEKKEN combo style of gamplay that it brought ot both the Playstation and the N64. The need for “combos” for even the simplest moves got under many fans skin and sent them to the competition which at the time was what is considered one of the best wrestling games ever in WCW/nWo Revenge. The style of Warzone would carry over to WWF Royal Rumble in 2000 but would soon change as later that same year WWF would release two games that would change the tide of pro wrestling video games.
In late 2000 we’d see the release of WWF Smackdown! for the Playstation that would evolve into the best wrestling game series we’ve seen as it later became Smackdown vs RAW and the newest incarnation of WWE ’12. For the N64 we’d also see the rival game of WCW/nWo Revenge as THQ took the helm completely for Wrestlemania 2000 and it’s follow up WWF No Mercy. It’s in No Mercy and the Smackdown series that I see the most similarities with WWE’s most current offering in WWE All Stars for the XBox 360 and the Playstation systems. It’s arcade style, simple controls and over the top characters and moves evokes a nostalgia from all these past games that I think wrestling fans have deep down been wanting for a long time. Their previous attempt with Legends of Wrestlemania failed and faltered, but their second attempt is a definite hit. Combining classic names like Hogan, Austin, Savage, Ultimate Warrior and The Rock against the new stars like Cena, Orton, Miz, CM Punk and Kofi Kingston. I was also really happy with the fact that they’re continually adding new stars to the roster with a free download of Honky Tonk Man as well as the “American Dream package” which includes Dusty Rhodes and Cody Rhodes. The simple gameplay makes it easy for anyone to pick up the game and play as it’s pretty much a button smasher game. The clean cut graphics and attention to detail and nostalgia however root the game firmly in the modern age.
If you’re like me, you were worried that All Stars would be a repeat of some of the classic video game blunders from the past. However, WWE and THQ have learned from the past and made what I consider to be just as good of a game as Smackdown vs RAW 2011. If you find yourself playing as the Legends in the Smackdown series more often than the current superstars and constantly beating the tar out of the Miz, then this is the game for you. The path to beat The Undertaker is so well done in its cut scenes with Taker and Paul Bearer you are brought back to the days of Paul Bearer’s Funeral Parlor. The Path of Champions can get a tad repetitive but at the same time is broken down enough and short enough to where it doesn’t get the chance to get old. Love the old style of wrestling? Love the old wrestlers? WWE All Stars is the game you’ve been waiting for. So go ahead and be Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and beat the crap out of the Miz. Or even be Andre the Giant and sit on the Miz and crush him. Heck, you even even be Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka and do the flying splash on the Miz. Either way, you’ll enjoy the game and beating up the Miz. So check it out, rent it, buy it, get it from Gamefly! Gimme a Hell Yea!!
PETER continues to be a wrestling mark and wrote this article after playing a lot of WWE All Stars and watching Breaking The Code: The Chris Jericho story on Netflix. He loves putting Ultimate Warrior in matches even if he’s not playing as him and honestly, he enjoys beating the crap out of the Miz.