WWE All Stars is a classic case of what I like to call “Looks good syndrome”.

You see your buddies skating on a 12 foot high half pipe, looks cool, right? The reality is harshly different from the outside appearances when you break your wrist trying to drop-in, and the old saying of “Don’t judge a book by its cover” works opposite in WWE All Stars – because the outside appearances set a higher tone of quality then what you actually end up getting when you play.

A more arcade approach to the long running Smackdown vs Raw franchise, WWE All Stars is a middle ground, a game that tries to grab those not overly into wrestling yet still feel applicable and appealing to those diehard fans who love the ‘realistic’ styled games more.  However, I’m not sure if it ultimately executes it’s goal.

WWE All Stars sees classic wrestlers turned from their toned selves into alternative art versions of The Hulk. Gigantic torsos and the biggest biceps your eyes will ever encounter are a common appearance, and seeing the Big Show drop kick Rey Mysterio out of the ring with his foot is incredibly amusing. Each wrestlers moves are over the top and outright stupid at times, but that’s part of where the charm in All Stars lies.

All Stars is the perfect type of game for a little kid that can’t grasp the full palette of controls presented in Smackdown v Raw 2011, or any of the other more complicated titles. Appealing too is the great visual engine that displays beautifully vivid colors and great muscle tone, and it all makes for a visually stunning game.

That’s essentially where all the praise for All Stars ends in this review though. What should be a great gameplay concept is instead horrible to comprehend and annoying at the best of times, hampered solely by poor controls and moments that leave me literally throwing my controller and turning my Xbox 360 off.

Right from the start you get a very simple and shallow vibe from All Stars, but that’s definitely not a bad thing. The game is clearly tailored towards a casual pick up and play audience, however the controls don’t really translate into that very well. No longer will running at the ropes make you slide out of the ring, instead there’s a separate button for that. There’s one button for countering grapples, and one for countering strikes. Executing your finishing move is a matter of pressing both the shoulder buttons at once – assuming you don’t get punched and lose the whole fucking thing.

There’s some sort of annoying clinch protection that stops you hitting people when they’re on the ground the majority of the time, and if you grapple at the wrong time you get stunned, leaving you open to attack. You could of course counter the blows that are sent your way, however once again it rarely works, and if it does it feels more through chance and luck than it does skill. Seriously, if a prompt appears on the screen and I press the correct button and nothing happens then your game is just flawed at the simplest of levels.

There’s also no tutorial to teach you the ins and outs of one of the four classes (Brawlers, Big Men, Acrobats and Grapplers), so you’re forced to instead endure button mashing like you’ve never seen before across the same bland old game modes. A campaign of sorts makes a return however it simply revolves around taking one of three wrestlers through a series of matches strung together with some boring cut scenes.

One appealing feature of the otherwise bland game modes is “Fantasy Warfare”. The aforementioned mode sees a Legend and Superstar pitted against each other for a fictional title like “Mr Wrestlemania” in the case of HBK v Undertaker. A high quality piece of footage at the beginning of each match helps make you feel like you’re part of something actually from the WWE and although it’s not a big addition to the game, it’s definitely a welcome one.

Outside of that there’s not much else to do in terms of gameplay. You can take your exploits online and play against opponents on Xbox LIVE, but in a counter-heavy game like this, the latency I encountered made it almost unplayable and left a sour taste in my mouth. Something I found ironic was the fact THQ didn’t ship All Stars with an online code like those seen in UFC and Homefront. It’s almost like they knew…

It’s not that WWE All Stars is a bad game, it’s just not as good as it could have been. Poor controls, shallow gameplay and limited replayability hamper what could’ve been one of the more enjoyable entries into the WWE franchise of late. If you’re a die hard wrestling fan then go out and buy it, you’ll love it, for everyone else though I can’t justify anything more then a rental.

Here’s The Rundown:

+ Fantasy Warfare is a cool idea
+ Finishers are brutal… If you can pull them off.
+ Great visual presentation
- Poor and counter-productive control scheme
- Flawed gameplay
- No tutorial

WWE All Stars was released on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 on the 29th of March 2011 for $59.99 USD. Our copy was provided for review by THQ Australia. Single player was played for close to ten hours across all game modes including local multiplayer and online multiplayer.