In the pantomime of the WWE, there's always going to be that one cynic who reminds you how the sport-not-sport of wrestling isn't real. But everybody knows that: the world of heels, faces and kayfabe has had its dirty laundry well and truly publicly aired over the last few decades. But that doesn't apply to the games: the elbow drops, punches and chair swinging antics of the WWE games have always pitched themselves as genuine acts in a virtual world.
The WWE game series also endures as the epitome of the annual franchise, perennially satisfying a niche fanbase who'll always go gaga for each year's update of the gratuitous, gauche and gaudy carnival of shimmering, macho man-mountains. That's not going away, with Smackdown vs. RAW 2011 still serving as the franchise frontrunner, but THQ has decided it might be missing a trick in its line-up.
Enter WWE All-Stars, which stretches and contorts its already unrealistic superstars into a world of rippling 80-inch chests, firm 24-inch waists and body slams so colossal they cause shockwaves to ripple through the ring. This is a wrestling game that has absolutely no interest in sticking close to the true unrealism of the WWE series, and its intention is to attract those players who have little interest in that series to begin with.
All-Stars is the work of THQ (formerly Midway) San Diego, and the brief is clearly to do to WWE what Midway's simplistic, bombastic NBA Jam did to basketball, right down to the wobbly slow-mo camera and pared-back button layout. I don't have the knowledge to accomplish much in SDvR, but give me a simple face button control scheme (with a trigger to modify moves) and I'm ground pounding with the best of them.
Everything is all charmingly silly. Characters have biceps as big as my head (and I have a big head), for instance, and wind up their punches like they're channelling enough kinetic force to punch a hole through a tree. In the corner of the screen lies your wrestler's face, which gets routinely bloodied and beaten up as the game progresses: this is WWE by way of a child fan's loving doodles in the back of his Maths textbook.