When Vince McMahon purchased WCW and ECW in 2001, the television product wasn’t the only thing he limited for wrestling fans. His massive takeover also drastically changed the video game landscape for the “sports entertainment” faithful. In the late ‘90s, fans could choose between THQ’s excellent WWF titles, EA’s WCW games, and Acclaim’s ECW attempts. For the last several years, however, Smackdown vs. Raw has been the only game in town (outside of mediocre TNA titles and the supremely disappointing Lucha Libre game from Konami). While it still operates under the banner of Vince McMahon’s juggernaut promotion, THQ is finally giving gamers a brand-new option with the promising WWE All Stars.

If we were to compare WWE games to sports titles, Smackdown vs. Raw would be NBA 2K11 and All Stars would be NBA Jam. That’s no accident, as Jam (and NFL Blitz) veteran Sal Divita is onboard as executive producer. As he did with the hardwood and the gridiron, Divita is bringing over-the-top moves, a ridiculous visual style, and a simplified but rewarding control scheme to the squared circle. It’s not just the SvR roster with new gameplay and a different look, however, as the roster features just as many legendary grapplers as current superstars.

THQ is planning on a “dream roster” consisting of superstars from your childhood and the top talent of today – including some faces that you wouldn’t expect to see. Macho Man Randy Savage has been on the outs with Vince for quite some time, and Hulk Hogan is currently employed by the struggling TNA promotion. Despite this, both legends are confirmed for All Stars.

Each superstar fits into one of four categories: Acrobat, Big Man, Brawler, or Grappler. Acrobats can perform high-flying springboard attacks and cover almost the entire ring with a top rope attack. Even better, they can access the top turnbuckle by propelling themselves off of an opponent. Playing as Rey Mysterio, I sprinted up the body of Andre the Giant, backflipped onto the turnbuckle, and proceeded to level the big man with a missile dropkick.

If you fall into the big man category, your character can charge up massive strikes that can send your opponent flying. When I played as Andre, I sent Mysterio rocketing into the ropes with a massive punch. Once he ricocheted off the ropes, I landed another blow that sent him cartoonishly flying outside of the ring.

Brawlers like Cena and The Rock are equipped with unblockable charged attacks, and grapplers like Bret Hart can string numerous grapple moves together into a combo. These two classes may not be flying around the ring like the acrobats or sending foes outside of it like the big men, but their moves are by no means subtle. Cena’s Attitude Adjustment isn’t just a modified fireman’s carry like it is on WWE programming; it’s now a superhero-like leaping slam that causes a shockwave in the mat when it connects.

Whereas the majority of wrestling games feature a momentum system for building up finishers, All Stars doesn’t rely on a rising-and-falling meter. As you perform big attacks, your finisher meter will rise without fear of it dropping back down. If your meter is half-full and you suddenly find yourself on the tail end of a severe beating, you don’t have to worry about restarting from square one.