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Score: 6.8 / 10
Everyone remember those non-articulated
heavy foam-rubber wrestling figures from the mid to late ‘80s? No? For
shame! Any prepubescent to mid-teens male during that time should recall
the plethora of figures that were short on detail and even shorter on
good paint jobs. Just look at the picture in the sidebar of George “The
Animal” Steel. Actually, he looks a lot like his video game counterpart
in Legends of Wrestling (LoW).
LoW is an interesting concept for old school wrestling fans – a
wrestling game that lets you fight against classic wrestlers such as
Hulk Hogan, Ted DiBiase, and the Sheik, and at the same time including
such ringside characters as Mr. Fuji and Captain Lou Albano.
Unfortunately, several flaws bring the whole thing down – not quite for
the three count, but at least a two count.
First, the wrestlers look much like the aforementioned non-articulated
heavy foam-rubber wrestling figures. This has somehow been spliced with
the sensibility of the
Hulk Hogan Saturday morning cartoon. The
results are rather homogenous (and extremely shiny) – everyone looks
pretty much the same except for the clothes they’re wearing. Once a
match starts, someone just walking into the room won’t be able to tell
who’s who (unless they know their wrestling). This can be avoided by
making your own wrestler with the great Create-a-Legend feature. Want a
230lb chain mail bikini-clad Amazon to whap the Hulkster upside the
head? With the Create-a-Legend feature it’s all possible. Besides
outfitting your character with the latest in retro spandex you also get
to adjust stats and attributes. (And with the Xbox’s hard drive it’s
possible to store 15 of your own Legends.) But all this being said, LoW
is a pretty good-looking and smooth-moving game (for the most part).
Amazingly, there is no camera control. You’re stuck with one view for
each type of match, which is either too close or too far away (for my
tastes at any rate). Occasionally, the camera will switch to a more
“dramatic” angle but that’s only for a second. Additionally, there are a
few Matrix slow-down moments but they don't happen often.
And speaking of control… it’s mixed. Old school arcade wrestlers will be
right at home with the severe knuckle-breaking button mashing involved
in a number of situations. For example to escape a pin or get up after
being knocked senseless requires a lot of button pressing. This never
seems to be a problem when battling the computer AI, however when
matched against a human opponent – watch out. This is the kind of game
that results in real world fights between brothers and close friends.
(Advice: If you’re old enough, have a few beers before playing. Provided
you’re not an angry drunk.) The stronger aspect of the control is the
ease at which the attack, grapple, and defense moves can be executed.
The moves take a little while to get a handle on, but when you do,
you’ll be ducking outside the ring at every opportunity to grab a
guitar, garbage can, etc. to smash your opponent with. Some of the more
advanced moves take longer to master, but this was a wise design
decision since it rewards more experienced players. Also a factor is the
opportunity to make a counter move in the middle of getting your butt
kicked. Once again, these moves are easier to pull off against the
So far you’d think LoW is better than average. Besides the standard
wrestling conventions – lots of signature moves, unlockable characters,
a career mode, tag team matches, etc. – LoW presents an interesting
concept and does so in an easy to pick-up and play manner. But what hits
LoW in the solar plexus as it’s trying to get up is the audio.
I don’t like to pick on audio because I think that those responsible for
game audio have the most underrated job in the industry. But LoW’s audio
exploded both my eardrums after it numbed them with its repetitiveness.
I figure my ears just wanted out after hearing the same generic
grunt/scream for the four-hundredth time in a couple of matches. With
all the characters involved it’s amazing that more speech wasn’t thrown
in as well. Who can forget Macho Man Randy Savage’s incomprehensible
diatribes? He wasn’t the only one guilty of steroid-driven “ohhhh,
yeahhhssss" speeches so it’s disappointing to have each wrestler emit
the same grunt over and over. I guess my point is, in a character-driven
game, they should also have something to say – even four or five catch
phrases (in and out of the ring) would have been nice. (Couple these
grunts with the only so-so 3D renderings, and the wrestlers might as
well have been given generic names.) The music isn’t much better.
Instead of shooting for an ‘80s flavor, LoW goes heavy metal in the
tradition of today’s WWF. (LoW allows use of music saved to the hard
drive. My advice, use it.)
Legends of Wrestling isn’t a truly bad game, but neither is it a truly
wonderful game. It’s based on a cool concept but it only seems to go
halfway. The characters are visually and aurally generic (including the
crowd), and overall the audio is bad. On the flip side, it’s pretty easy
to pick up and play against a buddy with wrestlers built from the ground
up and while away a few rainy day hours and remember simpler times of
non-articulated heavy foam-rubber wrestling figures. A recommended