WWE Legends of WrestleMania Review
Written : Sunday, March 22, 2009
By: Lee Abrahams (GT: jackanape)
When I was a lad, wrestling was all the rage, I even remember going to see it live and watching Rowdy Roddy Piper wriggle out of a body bag to give the Undertaker a sneaky beat down. Good times. Nowadays though, the whole scene has changed with a lot more in the way of over the top storylines and ever changing loyalties ... what happened to the days of just having a bunch of good guys and a bunch of bad guys and letting them go at it? For those of you harking back to these golden years we have a game chock full of some of the greatest legends to ever step into the squared circle.
Developed by Yukes, the people responsible for pretty much every wrestling game to grace the 360 to date; WWE Legends carries with it a lot of similarilities and features from all their previous wrestling efforts. The real selling point of the game comes in the form of the roster of superstars they have at their disposal, including icons like Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant and Koko B Ware. Obviously some of the guys are better than others and people will always query certain inclusions and omissions, but overall there is a solid list of characters from the eighties, nineties and beyond, that should suit any wrestling fans tastes.
Ultimate Warrior was momentarily distracted by Rick’s garish pants.
The presentation of the game on the whole is excellent as all of the characters move and act like you remember, not to mention the fact they all have their own signature moves. Graphically though, the game is somewhat of a mixed bag as all of the characters seem far too muscular. No disrespect to anyone involved but Yokozuna was fat, yet here he has the most defined arms I have ever seen. Still, you do get an odd thrill from hearing the familiar entrance music and watching your idols strut towards the ring. The commentary is also instantly familiar, with Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross doing the honours, though while they do an admirable job (yet repetitive), it would have been nice to hear some of the older commentators back on the scene too. There are also one two graphical glitches, when wrestlers arms disappear through scenery, or each other, and when you pick up a weapon in both hands, one hand is oddly floating mid-air. Coupled with a fairly flat and generic set of crowds the whole thing just feels a little less polished than it should be. It is a nice touch that you can import superstars from Smackdown 09 though and set up matches between the new kids and the guys who came before them.
Obviously the game has a an exhibition mode which lets you set up pretty much any kind of match your mind can dream up, but that has been done before. The main draw comes in the form of the two ‘career’ modes. The Wrestlemania Tour mode is a particular highlight as you get to play out a bunch of famous matches of yesteryear. By selecing to "relive" matches, you get to follow a script of objectives to recreate some of the great matches, or you can select "rewrite" and you can turn the tables on people who were formerly victorious. Last but not least is "redefine" which lets you go for whatever outcome you feel like but playing out with different rules to how it originally went down. Each match is accompanied by actual footage of the events leading up to the matches, and the match itself, which adds a great feel of authenticity to proceedings and really shines a light on some epic showdowns. If anything though, the matches can be finicky as some of the objectives can be excruciating to pull off, even when you are positive you have followed the instructions to a tee.
The controls in general seem a lot less fluid than the previous Smackdown games before them. One button is in charge of general punches and another is for grapples; and depending on the duration of the button press and the direction of the thumbstick you can then pull off different moves. You can also string together moves off the ropes of turnbuckles and a variety of similar attacks when your opponent is down and out. Take the fight outside of the ring and you get a whole new repertoire of moves including weapons attacks and environmental moves. It seems fairly dynamic but in practice it can be a chore to do exactly what you want, especially in terms of the grapples or environmental moves which seem far too twitchy. There is also the inclusion of chain attacks, which are basically button pressing mini-games to represent certain moves, counters or finishers. A button pressing sequence seems an odd choice for a fighting game and in fact detracts from the whole experience.
The dreaded ‘Sniff my Pits’ maneuver. Lethal.
The "Legend Killer" mode is where you can take your own created wrester and pit him against a series of grueling challengers. Winning matches and using certain moves earns you experience which you can then use to improve your skills. This mode however really falls down when you look at the career modes in other games, as all it consists of is a bunch of matches in a row without any kind of story or context. You never get to create any kind of image for your chosen fighter, or strive to get championship gold against all odds. Instead you are just asked to take on one fighter after another in each tier and, when you beat them all, you then move onto the next tier. It is hardly gripping stuff and feels like a complete letdown considering the history on offer here.
The online modes are pretty much the same as the single player, with you taking your chosen character (or created legend) and opening a can of whoop ass on the competition. You can pick from pretty much all of the modes you would expect, with cell matches, tag teams and even ironman matches all thrown into the mix. You can chose from ranked or player matches but the options are really the same and the whole set up and even menu system seems to have just been ripped wholesale from previous titles. That is not to say it does not work, but a few more ideas would not have gone amiss. Like the addition of Royal Rumbles or online legend matches to recreate old fights. Little touches like this would have made the whole thing seem fresh, but unless you really want to play with the classic stars, it makes no sense to stray away from Smackdown 09 as the two are virtually one and the same.
Hulk takes his manly hug a bit too far.
The achievements are frankly dire, as they fail to offer even the slightest shred of innovation or challenge. Considering some of the decent achievement lists attached to the Smackdown games this is a real step backwards to be honest. Players can pick up half the points in a couple of hours just by creating a wrestler and winning a few matches in a variety of ways. Then the rest of the points can be snagged by finishing off the Wreslemania Tour mode and Legend Killer modes – both of which are fairly straightforward and lacking any kind of real difficulty. Of course you can play the game on Easy with all the sliders in your favour, but you really do not need to as the computer will fall for the same moves time after time. They could have at least made a few more surprising additions in terms of specific matches or old rivalries.
This game really did take me back to my childhood, but after only a few hours, the novelty had kind of worn off and it was just the same old game with different characters. For those people craving a wrestling game with all of their classic heroes then they should look no further, but with a less than comprehensive career mode and a seemingly tacked on online feature, it will fail to grip you long term. This is a game that seems to have gone overboard in terms of presentation but failed to back it up with the basics. Plus, where the hell are the Bushwhackers or the Dynamite Kid? It is simply criminal.
Listening to the original intro music for some of these legends will bring a tear to your eye and the commentary is exactly what you would expect – but gets amazingly repetitive after a while.
The wrestlers look like beefed up versions of their original selves (are fat blokes no longer revered?) and a few glitches generally ruin the effect.
The controls just do not seem as in-depth as they were during the Smackdown series and pulling off the exact grapple you want can be extremely fiddly. The same goes for environmental moves and weapon attacks – which have been made unnecessarily tricky.
Despite the flaws, this is a great nostalgia trip and the pre-match footage for some of the flashback fights lends a superb air of authenticity.
In a word – rubbish. They are all far too easy and far too uninventive; would it have hurt to put in a few match specific tasks or rivalry achievements? I think not.
For old school wrestling fans this game is a dream come true but for the rest of us, it is really more of the same, and some of the finicky controls may become a tad irritating. If you already own one of the Smackdown games then this one may seem to pale in comparison. Rent it and see if it floats your boat, but you may well find that a few hours of nostalgia is enough.