Legends of Wrestling
Well, what do we have for wrestling games on the Xbox? The choices are few and very varied. For one, we have WWE Raw, which proved to be mediocre but sales encouraged a sequel to begin development. Alternately, we have the Legends of Wrestling (henceforth LoW) franchise, which proved that people were willing to buy a game with older stars rather than the flashy stars of today. Having never played LoW and having heard good things, I decided it was worth a rental.
I’ve played quite a few wrestlers before, but I was still unfamiliar to LoW, so I decided that I would start an Exhibition match before I got into a serious tournament. I decided I’d go with one of my former favorite wrestlers, Bret ”Hitman” Hart. Interestingly enough, my sister met him once…but that’s another story. After the selection of him from the 32 or so characters available, I was treated to a short ring entrance that was lackluster at best. The grapplers only had about 2 animations that they did for about 20 seconds, so it looked pretty silly. Soon I was treated to the stats of my grappler and opponent. Then, another quick load later and I was in the match.
The first thing that I noticed was that the controls were ass. It was pretty much hit or miss, I would often think I pushed the right combination of buttons to perform an attack, yet I still didn’t do it. Other times, I would think that I had goofed and I’d do the move. This occurred even after reading through the entire control section in the manual. Once I got adjusted to the controls, I discovered the games interesting move-linking, which allows you to basically break any hold with the touch of a button, as well as create powerful attacks. This was fun, but once the move-linking lasted 6 minutes between an opponent and I. I really had no desire for it to continue longer, so I just let him attack me. 6 minutes is an excessive amount of time to not actually be doing anything in.
After playing through a couple of Exhibition matches, I decided that I would start a career. I decided to pick Hulk Hogan, because he was badass back in the day. I then was forced to select a region that I would battle in, so I picked the northeast, my region of the USA. The first thing I noticed was that Hulk Hogan looks fat, though he was just really muscular. The first match I was in was a tag match, and while the Hulkster dominated the first opponent, once he tagged out he was brutally maimed by the second opponent. Throughout the match there were constant momentum changes that made the game feel very varied, which was a nice feeling. After the match I was treated to a statistical ranking and it turned out that my not tagging my partner and minimal combos hurt my popularity with the fans. Then one of the games few story scenes popped up with a discussion between me and my manager.
We then moved on through the region and my popularity increased as I got better at the game. I then great tired of playing through my career, which was filled with constant combos and long matches, so I decided to have a quick tournament. I selected 3 wrestlers in the tournament out of a 6 possible, and 3 rounds, which was the max the game allowed. The mode was very similar to career mode, just without the story progression.
One thing I really liked about LoW was that there were quite a few match options in Exhibition mode. No, there aren’t any Ladder Matches or Cage Match of modern wrestling, but it did have a few fun options like Tag Team and 4-Way Dance, my personal favorite. 4-Way was fun because of the general chaotic feeling that the match had.
There were a few flaws graphically with LoW though that really detracted from the gameplay. Some of the character models; Hulk Hogan and a few others that are supposed to look buff look obese. Also there are some serious clipping problems that occur when fighting outside the ring, specifically when fighting close to the barriers that control the crowd. The rings themselves are average and the blood effects are as well. But hey, the game actually has polygonal models in the crowd as opposed to sprites, which makes the game look somewhat realistic.
The audio is a bit bland. The ring announcer was repetitive and said the same things over with very little enthusiasm in his voice, and the crowd was a little out of it in reaction time as well. At least Acclaim had the foresight to include soundtrack support.
Overall, LoW is a decent grappler plagued by some control issues, graphical flaws and dull audio. Fortunately, the novelty effect of owning this title nearly warrants a purchase itself. Fortunately, owning it allows you to play some pretty good game modes and play as all your old heroes, so pick this one up if you want a decent wrestling game on the Xbox.