It’s a fantastic time to be a first person shooter fan. In the past few years, a steady stream of triple-A games like Halo 3, Resistance 2 and Call of Duty 4 have saturated the market, giving FPS connoisseurs an unprecedented amount of choices when looking to immerse themselves in an epic shooter experience. However, because of this abundance of quality, it’s easy for the average gamer to overlook or even wrongly vilify lower budget FPS titles from smaller development studios; as looks to be the case with Spark Unlimited’s peppy little shooter that almost could, Legendary. A quick perusal of Legendary’s reviews at Game Rankings reveals a general consensus that the game is a broken, barely playable mess that the gaming community would be much better off without. Well, I’m here to tell you that underneath a slightly unpolished exterior lies an absolute balls-to-the-wall, roller-coaster-ride of a FPS that, if given the opportunity, will provide a solid ten hours of tightly focused and, more importantly, fun shoot-em-up gameplay.
One of Legendary’s greatest strengths becomes apparent mere seconds after firing up a new game. You fill the shoes of Charles Deckard – an infamous art thief who has been hired by a mysterious organization to pilfer a supposedly priceless artifact from a New York museum. Unfortunately for Deckard, the artifact in question turns out to be Pandora’s Box – an ancient relic containing a powerful energy known as Animus Vitae, as well as legions of destructive creatures straight out of various world mythologies. As you might expect, Deckard opens the box and unwittingly ushers in a worldwide apocalypse. One part fantasy, two parts sci-fi, with a hefty helping of adrenaline soaked action sprinkled liberally throughout, Legendary’s plot is a breath of fresh air in a FPS genre choked with clichéd “man versus the alien horde” storylines.
The actual game plays out in very linear fashion, with the player being funneled through environments spanning from New York to London via a plethora of superbly crafted, scripted sequences. As you stumble out of the museum at the start of the game, the entire world seems to be on the brink of collapse, with massive shock waves ripping through the city and swarms of hulking griffins picking up vehicles and slaughtering hapless pedestrians. The chaos is overwhelming at first, but due to some inspired level design and a helpful nav point system, negotiating the madness is rarely needlessly time consuming or confusing.
“Legendary’s plot is a breath of fresh air in a FPS genre choked with clichéd ‘man versus the alien horde’ storylines.”Now, I want it to be noted that in several of the reviews for Legendary, I read that the scripted sequences of griffins smashing through buildings and devouring people in New York were completely non interactive, serving as mere animated backdrops to instill “cheap thrills.” Assuming that these reviews were accurate, I jogged through this opening portion of the game with little concern for my character’s well being. Then a griffin picked up a car and unceremoniously crushed me with it. That’s odd … maybe a glitch? I loaded up my last save point and continued on for a few minutes … only to be clawed in the face and mauled by a few different “non interactive, animated backdrops.” The moral of the story? Don’t believe everything you read. Unless I wrote it. *ahem*
As I mentioned above, Legendary is a very linear FPS. There will always be a conveniently placed piece of flaming debris or something of the like keeping you on the path at hand, and there are rarely any chances for serious exploration. But, is that really a bad thing? The word “linear” has come to be synonymous with the word “crap” in the videogame industry over the past several years, and I think that is a bit unfair. There are definitely days when the idea of popping Fallout 3 or Far Cry 2 into my PS3 gives me a migraine; and it’s nice to have titles like Legendary there to provide a quick, straightforward fix of shoot-em-up action.
As you would expect from any competent FPS, Deckard will come across a nice variety of firearms in his quest to kick some mythological buttocks and take down the man who tricked him into opening Pandora’s Box. Pistols, assault rifles, flamethrowers, and rocket launchers (and then some) are all there and accounted for, as well as a wicked fire axe that is almost too effective at tearing up enemies at close range. Deckard also has the use of a mysterious signet burned into his left hand (a byproduct of his opening Pandora’s Box), which allows him to gather the energy of any mythical creatures he slays and use it to either blast enemies away from him (think Force Push) or heal wounds. Essentially, this means that instead of hiding in a corner for a few seconds to replenish health like in most FPS games nowadays, you actually have to manually suck up energy from your defeated opponents to keep yourself alive. Like driving a manual transmission car as opposed to an automatic, this little bit of micromanaging helps keep you feeling more like a participant in the action and less like a spectator.
“Minotaurs and griffins will burst through environmental obstacles like pillars and walls to eviscerate you”Back to the guns – most have a nice “pop” to them in Legendary, which, when combined with the unrelenting nature of the game’s mythical beasties, makes for some throughly enjoyable shoot outs. Along with the aforementioned griffins (which take an obscene amount of bullets to kill), you’ll come across werewolves, minotaurs, nari (think faeries that devour flesh instead of grant wishes), fire drakes and more. Each of these monsters looks fantastic (largely due to the always reliable Unreal Engine) and require unique strategies to bring down. Minotaurs and griffins will burst through environmental obstacles like pillars and walls to eviscerate you, and nari will buzz about, possessing various objects such as crates or barrels before hurling themselves in your direction (I saw one possess a vending machine and nearly pelt me to death with soda cans). The werewolves are the real stars of the show, however, with clever A.I. scripting that has them clambering up walls, dodging incoming gunfire and tossing loose items in the environment at you. You also come up against gun-totting human bad guys at several points in the game, though these encounters are hampered by rudimentary A.I. patterns and ho-hum character models. Spark Unlimited clearly spent more time crafting the mythological creatures that you fight (thankfully for the majority of the game) and just tossed in the human baddies as fodder for both you and the rampaging beasties.
Despite the mediocre human character models and a few other niggling graphical hitches like twitchy shadows, disappearing corpses and some sporadic clipping, the overall presentation in Legendary is quite good. Expansive outdoor vistas that give an illusion of a massive game world and excellent creature designs stand out as the most polished aspects of the game’s graphical package – and there were definitely several occasions during the campaign where I actually stopped for a few moments to soak in a particularly striking backdrop or visual effect. Accompanying the solid visuals is some competent voice acting and an absolutely inspired soundtrack that uses ambient guitars and powerful drums to amazing effect. The two guys who crafted the soundtrack – guitarist Jack Grillo and drummer Ricardo Hernandez – are clearly talented musicians, and I look eagerly forward to their next project together – if or when that comes to fruition.
So, Legendary seems to have a lot going for it, right? Well, it does for the most part. But I would be remiss not to mention the game’s biggest weak point – it’s multiplayer. With a handful of rudimentary maps and only one (yes one) game mode, there is absolutely no reason to play this online over other FPS titles such as Resistance 2 or Call of Duty 4. Most gamers seem to share my opinion too, as these days it’s virtually impossible to find anyone to play online over PSN. A lack of any kind of co-op, either split-screen or otherwise, is another glaring flaw and – together with the limited adversarial multiplayer options – seriously hinders the game’s longevity.
Legendary is not a triple-A FPS title. It’s not going to blow Halo 3 or Resistance 2 out of the water or challenge the way we think about genre. It also provides almost no multiplayer value whatsoever. What it will do, however, is allow you blast through ten or so hours of adrenaline-pumping scripted sequences with plenty of impressively rendered mythological beasties. You’ll get to decapitate werewolves with a fire axe and see lumbering griffins tear apart your hapless squad mates. Similar to Predator, Commando and those other great Arnie movies of the ’80s, Legendary provides a lot of stupid fun. And, hey, who doesn’t like some stupid fun once in a while, right?
Seven out of ten
- Awesome premise
- Exquisite creature design and A.I.
- Thoughtful levels driven by entertaining scripted events
- Fantastic soundtrack
- Poor multiplayer options and a dead online community
- Human enemies are uninspired
- Long(ish) load times
- Mandatory 4.1 GB install is a bit much