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Xbox Review - 'Legends Of Wrestling 2'

by Chris "Fozz" Breci on Feb. 27, 2003 @ 12:24 a.m. PST

Using archive ITV footage, Acclaim Studios, Salt Lake has re-created every minute detail giving the game a level of realism and authenticity very rarely witnessed in video games. Character intros, costumes and signature moves have all been added and, just like watching the real thing, the crowd becomes a major part of proceedings as the action heats-up. Hear the crowd chant "Easy, Easy" as Big Daddy launches into his infamous 'Splashdown' or bellowing jeers as Nagasaki wipes out his opponent with his rib-crushing 'Kamikaze Crash'.

Genre: Sport
Publisher: Acclaim
Developer: Acclaim
Release Date: 02-Dec-2002

There are plenty of WWE wrestling games out on the market that boast a lot of gore violence and weapons such as chairs, tables, and other assorted items used for bodily destruction. Truth of the matter is that a lot of people are getting bored with the actual wrestling engines that are used in games like Smackdown!, and even worse, WWE RAW. Legends of Wrestling II is average if not worse than these titles. A lot of the original appeal of this game was that it included some classic wrestlers, like The Iron Sheik, The Rock’s dad Rocky Johnson, and Tony Atlas, however once you get down and dirty with the games engine you learn that it is a really sloppy and boring game that doesn’t stray too far from the whole weapons idea either.

The first couple times one plays Legends of Wrestling II their eyes might be sparkled by the aspect of all the different types of matches you can get into and a whole slew of grapplers to take control of, and at first the game play may strike you as original. The real truth is that Legends of Wrestling II is a very repetitive game, while each wrestler bears a decent amount of moves, the moves don’t tend to differ very much from wrestler to wrestler making career mode worthless after you’ve done it once. Most of the finishing maneuvers are really boring and look mostly like regular moves. The actual system that is used to wrestle is pretty easy to pick up. The controls are initially punch, block, grapple, and special, but from the grapple you can move into a different grapple position and execute grappling moves from that position. For instance you would have to hit Y after you grapple to move into a suplex position and from there you can execute a few different suplex variations. This system is a bit intriguing at first but quickly tires for the player. The reversals are handled with there own bar that starts up at the beginning of the move and requires that you push the button in a small time window, which is realistic but if you get into a grapple with a friend and they reverse, the whole thing can go on for 10 minutes.

The career mode allows you to go through various matches in separate areas of the country to battle for the individual belts that are held per region. Pitting you in many matches, while most will be the same type a very select few of them will be a “special” match. These special matches consist of tag-team matches, cage matches or battle royals. The regular matches can get very repetitive and you tend to fall into a rhythm where you just do a series of moves to finish every match. The designers of this game really were trying to make this game have varying matches by making your success in the business not dependant upon winning or loosing but on crowd appeal where variety in a match determines how well it goes. This idea was embedded in Legends of Wrestling II with good intentions however; it pushes you to just bust out with a routine of moves that repeat every match. Once you have completed your routine and topped off the crowd appeal meter you basically just grab a weapon and start pounding or lay down a finishing maneuver. After each match you get a cinema of the local trainer telling you how good or bad you have done. Once you have attained all the title in all divisions you have beaten career mode and you earn a bunch of coins plus a cinema of the wrestler you have defeated the career mode with. These coins are used to purchase unlockables such as costumes for created characters, arenas, and hidden wrestlers. Somewhere along the road in the career mode you will eventually have to do a six and eight-man tag team match, consisting of either 3 on 3 or 4 on 4. This is where the engine shines through as sloppy and rough around the edges. When a lot of people get in the ring it can be just plain boring. With up to eight people around you at once they can just start hitting you from all angles and leave you disoriented. The way it works is you will only sometimes face the last person who attacked you, so you have to guess whether or not to change the wrestlers view of who he is facing which can be a task in itself because you don’t face the closest person to you when you hit the switch view button, but instead you cycle through every wrestler in order. This leaves you completely defenseless while you’re cycling through the other 6 people in the ring and the guy you need to be facing is carrying a sledgehammer. You can really tell how blocky and uncoordinated the game play is when there is a bunch of people in the ring. The career mode gets extremely boring real quick.

In exhibition mode you can just go ahead and pick various match styles and do a ladder match and go back to back with a cage match and play some of the more interesting match modes, while you can also do the other modes like singles match, tag team, 3 on 3, and 4 on 4, the ladder and cage are the only real fun matches to compete in. In the ladder match it’s a basic “climb the ladder and grab the belt/object hanging in the middle of the ring” match, but of course your first objective is to pound your opponent with the ladder, which can be a sadistically good time. After you have embarrassed your foe by leaping off the top of the ladder and onto their frail, beaten body you casually grab the object hung from the ceiling to win. In a cage match you are surrounded by a gigantic cage, trapped in there with the opponent and the only way to win is to make it out alive. As many of you older wrestling fans, ages 18 and up might recall the old WWF cage matches with the blue steel cages. These cage matches did not isolate the winning exit to be up and over the top, but it had a side door that one could go through should his opponent allow it. Legends of Wrestling II has the side door to go out, but instead of it opening it has its own sort of life bar that decreases every time you strike it or grace it with your enemies head. Once it has been broken open you have to mash the X button to climb out and claim victory.

One of the better things in this game is its roster of wrestlers that are classic. Featuring the immortal Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Andy Kaufman, Bruno Sammartino, and a whole heck of a lot more wrestlers that some of the younger crowd might not recognize. Some of the wrestlers bear their signature moves, but most of them never had a signature move and just got some plain-Jane move slapped into their repertoire. Repeating a lot of the same boring moves that provide no flare or flash from person to person makes the majority of the game seem to go slow and sluggish. There is a serious problem that occurred in both of the Legends of Wrestling titles; they seemed to feel the need to include the entire Von Eric family in these games. Now I understand that they all left their mark on wrestling, but is it necessary to make all of these playable characters if they all do the exact same moves and have the exact same style?
If you’re not in a match you can use the coins you’ve earned in career mode to buy certain items for your collection. These items include unlocked wrestlers that you faced in career mode, textures for created grapplers, new arena’s to right in, special abilities that you can add to your wrestler like always kick out or sadist, which is an extra bloody blood mode, cheats such as slow motion, anti-gravity, and full reversal bar, and the last thing you can spend your coins on is concept art for each wrestler. If you don’t have enough coins to get the object of your affection you can go into Legends of Wrestling II’s gambling mode. This allows you to wager some of your coins in a game of chance to try to win more. I found this to be one of the slowest ways to win money and one of the fastest ways to lose money.

The create-a-wrestler mode allows you to completely customize a wrestler and make him exactly as you envision. You can either assign a move set to your character or you can choose each individual move for your wrestler. When you are designing the body of the wrestler you can choose every little detail from weight to what goes on each individual arm. This mode can take up to an hour to completely finish out an entire wrestler. The main problem that stands with the created wrestler is that you cannot choose a custom track as your theme music. Instead you have to choose from an existing wrestlers music to enter the ring to.
If there is one thing that is solid about this game it is the graphics. The visuals in this game are very sharp and fluid unlike the game play. The visual styling in Legends of Wrestling II is almost a cartoon style that makes the wrestlers look almost like action figures. I think the way they look is very cool and a new way to design the playable characters. They have a smooth glossy look to them and makes for a real good sweat effect. Every good wrestling title has to have two essential effects to go with the game. Effect the first is a wicked blood effect. Legends of Wrestling II packs a stunning blood effect that includes blood on the face of the wrestler and blood stains on the mat. There is no better feeling than you standing above your downed opponent with your hand raised and the mat stained with the blood of your foe. For the most part, the crowd looks cardboard flat and only has two animation poses. Depending on the characters in the match the crowd will hold up signs of each wrestler and there are a few who just hold up random signs. I would like to see a wrestling game work the crowd much like the crowd in NHL Hitz 2002 making each member of the crowd his/her own entity rather than a flat image of a crowd.

There is not much sound to a wrestling game other than the smack of the body hitting the mat and the fist connecting with the flesh. All those sounds that are a must in Legends of Wrestling II were done well. The body crashing into the mat sounds exactly like it does on television and the slap of a body chop makes for a painful noise much like a chair crashing into their head. There is a pretty good soundtrack that comes packaged with the game that is composed of some wicked rock songs. But if you don’t like the taste of music on the game you can take advantage of one of the features I felt were important to keep this game from going to the back of my collection, the custom soundtrack feature. There was always one dream I had for playing a wrestling game and that is to listen to Bodies by Drowning Pool while beating my opponent senseless and bloody. With the custom soundtrack feature you can put in any mix of music you’d like onto this games track list.

The multiplayer is pretty much exactly the same as single player except the reversal sessions can last for tens of minutes at a time. Once the match begins the first person to get a grapple will dominate the entire match. It’s real hard to keep a friends interest in this games multiplayer other than spending entirely too long creating a wrestler and using him. A cage match or two is about the most fun you can have in this game and it really only holds your attention span for about 20 minutes and not a second longer.

Putting this entire game into perspective, it is repetitive and can get boring and aggravating very quickly. The engine is pretty hit-miss when there are more than two people in the ring and when it is only one on one combat it’s extremely boring. The stylish graphics and custom soundtracks are not enough to carry the game. Truth of the matter is that this game falls into the void with the majority of wrestling games that are out these days and is just as worn out as Smackdown! The ideal wrestling game could be done with the No Mercy engine, up the graphics to next-gen quality, and update the roster, but many wrestling games have been too concerned with snazzy graphics to remember that important little detail called game play and Lends of Wrestling II is no different.

Score : 5.2 / 10

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