Legends of Wrestling was released in December of 2001 for the Sony PlayStation 2. LoW was developed and published by Acclaim. Interestingly enough, the Acclaim development team that handled the duties for this game, did not develop any of the previous Acclaim wrestling games. This game runs on a new engine developed from the ground up. This game features, as you might expect, some of the biggest legends to ever grace a wrestling ring. Wrestlers like Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, Jerry “The King” Lawler, Bret “The Hitman” Hart, and Terry Funk join the cast of sports entertainers such as “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan, “The Birdman” Koko B. Ware, George “The Animal” Steele, “The Superstar” Billy Graham, and “The Rock” Don Muraco, just to name a few. Aside from the legendary singles stars, legendary tag teams such as “The Legion of Doom” The Road Warriors, and The Rock N’ Roll Express join the fray. The first family of professional wrestling, the Von Erichs, are featured in this game in all of their glory. Each and every male Von Erich is featured in the game, giving fans of World Class Wrestling a game they can be proud of. LoW also features some of wrestling’s brightest stars, men like “Mr. Pay-Per-View” Rob Van Dam, and “The Homicidal, Suicidal, and Genocidal” Sabu join the fray. Thanks to its broad wrestler roster that encompasses so many types of wrestling across different generations, LoW allows you to recreate classic matches of the past, or create dream matches for the future. LoW’s gameplay is accomplished with one of the finest wrestling game engines I’ve yet experienced. The engine allows for smooth transitional moves that haven’t been seen before in any wrestling game. The game uses a rather unique timing-based countering sequence that makes these smooth transitions possible. In order to counter a move, you’ll have to hit a button at just the right time in an effort to elicit the counter that you want. Pressing it too early for say, a piledriver, could result in you just backdropping your opponent, while pressing it at the right time could result in your snatching your opponent up in a cradle. This countering system is all about timing, so be on your toes. The gameplay doesn’t stop with the transitions, oh no, there’s a host of other gameplay facets in the game. The game’s coup de grace is the revolutionary career mode. This mode takes wrestling back to the days before Vince McMahon Jr. made professional wrestling a national pastime, back to the days when regional organizations ruled the roost. Each region, just like in the game, was separated into territories. The promoters in the territories would agree to unify championships so a wrestler could make a name for himself, and so they could make a ton of money. The career mode does an amazing job at replicating the scope of regional wrestling. It not only encompasses the United States regional wrestling scene, but the international wrestling scene as well. There’s the Northeast region, with its territories being New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia, the home of ECW. The Southwest region is made up of: Dallas, the stomping grounds of the legendary Von Erichs, Las Vegas, and Phoenix. The Midwest region is home to: Minneapolis, the home of “Ravishing” Rick Rude, Larry “The Ax” Hennig, his son, Curt Hennig, “Double A” Arn Anderson, and Jesse “The Body” Ventura; Chicago, the home of the legendary Road Warriors, and St. Louis. The Pacific region is made up of: Seattle; home of Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, San Francisco, and Portland. The Southeast region is made up of: Jacksonville, Memphis, home of Jerry “The King” Lawler, and the birthplace of some of wrestling’s most memorable feuds, and Atlant a, the former home of WCW. The United States region encompasses all of the previous regional cities. Finally, there’s the World region. This region is made up of: Tokyo, Japan, the home of some of Japan’s most legendary matches, Montreal, Canada, where some of wrestling biggest legends made their names, and Mexico City, Mexico, where Mexico’s greatest legend, Mil Mascaras, ruled the roost for decades. Now that the historical aspect of this mode is out of the way, it’s time to tell you how the mode works. In this mode, you will go from territory to territory, and, when you conquer each territory, you will have a match for that region’s championship. After you win the championship in one region, you move to another region, unify that region’s championship, and then do it again, until you unify all of the regional championships to crown the undisputed World’s Heavyweight Champion. Throughout your career, you will receive advice from either “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart, or “The Manager of Champions” Captain Lou Albano, depending on which character you choose. This feature adds a touch of realism to the game. Throughout your career, your manager will interfere in your matches in an effort to increase your chances of victory, of course, just like in real-life, this can backfire. I really love this feature because it harkens back to the days when managers really could make a difference in a match, when they actually meant something to the matches. On top of these great features, the career mode really feels like you’re progressing through a career. In an effort to give each region its own look and feel, Acclaim has given each of them their own arena that showcases some of the sights and sounds of that region, while also giving you a glimpse at the importance of the match being held inside of it. For example, the Northeast arena is elaborate, much like New York’s fabled Madison Sq uare Garden, wrestling in this arena gives you a sense of accomplishment. The World arena is even more elaborate, it features a mind-boggling set, and lets you know that you’ve truly arrived in the big time. Legends of Wrestling features a thorough Create-a-Legend mode. This mode enables you to create legends of your very own. The mode is rather thorough in the moves department. It’s broken down into 10 styles, with each style feature some overlapping moves so you can create a wrestler that uses a little bit from a certian style, and a lot from another. The amount of moves in this mode are staggering. There are copious amounts of old-school moves, with just as many newer moves included so you can create some of the more current wrestlers in the wrestling world. The controls in the game are the best I’ve ever experienced in a wrestling game. The control scheme is set up brilliantly, it’s very intuitive and doesn’t obstruct the gameplay. The control does have a more methodical response time than most wrestling games, this perfectly suits the old-school style of the game engine. It does a great job of complimenting the speed of the game, as well as the wrestlers within it. The graphics in LoW are in a league of their own. The characters all have a larger than life look to them that gives them a certain timeless quality. The character models feature just the right amount of details, the outfits are spot-on, so much so that you’ll be able to make out each and every heart on the tights of Bret “The Hitman” Hart In an effort to maintain the timeless look of the wrestlers, the faces and bodies of the wrestlers lack details that might harm the timelessness of the wrestlers, such as wrinkles and scars. The character models almost resemble action figures in this sense, and that’s a great quality in my book. The animation in the game is simply unbelievable. Every single maneuver in the game is p acked with animation, from the smallest punch, to the most elaborate Van Damninator. The selling in the game benefits greatly from this endless stream of animation. The characters react with more realism than ever before. Say you give someone a suplex, if another character is too close to the wrestlers involved with the suplex, he will be knocked down after they hit the ground. This is just one example of the thorough animation in the game, there are dozens more, to say the very least. The sound in Legends of Wrestling is, for the most part, great. The theme music is about as good as could be expected given the copyright restrictions that are placed on the themes of about 90% of the wrestlers. The original themes for the wrestlers fit the characters pretty well, except for the theme of Rick Martel, which sounds like it came from a honky tonk bar. There is some usage of sound-alike themes in the game. Rob Van Dam features a song that is amazingly close to “Walk”, his ECW theme, and the Road Warriors feature an “Ironman” sound-alike that mimics their Black Sabbath NWA theme music. The sound effects are another aural highlight. The sound effects for the punches and kicks have a unique sound to them, the same goes for the game’s mass amount of weapons. All of which have their own sound effect. The black eye on the sound comes from the in-game music. This music is about as generic as I’ve ever heard, and it does nothing to add to the feel of the game. Thankfully, it doesn’t really take away from the experience. The replay value of the game is sky high. The career mode will keep you glued to the game for as long as you let it. If you allow the historical aspects of the mode to sink into your brain, like I did, you’ll never get tired of it. The game’s immense roster covers pretty much every wrestler that could legally be put into the game. Legends like Ric Flair and Arn Anderson would have been impos sible because those men had existing contractual obligations that would make them unable to be legally placed in the game. Rest assured, Acclaim did the best they could. The roster spans generations and will keep fans old and new glued to the game. If there’s a wrestler that isn’t in the game, like the aforementioned Ric Flair and Arn Anderson, you can make them in the game’s in-depth Create-a-Legend mode. This mode is made all the more realistic by the fact that you can give the character a first and last name that will be called out by the ring announcer, you can choose from a ton of both, first, and last names, both lists feature quite a few legendary names that you can place together to get a perfect name. Names such as “Ric Flair” can be done via this mode, as well as many, many others. Acclaim is lucky if they don’t get sued because quite of a few of the name combinations come out to being the names of current WWF superstars, besides Flair. Nonetheless, I really appreciate that they went the extra mile for their fans. Overall, Legends of Wrestling is one of the finest wrestling games I’ve ever played. The game’s amazing career mode and super-smooth gameplay engine make the game a joy to play. The game’s control is bliss, the graphics are unique, and the sound is, for the most part, great. The replay value is through the roof thanks to the career mode, and the in-depth Create-a-Legend mode that might be a bit too in-depth for Acclaim’s own good.
The Rock, Chris Jericho, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Rob Van Dam, The Undertaker, Kane – all of these are men you might associate with wrestling, but are any of them really legends? According to Acclaim one of these men is a legend, but it isn’t The Undertaker – a man who’s been in the WWF for over 10 years, it isn’t The Rock or Steve Austin – two of the biggest names in wrestling, and it isn’t the undisputed champion of the world Chris Jericho, it is in fact (all join in now) Rob Van Dam. One can only presume that when making this game RVD was in ECW, as he certainly isn’t a legend compared to all the WWF greats of this day. The title legends of wrestling would suggest it was legends from all over the place; what it really should be called is Legends Of The WWF, or even better American Legends Of Wrestling, for you wont find any legends of the good old British sport. Acclaim have made several successful wrestling games before such as WWF Warzone, and WWF Attitude; let’s just hope they can keep up the good work with this latest wrestling title and not make a mess out of it such as ECW: Hardcore Revolution. GRAPHICS Visually Legends Of Wrestling is a nice game. Chunky wrestlers, an equally chunky referee, and 3D fans surround the ring. Bars at the top display the condition of your wrestler, and occasionally captions such as “knock out” appear on the screen in true cartoon style. It is hard to distinguish whether Legends Of Wrestling is trying to be an arcade game or a simulation; the gameplay is methodical and old school style but the graphics are just so cartoon-like. Captions involving weapons and light blood coming off of wrestlers remind one of the days when channel 5 used captions such as “splat”, and “kaboom” in an attempt to censor WCW; that proved awful but the captions in Legends Of Wrestling luckily don’t spoil the fun. Each individual wrestler is easily identifiable due to the look, and attire, although one can’t help but think they haven’t put as much attention to detail on the actual faces or unique markings of the character as WWF Smackdown 3 has. Like Smackdown 3 angles change views when high moves are executed in a bid to make it appear like the real thing on TV, however a very unusual touch for a wrestling game is when a very powerful move is executed the action stops for about five seconds, the camera spins around and then the move is hit – true matrix style. I wouldn’t say this effect makes the game better than Smackdown but it certainly makes the game interesting so to speak. Blood is very poor in Legends Of Wrestling; it appears that the developers have just put a thick felt tip pen on the head and left it at that. Perhaps Acclaim were just trying to make it as fake as the real thing? Who knows? One thing is sure though, and that is it does not look convincing. Overall the general presentation of the game is nice, with bright menus, chunky wrestlers, and a surprising well-done crowd. 16/20 SOUND With Smackdown 3 we made the criticism that the commentary let the game down, and with Legends Of Wrestling there is no commentary; one can’t help but wonder how great it would have been with legendary commentators such as; Vince McMahon, Bobby The Brain Heenan, and JR. Then again to get three men like that in to commentate would have cost serious money. Instead of commentary the gamer has some very poor background music, thuds, cheers, and general grunts. Entrance music is played when wrestlers come out but unfortunately it is not the official theme, giving Legends Of Wrestling an almost fake feel to it – at least they tried. The sound is by no means anything special, but it just about gets the job done. Atmospheric? I think not. 10/20 GAMEPLAY There are no table, hell in a cell, TLC, hardcore, ladder, royal rumble, casket, sl obberknocker, cage, or battle royal matches. All in all things don’t sound good. However on the positive side there is; Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, Jimmy Snuka, George “The Animal” Steele, Koko B Ware, and a whole host of other wrestlers including hardcore specialists RVD, Terry Funk, and Sabu. As this game is titled Legends Of Wrestling it is not surprising that the matches are old school; this game is about good old traditional wrestling; the early days of Superstar Billy Graham. The matches available are; 1 on 1, three-way dance, four way dance, and tag. Not a great deal but considering there is the option to play as referee, and use weapons it isn’t quite as old school as one would initially think. When in a match the pace is slow and the moves are limited. Legends Of Wrestling is quite the opposite of Smackdown 3. Instead of being fast paced with a wide variety of moves Legends Of Wrestling takes you back to the days of slow paced fights. Although the moves are limited the ability to use weapons definitely knocks the entertainment up a notch or two. Another great feature is the managers; with Smackdown 3 managers would run into the ring or assault from outside; with Legends Of Wrestling we have managers acting exactly how managers should act, getting on the apron and distracting the referee so he doesn’t see the pinning predicament. If you want to play tactfully then managers can influence the match a lot, but if you are just going for a lot of well-timed button bashing then managers aren’t really going to help. There is the option to create your own wrestler but unfortunately this is not as good as Smackdown’s despite Acclaim genuinely trying. If you can make a decent wrestler then go for it but if you want a more accurate create a wrestler program then use Smackdown 3 a program that can accurately create Tommy Dreamer, Rob Van Dam, and Sabu – trust us we have tried. Gameplay is fun while it lasts but sadly it just isn’t as big, or sophisticated as Smackdown 3: Just Bring It. 15/25 LIFESPAN Career, and tournament mode should last you a while and are a lot longer than Smackdown 3’s abysmal story mode. Again the lack of features, and matches means that once completed the game wont last you too long; renting it out would be a good idea, but if you want a more worthwhile investment go for Smackdown 3. 17/25 ORIGINALITY There has never actually been a wrestling game that has put out a wrestling game with legends from various decades. Acclaim are definitely onto something with this idea but a few more modes, and in-depth story mode that didn’t feel repetitive would be better next time. As for innovative new matches, it isn’t going to happen here, as this is strictly old school. 5/10 OVERALL Legends Of Wrestling brings a new idea to the wrestling genre but unfortunately it fails to impress fans of pure fighting. For all you wrestling fans out there who remember the old times this is definitely worth a gander – just don’t expect it to be as action-packed as Smackdown 3. 63%