When Acclaim released Legends of Wrestling earlier this year, the game offered longtime fans of wrestling the chance to play as some of their favorite old-school grapplers. While not perfect, the game was a step in a different direction, and it appeared to hold quite a bit of promise. For its sequel, Legends of Wrestling 2, Acclaim has built on the original game and crafted a follow-up specifically designed to give fans of the original more of what they want. We had a chance to play a good deal of an early build of Legends of Wrestling 2, which offers improved visuals, a more robust career mode, and a ton of new wrestlers.
Keenly aware that the strongest draw for fans of the original game was its roster, Acclaim has pulled out all the stops for Legends of Wrestling 2. The game now features a significantly updated roster that brings together the most impressive cast of classic wrestling personalities ever assembled, such as Andre The Giant, Bam Bam Bigelow, Bob Backlund, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, Bret "Hitman" Hart, British Bulldog, Rowdy Rowdy Piper, Hulk Hogan, Terry Funk, Big John Studd, Scott Steiner, Owen Hart, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, Bob Backlund, Jerry "The King" Lawler, and even Andy Kaufman. You will find a total of 22 new wrestlers in all that join the entire roster from the original game, with the one exception being Rob Van Dam.
The modes included in the game have seen quite of a few additions as well. You'll now find six- and eight-man elimination matches; cage, battle royal, ladder, and table matches; and even three- and four-way dances. The game also has a tag team tournament mode and a career mode, which has been considerably beefed up and now includes more than a dozen different storylines. You can pick the classic wrestler you want or import your own custom brawler from the game's overhauled create-a-wrestler mode. The character-creation feature lets you make just about any kind of humanoid figure you want, male or female, that knows all about wrestling. Once you've made or chosen your wrestler, you can pick the region you'd like to wrestle in and around. Depending on your region, you'll be dealt a random story scenario. Your manager will then give you a speech about taking you to the top, and you're on your way to the first match.
The gameplay is very similar to last year's game, which had a relatively easy-to-learn combat system that let you execute combos and various types of grapples. This time around Acclaim has included what it calls the ISP system, which lets you pull off one-button reversals and combinations. You still have the timing meter that appears below your character's health meter, which indicates when you should press the button in order to link different moves together. The game already controls and moves fairly well, even in its current state of development, and the gameplay seems a bit faster than last year's game, which is a good thing.
The style of the game's graphics hasn't changed that much since last year, but the level of detail on the character models has certainly improved. As with the previous installment of the game, the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox versions are all comparable to each other graphically. In the game's current state, most of the animation and the bulk of the graphics look to be in place and offer a solid visual package. You can actually see the difference between the original game's character models and Legends of Wrestling 2's just by comparing the screenshots of the wrestlers. You'll see that in Legends of Wrestling 2 the character models have more-realistic definition, which makes their faces, muscles, and costumes much more distinctive from one another. The one thing that definitely stands out when you see the game in motion is that the wrestler animation looks a lot more fluid than it did last year.
There will be some significant changes in the audio department as well. Jimmy Hart will be providing some music for the game, which will include old ring entrance favorites that weren't included in the first Legends of Wrestling. The sound effects and crowd noises are already in place in the build we have, and they sound fairly good.
After playing this preview build of Legends of Wrestling 2, it's clear that Acclaim is putting together a game that's a more refined and feature-packed version of the original. While it looks promising, we'll have to wait to see how the final version of the game comes together before commenting further. It's certainly safe to say that fans of the first Legends of Wrestling should be keeping an eye out for this one when it ships this November.