Legends of Wrestling Preview
We check out Acclaim's all star wrestler on the PlayStation 2.
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Featuring the greatest wrestling superstars of yesterday and today, Legends of Wrestling offers fans of sports entertainment the chance to travel across the United States and perform at house shows in front of a captivated audience, in the hopes of earning a spot in wrestling history. Led by Hulk Hogan, arguably the most popular wrestling icon of all time, the cast includes such greats as Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, George "The Animal" Steele, The Von Erichs, "The Million Dollar Man" Ted Dibiase, The Rock 'n' Roll Express, The Road Warriors, Rob Van Dam, Sabu, The One Man Gang, Bret "The Hitman" Hart, and Terry Funk. We got a chance to recently sample the novel gameplay mechanics, as well as the distinct flavor that separates Legends of Wrestling from the formidable competition.
The most prominent gameplay mode is the season mode, in which you select one of various circuits to tour in the hopes of making the big time. To provide guidance for your chosen grappler on his road to fame, a manager will give you tips and strategies. One of these managers is none other than "The Mouth of the South" Jimmy Hart, with his unmistakable southern charm that rings as loudly as his megaphone. While we didn't hear him dispense any advice in the build we played, he did accompany our wrestler at ringside and came in handy on more than one occasion. For instance, you can ask your manager to distract the ref, allowing you to take a cheap shot at your opponent, with any weapon around ringside.
The weapons in Legends of Wrestling are handled realistically in that the many implements that you'll put out from under the ring can inflict healthy chunks of damage. You'll need all the weapons and dirty tricks available to please the crowd, which is how your performance is scored from show to show. The crowd's enthusiasm is represented onscreen by a meter that increases with each signature move and according to how much variety and violence your match contains. Bloody matches--which result when a wrestler cuts his head open--will net you a bonus, as will the application of complex wrestling combinations.
The combination system used in Legends of Wrestling is a novel one. When a certain type of move is pulled off--like a German suplex, for instance--a meter identical to those used in golfing games quickly flashes beneath your health bar. A correctly timed button press will allow for a chaining of moves, which not only do massive damage but also get the crowd suitably riled up. The same swinging meter is used for the countering system. When a punch is thrown or an advanced standing grapple is attempted, the receiver of punishment has an opportunity to counter--this opportunity is decreased and eventually nullified based on a wrestler's fatigue. Submission moves are also handled nicely--both the receiver and administrator of the maneuver are forced into a button-pressing contest to see how long the move is held. If the receiver is still fresh or beats the attacker in the contest, he will crawl over to the ropes to break the move or perform a counter.
Legends of Wrestling features big, bulky characters, with a look reminiscent of the chunky, plastic, immobile action figures of yesteryear. There's a distinct cartoony look to the character models, which is refreshing in comparison with the ultrarealistic figures in the competition's games. Showmanship and style are apparently more important than technique or ability, as evinced by some of the game's other features. Entering the ring impressively has been turned into a gameplay segment all its own, as you are encouraged to fire off your signature gestures and taunts during your entrance, which can include high-fiving the crowd, pulling off a most-muscular pose, or making obscene gestures.
The current build can still use some work in several key areas. Apparently, not every move has been implemented yet, particularly finishing moves, and there seems to be a noticeable delay between a button press and the corresponding maneuver. However, we've found the new ideas and gameplay mechanics in Legends of Wrestling to be quite interesting and will look forward to playing the final version when it's made available. Developed and published by Acclaim, Legends of Wrestling is scheduled for release on November 30.