Showdown: Legends of Wrestling E3 2004 Hands-On

We go one-on-one with Acclaim's upcoming wrestler in the squared-circle of E3 2004.

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At E3 2004, we took the opportunity to get up close and personal with Showdown: Legends of Wrestling. In this third installment of Acclaim's Legends of Wrestling series, the company is looking to expand on what was appealing about the original games (i.e. the number of classic wrestlers featured) and fix what wasn't (i.e. the gameplay system). After spending some time playing with Showdown, we definitely feel like the product has improved.

Showdown: Legends of Wrestling features more than 73 wrestlers. At a glance, the game looks like something that might have been a licensed WWF game from the late '80s, since it includes such marquee names as Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, "Macho Man" Randy Savage, The British Bulldog, The Nasty Boys, and so on and so forth. The list even goes so far as to include slightly more-obscure classic grapplers that only true wrestling enthusiasts would actually appreciate, like Don Muraco, Greg Valentine, and Mil Mascaras. The roster itself is pretty much a classic wrestling fan's dream, so it should provide you with plenty of match variety.

We took in a couple of matches during our demo and got a pretty good feel for how the game's wrestling mechanics work. Essentially, your wrestler has basic strike, grapple, run, and action buttons available. The action button only seems to come into play in specific situations, and it lets you perform specialized moves for each wrestler. Each wrestler has a few different grappling moves. Though it isn't quite as deep a grappling system as found in most other wrestling games out there, there seems to be a pretty good variety of moves. The controls feel a little off in some places, so hopefully they're still being tweaked.

Graphically, the game is looking like a major improvement over previous Legends of Wrestling games. The wrestler models are a big upgrade over previous titles, with significantly better body builds and skin textures and a nice level of realistic-looking perspiration covering them. Animations for each type of move, as well as the transitional animations between movements, look significantly better, despite still being a smidge stiff in some places. The game's ring entrances are also looking pretty great. The Ultimate Warrior, for example, will run in and shake the ropes in classic fashion, and Mil Mascaras will enter with his traditional headdress. Though we weren't able to hear too much of the game's commentary over the din of the show, former WCW announcers Tony Schiovane, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, and Larry Zbysko will provide play-by-play for the game.

Showdown: Legends of Wrestling is looking good, and provided some kinks can be ironed out, it should prove to be the first truly enjoyable entry in the series. Currently, the game is set to ship next month for the PS2 and Xbox. We'll have more on the game as its release draws nearer.

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