Showdown: Legends of Wrestling Preview

Acclaim's third entry in its fledgling franchise aims to improve on its predecessors.

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Showdown: Legends of Wrestling
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Acclaim's Legends of Wrestling franchise has had a rather shaky start to life with two entries that haven't lived up to the potential of the series' premise. Although, to be fair, any game that tries to pull together some of the most memorable wrestling personalities of the past decade into one game has an awful lot to live up to. The first two entries in the series benefited from a virtual who's who of wrestlers that were drawn from some of the most memorable eras of the sport, but, unfortunately, these entries stumbled in their executions due to weak gameplay. For the third entry in the series, Acclaim's Austin studio has consolidated its staff with the Salt Lake studio, which worked on the previous games, and together they're doing quite a bit of work on every aspect of the game in hopes that the third time will be the charm for the promising franchise.

Showdown: Legends of Wrestling is the latest entry in Acclaim's promising wrestling franchise.
Showdown: Legends of Wrestling is the latest entry in Acclaim's promising wrestling franchise.

While Acclaim is keeping pretty quiet about the make up of the game's roster, so far they've announced the inclusion of such old-school wrestling favorites as Ultimate Warrior, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, and "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes. Additionally, Bret "The Hitman" Hart will be on hand to offer a wrestling tutorial.

Expect to find more than 70 wrestlers in the game, including returning favorites from the previous installments. This time out, the exaggerated art style used for the various wrestlers has been tweaked to maintain the larger-than-life look used in the earlier games, but it offers a less cartoony appearance. As for the venues in the game, you can expect to see all-new classic venues to fight in. The overall presentation will also have an extra layer of polish, thanks to cutscenes that have a distinct television broadcast look.

While the improved visuals are nice to see, the bulk of the work being done to the game is focused on its gameplay. The flawed core gameplay mechanics from the previous offerings are being replaced with a new system that the Austin team hopes will offer a better experience. A new three-button control system, dubbed "ready to brawl" control, is being implemented to keep the action moving along at a decent clip.

The game's controls have been overhauled to make the moves more accessible.
The game's controls have been overhauled to make the moves more accessible.

The game will feature several different modes to play in and will also feature a tweaked career mode. Some of the match types include the descriptively named table, first blood, ladder, cage, battle royal, six and eight man elimination bouts, handicap, and three- and four-way dances. The career mode has been tweaked to include a number of factors that will affect your progression. The chronological era (there will be tracks for decades up to the '90s), feuds with other wrestlers, and your performance in matches will all shape how you go through the mode.

The game's audio is being packed with some nice touches to lend a bit of authenticity to the experience. In addition to Brett Hart providing the tutorial audio, the theme music is being composed by "Mouth of the South" Jimmy Hart. You'll also hear two-man commentary by Bobby "The Brain" Heenan and Tony Schiavone.

The game's graphics are shaping up rather nicely.
The game's graphics are shaping up rather nicely.

Showdown: Legends of Wrestling is shaping up to be an ambitious overhaul of the series that we're hoping will get the franchise on the right track. The new rosters, improved gameplay, and additional features all bode well for the series. Hopefully the team will be able to tie things together and can serve up a game that meets expectations. Showdown: Legends of Wrestling is currently slated to ship this April for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox.

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