I think I finally answered the age old question that wrestling fans have been asked many MANY times over the years well sort of. The answer to Whatcha gonna do brother when Hulkamania runs wild on you? is simple. If that very question is posed to you and it has anything to do with Showdown: Legends of Wrestling you do nothing but ignore it. In fact, ignore the game; pretend they didnt release the third instalment of this mediocre franchise. Yes, Showdown is that bad. The game play is not fun, the graphics are poor and the sound and commentary are terrible. The only thing enjoyable about this game is the nostalgia factor.
Anyone who grew up watching the likes of the aforementioned Hulkster, Greg The Hammer Valentine, The American Dream Dusty Rhodes or Randy Macho Man Savage will get a kick, albeit a very brief one, out of seeing their heroes of yesteryear in the game. When I first cracked the game open I eagerly cycled through these superstars to see who was included in the game. For me there were some notable exceptions like Don The Rock Muraco and Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff but given that this is the third chapter in the series its understandable that the roster will change.
The story hasnt really changed much since the first two instalments. Basically its the tired old tale of choosing your wrestler and fighting your way to the top. You will start in small arenas wrestling in front of what basically amounts to your closest family and friends, there are that many people in attendance. However, the more matches you win, the bigger the crowds become. With each growing audience you will unlock classic arenas that had deep roots in wrestling back in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Arenas such as the Cow Palace, the Spectrum in Philadelphia and even the Skydome. As you have unlock these arenas you also unlock various match types though most are available at the start of the game. You can participate in a variety of matches including Table, First Blood, Iron Man, Ladder, Cage, Battle Royale and more. As you fight along the career mode you dont really have much choice as to which matches you wrestle in.
When wrestling in the career mode, the one area you do have a lot of creative control over is that of the create-a-legend feature should you choose not fight with an established legend. This was the only bit of fun I actually had with this game. I tried to recreate the Ugandan Headhunter Kamala. The creation options are pretty deep allowing you to change body, skin colour, tattoos, attire and more. For those who may not remember Kamala, he was a big fat guy with two stars and a moon painted on his belly. He also had black and white face paint. Thanks to the many options available in each category I was able to recreate Kamala. There was just one little problem. Kamala had more right angels and corners than a game of Tetris! You really notice the lack of polygons when you are adjusting the weight of the wrestler. There are so many rough edges and corners and it just looks terrible. I even noticed this when adjusting the shape of the face. Talk about disappointing, a lack of polish of this magnitude is inexcusable.
The in-game graphics on the wrestlers are decent but not great. The wrestler likenesses are vague but decent, depending on the wrestler you choose. When taking someone like Bret Hitman Hart I found his digital replication to be fairly accurate but when I wrestled against Diamond Dallas Page (DDP) I thought he more closely resembled a cinderblock with eyes and bad hair than he did his actual self. Yes, he looked that bad. Its just that when its the third instalment of a series the characters should look a lot cleaner. These rough graphics lead me to believe that for whatever reason the game was rushed out. Maybe the peeps at Acclaim knew they were going under so they said, well, lets just put whats finished out and hope it sells 1000 copies so I can get my last paycheck. The game just does not seem complete.
Case in point, when I went through the career mode I fought my way up to the championship match. I dont even remember whom I fought, thats how unimpressed I was but whatever. I wont regale the entire match with Gorilla Monsoon-esqe commentary but the bottom line was I won. Awesome I thought, fully expecting a cool cut scene to celebrate my win. Yeah, no, didnt happen. Instead I get some drab line of text saying congratulations or some junk like that and then it was on to the next match. Im sure there was supposed to be a cut scene but it was removed just to get the game out. Terrible just terrible.
What wasnt too bad was the controls. For a wrestling game, they were surprisingly decent, especially when it came to the finishing moves. To get to that point though you had to ware your opponent down. You could do this regular way or the cheesy way. The regular way would be to hook up with your opponent and then perform moves, a body slam, neck breaker, bulldog, doesnt matter. When you have knocked them to the canvass a listing of buttons will pop up allowing you to kick your downed foe or apply some kind of stamina draining hold. Thats the way the wrestling aficionado would do it. The cheese way saves time though and I did resort to this just to see that cut scene that never was. For the cheesy way, just punch your opponent down to nothing. The AI is so bad that it doesnt catch on or adjust to your style. Your foe will just stand there and take punches to the face. The good thing about that is you can end a match quick.
What better way to end a match than a finishing move? As mentioned they are very easy to do. The only problem is each wrestler has more than one so you will have to learn the correct pattern for the move you want. I say pattern but really its clicking in the right thumb stick and moving that right thumb stick in a direction. It took me a couple of matches before I figured out how to do the Macho Mans patented flying elbow of the top rope. I know in other wrestling games I have played, the finishing move can be hard to execute.
Despite the easy to use finishing moves and the create-a-legend feature, this is still a really bad game. Instead of rushing this one to print they should have held it back. Its too bad too because the potential was there. Hopefully THQ will pick up the license and give it the treatment it rightfully deserves.