STAFF REVIEW of WWE Legends of Wrestlemania (Xbox 360)

Friday, March 20, 2009.
by Rick Wallace

WWE Legends of Wrestlemania Box art The topic of the day at the school cafeteria lunch table was always the latest ongoing feud in the WWF (now known as the WWE). We were all teenagers arguing as to whether wrestling was real or fake. Or maybe the argument was whether the blood was real or even that they used razor blades hidden in their mouth to cut themselves open. There were Hogan fans, Slaughter fans, 4 horseman fans, and honestly too many different fan bases to even mention. But one thing we all had in common was that we loved wrestling. And the WWF was right up there with Star Wars and Indiana Jones when it came to important things in our adolescent lives.

Well, here we are some 20 years later and Wrestlemania is celebrating its 25th anniversary. So why not a better time to introduce a new wrestling title to the world, especially one that is based upon the legends we grew up with and worshipped at times. THQ brings us WWE Legends of Wrestlemania, so let the nostalgia begin! One thing that I have to mention right off the bat is that this game is completely separate from the Smackdown vs Raw series and literally does not have much in common other than the WWE license and the ability to import the entire SVR 2009 roster. The SVR team is continuing work on SVR 2010 and that has never ceased during the development of Legends. Those worried that the control scheme for Legends will be carried over to SVR 2010 can put that worry to rest. I can?t stress this enough that the 2 games are completely separate, so keep this in mind as the review goes on. Don't make the mistake of comparing the 2 titles.

I am going to get right down to it. Legends of Wrestlemania is an outstanding title and accomplishes so much with the simplest features and controls schemes you will find in a game since the early days of video games. You?ll be treated to more than 40 WWE Legends and managers whom have played key roles in Wrestlemania?s 1 through 15. The simplistic approach to the game and the full legendary roster quite simply add up to a super nostalgic title that in every way will have you reminiscing about days gone by. And for those that aren?t of the time period the game is focused on, there is plenty of unique WWE video footage to bring you up to par on why these matches took place and why these legendary Wrestlers were at odds in a rivalry. Some video footage has not even appeared on any official WWE DVD's and is exclusive only to the game. So whether you are an old fogey like me or just a fan of wrestling, you will definitely find this game enjoyable from the moment you fire it up on your 360.

So let?s discuss the visuals of this game a bit. You will immediately notice that the character models are very well done and have a super hero like appearance to them. The larger than life appearance was completely intentional and represents a heroic or almost iconic stature for each and every Legend. So yeah, even King Kong Bundy and Dusty Rhodes actually have some muscle tone to their bodies which may not have been so evident in real life. You will be quick to notice that all of the wrestlers have their signature moves and even taunts which you have seen them do in real life. I?ll get into the taunt feature a little later in the review with a specific example that I thought was absolutely hilarious.

Each and every Wrestlemania venue including Caesar?s Palace in Las Vegas, NV which was outside and the home of Wrestlemania 9. Fans will be wearing wrestler related T-Shirts and holding up signs as you see at every WWE event. They will even react to the heel and hero in every match in a positive or negative way. Each member of the crowd reacts independently, and while it?s not one of the greatest crowds in video game history it serves its purpose well. The entrance overlays for each and every wrestler are specific to the time period and Wrestlemania TV graphics which once again is just one of those little things that makes this game so great in subtle ways.

The animations in the game are completely built from scratch as well as the character models. Even the character models that you import in from SVR 2009 look great. They will look exactly as they would in the SVR game. Your created superstars can be imported and will look exactly as they would in your SVR 2009 game. All the imported characters will adopt the legends control scheme.

When it comes to the sound department, all the sounds are on par with what you would expect. You?ll hear all the original entrance music for all the Legends. JR and Jerry Lawler will give you all the play by play and color commentary with lots of tidbits of little known information for you to absorb. Of course due to obvious reasons such as a few wrestlers passing away, voiceovers are not included in the game. While it would have been cool to hear Hogan and Andre jawing it up prior to their big match, it obviously wasn?t possible. So again, there is no way to really fault the game or developers for leaving something like this out.

Gameplay is the one thing that folks will love or hate. I personally think that the simplistic control feature is ingenious and makes this game even more nostalgic than the content that it contains. You?ll use only the left stick and the four face buttons on your controller to perform all your basic maneuvers, finishers and taunts. We?re talking old school here people. And remember, this game is not a sister product of the SVR series so there is no reason to complain about them changing a control system. The SVR control system was never a thought to even be used. The game accomplishes perfectly what it sets out to do from the beginning with this control scheme and that is to give a retro feel to the game. One which all of us old fogeys are accustomed to from the old Nintendo and arcade days. Simple is great. Your X button is your strike button. Y is your block or defend button. A is your grapple button and B allows you to run, climb the ropes, get out of the ring and pick up objects. Some button combos will also perform actions such as taunts and finishers. Simple! And it?s fantastic.

There are chain combos throughout the game that pit wrestler against wrestler in a race to press the correct button to chain a combo or carry out a finisher. If you nail all of the buttons in order you?ll lay heavy damage down on your opponent. But if your opponent hits one of the buttons before you do they?ll either break up the combo or counter it with their own hold or attack. Again, it?s very simple and basic and truly is almost like a gunfight at noon and whoever is the quickest to draw wins the fight. Finishers will require you to hit a button sequence as well to complete the full move set. Miss one and you will not pull off your complete finisher.

As you compete in a match your wrestler has 3 levels of aggression. Of course he starts out at level 1 and with each hit and maneuver performed on your opponent you?ll increase meter that shows how close you are to leveling up. To perform a finishing signature move you must have your wrestler at level 3 and hit the button combo when prompted. You stamina bar is also located on the meter and will increase with some maneuvers and taunts as well as decrease with each hit you take. You can also gain power ups by using taunts such as increased speed. These power up usually only last about 10 seconds or so. Speaking of taunts, as I mentioned I just wanted address something I thought was hilarious. It was Wrestlemania 15 which is Stone Cold versus the Rock. I was Stone Cold and put the Rock down on the mat. So I used a taunt to power up and to my surprise I see Austin flip Rock 2 middle fingers! Wow! I literally laughed out loud at this. In the background I hear Jerry Lawler yelling to JR, ?JR! I think Austin is telling the Rock he is number one!!!? Classic stuff and figured I would throw it out there for you.

One other thing that needs to be mentioned pertaining to gameplay is the interaction of the managers. While you do not have control over managers, they will interact in the matches just as they do in real life. Jimmy hart will scream into his megaphone, or maybe Mr. Fuji will blow chalk into your face. How about Paul Bearer raising the Undertakers urn and somehow having power over the opponent? Or maybe you?ll enjoy Bobby Henan standing on the ringside screaming at you. What is great about this is that when these managers interfere your wrestler will become distracted and turn his attention toward the manager. At this point, you will be locked into an animation that allows your opponent to come up from behind and lay some smack down on you. You?ll see it coming, but you will be helpless. What a great feature!!! The managers tend to interfere when their wrestler is taking a beating and they try to help out their wrestler gain an advantage. No worried, your manager, if you have one, will do the same for you.

When it comes to game modes, there is a bit of variety here but some will think it comes up a little short in this mode. I have to once again say that simple is better with this game. The game modes are as follows: Exhibition, Wrestlemania Tour mode, Legend Killer and Online Multiplayer. With exhibition you?ll be able to put wrestlers of your choice against one another in any type of match. This includes using SVR imported wrestlers versus legends. There are 11 differnet match types to choose from, which you'll have to unlock.In Wrestlemania Tour Mode you?ll get to Relive, Redefine and Rewrite matches from Wrestlemania history. Again all the matches are taken from Wrestlemania 1 through 15. I?ll get into those specific modes in a minute. Legend Killer mode is basically a 10 man gauntlet style tournament. Your goal is to take a created legend or SVR created superstar through 10 consecutive matches to become a new ultimate legend. Your created wrestler will lose stamina with each match the longer each matches go, so your goal is to end each match as quickly as possible to conserve stamina. You?ll also gain experience points (EXP) that can be used to increase the attributes of your wrestler. EXP is gained by performing certain objectives in each match. There are a few different level teirs in this mode which adds some depth and difficulty.

The Wrestlemania Tour Mode is the bread and butter of this title. As I stated you?ll have 3 modes in Tour Mode. In the Relive mode you will try to replicate the match and the events that took place during the match. You will play as the winner of the match in this mode. When playing the Rewrite mode you will play as the loser of the real life match and try to rewrite history by winning the match. Finally in the Redefine mode, you have the chance to re-imagine some of the biggest matches in Wrestlemania history. You can set the conditions of each match to redefine history. Each and everyone one of the modes is unique and will contain objectives for each match that are used to unlock match types and new movie montages to view.

Online play allows for up to 4 players to compete online. You can have one versus one matches, or 2 versus 2 matches. You?ll be able to choose player matches or ranked matches and be able to view leader boards which rank you according to your points you earn from ranked matches. From what I experienced, the game played smooth online with very little to no lag. Now keep in mind there are not a whole lot of people online at this time. Now the online isn't as extensive as one would hope, but it gets the job done.

When it all boils down to it there really isn?t much bad to say about the game. Sure it could be a little more in depth with its game modes and features ins ome areas. A few more Tour Mode matches would have been great as well as quite a few wrestlers added into the roster that are missing but deserve to be there. I have a feeling we?ll see some of this via downloadable content. The game plays very good and it has decent collision detection as well as a great nostalgic atmosphere. A lot of the younger generation will probably shrug this one off and wait for SVR 2010 since they can?t really appreciate what this game brings to the table for us old school gamers. As I played the game I go chills up my spine from all the great memories that just came up one after another. I could remember where I was and who I was talking to about these matches as a kid when they happened. Not many games can do that. But I have to say, even if you are a younger generation wrestling fan, you should definitely check this title out and give it a run. There is so much fun to b had with it and you truly will miss out on a great game if you wait for SVR 2010.

I could go on and on about all the minute details and features in this game, but that would end up being another 20 paragraphs. So let?s just stop right here and say, this is a must have for any wrestling fan. Do not let this one pass you by. Great roster, graphics, music, movies and game modes will have many of us playing this off and on for months to come. Some may feel the control system does not give them much control but I beg to differ. It works well for what this game is and intends to do. The more you play it the better it becomes. Folks may even say its a bit clunky, and I guess at times it can be, but what control system for any game doesn't have its downside. Even top teir games have control issues that folks don't like. If you go into this game with an open mind and realize it has no association with SVR then you should love it.

Definitely give us some more matches for Tour Mode along with a whole slew of Legends Wrestler Packs via Marketplace. Thats pretty much a no brainer. Maybe even add some newer matches from more recent Wrestlemania;s along with those new wrestlers. I am sure that may be where the next game is headed, but you got the full package right with this game, why not use it. Would also love to see some Wrestlemania or Tournament modes online for folks to compete in.

Overall: 8.4 / 10
Gameplay: 8.2 / 10
Visuals: 8.7 / 10
Sound: 8.5 / 10


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