The first game in this series was frowned upon by gaming fans, its lack of longevity, awful game play and cartoon style graphics made the game a non contender to the success of the WWE wrestling titles. Following this we appropriately got the sequel, which again proved to be lacking in many departments, this frustrated many a wrestling gaming fan, including me. But now, Acclaim have the chance to right its wrongs of past wrestling games, with Showdown Legends of Wrestling. Have they managed to do it? Find out!
For anyone who hasn’t played the past Legends of Wrestling games, its fair to say they were pretty bad, the graphics were horrid, the game play was bad, and there wasn’t really any longevity in either of the games. So, with a list of problems as long as your arm, Acclaim had a fair old job trying to sort some of them out for this new game, if they didn’t there would be plenty of disappointed fans about.
Myself, being the eternal optimist, I was hoping that Acclaim would sort some of these problems out, and during the month before the release of this game, Acclaim certainly had my hopes up, with the promise of new game play, and a roster with just about the who’s who of pro wrestling, it certainly had a lot of hype.
Anyway, enough of my rambling, let the review begin.
Graphics – 7/10
As I said, the graphics in LOW 1 & 2, were terrible, the wrestlers looked like they had been inflated with a foot pump, with the larger than life body structures and unrealistic appearances, it brought these games down a peg or two. But I’m pleased to say, Showdown graphics are very nice indeed. Now the graphics are much more detailed and smooth in the same style as the Smackdown games. They are not as polished as the Smackdown games, but they do have a much realistic look than the previous LOW games.
In terms of likeness to the actual wrestlers, its fair to say Acclaim have done quite a good job, some of the wrestlers still look a little unrealistic, but then some guys, like Jake Robert’s look remarkably like there real life counterparts.
Its not just the wrestlers which look extremely lifelike, the arenas and venues also look very well detailed. Instead of just a selection of generic arenas that we have seen in the past LOW games, Acclaim have gone the whole hog, and got licenses to use many of the famous arenas which have held famous wrestling matches. The game includes Madison Square Garden, The Pontiac Silver Dome, The Toronto Sky Dome, The Mid South Coliseum, Wembley Stadium, plus many more historical wrestling venues. The venues visually look very impressive and it seems that Acclaim have took the time to create an accurate interpretation of each venue, this is just one of the small features that make this game unique.
So, overall the graphics are certainly heading in the right direction, there is a lot of room for improvement, but its good to see Acclaim have started that in this game.
Sound – 7/10
When I first got this game I was expecting to hear generic rock tunes for most of the roster, however I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised when I got it. A lot of the guys do have generic tunes, but some of the other “big” names actually have tunes that are similar, or if not the same as when they were in WWE and WCW. For example, DDP’s theme is very similar to his tune in WCW, I believe there is a slight change, same goes for Randy Savage’s theme. Curt Henning’s theme actually seems to be his classic theme from his WWF days, and for Roddy Piper, I believe, he uses his personalised theme tune. I know that Jimmy Hart, who’s past musical credentials include Shawn Michaels’ “Sexy Boy” and Hulk Hogan’s “American Made” came onboard to work of the music for this game, and I have to take my hat off to Jimmy, he has done a first-class job. The in game music is still the typical generic rock music we have all grown to love, so there is no change there.
This game also offers commentary from Tony Schiavone, Larry Zbyszko & Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. I have always been unsure whether commentary in a wrestling game is really needed, usually it just brings the quality of the game down, and frustrates fans. The commentary on this game is not that bad though, it does get repetitive occasionally, but that’s only to be expected. As the matches goes on, it actually seems to get more in-depth, as the team talk about the history of the wrestlers in the ring, so that’s quite a nice touch, for instance when wrestling as Savage the team may bring up the match Savage and Steamboat had a Wrestlemania III.
The game also features a ring announcer who announcers your wrestlers name, and wrestlers home town, this feature can also be used in created a wrestler mode, where your created wrestler’s name and hometown is announced. Overall, the sound is a improvement, its not the best, but like the graphics, its going in the right direction.
Gameplay – 6.5/10
The biggest detractor in the previous LOW games was the gameplay, I don’t know of anyone who actually liked the old game play, so Acclaim needed to include a new gameplay system in this game, and they did, calling it the “Ready To Brawl” control method. Gone is the control system of yesteryear, and in its place a much simpler game play method. Basically, each wrestlers, has a variety of striking moves, then a selection of ready moves, which could range from a elbow to the head, to a DDT, and then there is the grapple lock up, in which your wrestler can perform a variety of wrestling holds and grapples. While this method is simple, it does limit the amount of moves your wrestler does, so you can often find yourself repeating move and move.
The game features a weight detection system, so a cruiserweight can’t slam a super heavyweight, but this only seems to work when it wants to and isn’t consistent throughout the game, which is a pain. Another thing, which is petty, but annoys the hell out of me, is the momentum meter. Basically, you have a meter on the top of the screen, the more momentum you get, the faster it fills, and once its full, you can pull off your finisher, simple enough? But the problem is how you gain momentum, for instance you could hit your opponent with maybe a double arm DDT, and it will have hardly any effect on your meter, but then you kick him when he is laying down a few times and your meter is full, it just doesn’t make sense.
There is more – the game occasionally freezes, so you could be half way through a match, just about to hit your finisher on your opponent and nothing happens, both wrestlers seems to be just walking or jogging on the spot, only solution is to abort the match and start again, which is very annoying.
The final fault is not so much annoying, but rather comical. It seems as though there is some sort of problem with wrestlers keeping up with each other, so you could be getting defeated and your opponent decides to hit a power bomb on you, he grapples your and then in the blink of an eye your getting power bombed by the invisible man, this happens a lot, and may occur several times during one match.
So the game is riddled with glitches that drag the quality of game play down, but I’m pleased to say, they don’t make the game unplayable, it is still a vast improvement on previous titles and is much faster and easier, which always helps.
Features – 6/10
There is hardly any career/story mode in this game, basically you select a wrestler, then have to fight through a series of matches in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, each decade has 5 matches, and you must win every match and then advance to the next decade. There are a few little storylines thrown in, but nothing special at all, and nothing that will impress anyone. Once you have won the belts in all decades, you have to fight Hulk Hogan in 1999.
As for standard match play that’s a little more exciting, it offers the standard modes, such as cage, tag, table, hardcore, 2 out of 3 falls, plus a few more. Also this game allows you to have 6 man and 8 man tag team matches, which on the PS2 could be very good if you have a multi-tap and a few friends over.
There is also another mode called “Classic” mode, which basically recreates lots of the greatest matches from over the years of pro wrestling, you have to step in mid way through the match and take over one of the guys and win the match. I really enjoyed this feature, even though I could recreate the matches in normal match play mode, this “Classic” mode, made each match feel that little bit special. Only down point was that it was too short, but I did get to take part in some of my favourite matches like, Bret Hart vs. Roddy Piper and Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior, so its probably the best feature in the game.
The only other notable feature is the tutorial mode from Bret Hart, as Bret talks your through the game play, might be useful for some people, but once you get the ropes, its not really needed.
Overall the features are ok, nothing that will really grab your attention and make you really want to buy this game, but what it does offer is pretty good, and some nice little touches make the features perfectly acceptable.
CAW – 4/10
Not much really to say about this, there is a CAW mode, its ok, not the best, not the worst. Few points, very limited hair styles and such like, and you can’t alter the colours of the attire either. If you looking to create some wrestlers, such as HBK or Cactus Jack, you’ll find the required bits and bobs there.
Roster – 9/10
Basically the roster includes the who’s who of the wrestling world, legends from the 70’s include Harley Race, Terry Funk and Dusty Rhodes, legends from the 80’s include Ultimate Warrior, Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, and the more modern legends such as Sting and Eddie Guerrero are all in the game, just to name a few.
The game also features some of the best tag teams from around the world of wrestling, The Steiner Brothers, Nasty Boys, The Legion of Doom, British Bulldogs and The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express are all in the game. Plus the game features some of the industry’s top managers, such as Jimmy Hart, Bobby Heenan, The Grand Wizard and many more.
Acclaim have really improved the rosters since the first game, over the 3 games, the roster has gradually got better, but this game is really superior to its predecessors. As you can expect there is no contracted WWE talent, apart from a few such as Eddie Guerrero who signed up with the franchise when he wasn’t on a contract with the WWE, but to be fair, the game doesn’t need them.
The only guys I’d like to see on the roster would be Ric Flair and Mick Foley, simply because I’d then be able to re-create some classics like Steamboat vs. Flair and, and to a lesser extent Foley vs. Terry Funk. But overall, the roster is probably the best in any wrestling game ever, I’m a fan of the “old school” so it is much better than any of the Smackdown games from my point of view, newer fans to the wrestling world may not be as enthusiastic about the roster as I am, but any classic wrestling fan will love it.
Longevity – 3/10
I think I played on Legends of Wrestling for about 3 weeks, then I never played the game again, as for Legends of Wrestling 2, I think I got about 4 weeks out of that before it started to gather dust, as for Showdown it may last a little longer before it gathers dust, but that only because the roster lets you re-create so many great matches.
The “Showdown Challenge” lasts for 16 matches, matches that you can complete in about 3 hours maximum. The “Classic Mode” may take a little longer, but it is not going to have you playing the game all night. Basically the game has hardly any longevity in it at all, and it seems that Acclaim have spent very few hours working on this side of the game, which is a huge disappointment.
Overall (Not an average) – 7/10
This game is truly a mixed bag, some great points, and some terrible points. The biggest positive in this game is the roster, followed by the slick improvements in graphics. The negatives include lack of a decent career mode and very bad game play glitches.
The game won’t be for everyone, but for any nostalgic wrestling fan it’s a great game, and it will have you occupied for hours, even if your only recreating some of wrestlings greatest matches. Critics have described the game as a big disappointment, and that’s only fair, but Acclaim have made some great improvements in the graphics field and even in the game’s game play. Its not the best wrestling game in the world, but its certainly not the worst.