The world of wrestling, a bona fide spandex soiree, home to questionably tight costumes, the improper use of steel folding chairs and enough man-bulge to supply a hot dog vendor. For two years! Not being a particular fan of the wrestling genre, I entered with a suspicious flickering of the eyes and dubiously anticipated the game playing host to a whole library of flaws and being a tragic, disastrous experience. While I tried my best to rid myself of these preconceptions, which would turn out to be misconceptions, I couldn’t help but think that I was simply preparing to lay into the game in a daring leap from the turnbuckle. How wrong I turned out to be.
The game loads up to a satisfyingly dazzling and endearingly chintzy menu screen, laden with enough gold colouring to sink a pirate ship, and soon has you exploring the various modes available, with the first layer of options offering the obligatory exhibition matches, the groundbreakingly titled “Game Modes” and Xbox LIVE features. Itching to ease my inquiring mind as to what had induced such an absence of creativity when naming this selection of modes, I thrust myself into the Game Modes and prepared for the mystery to unfold. What’s offered within is the single-player staple of the game. The sustenance; the meat on the bone. The WrestleMania Tour, Hall of Fame and Legend Killer modes.
Punching and kicking my way through a comprehensive arrangement of introductory videos and CG- pyrotechnics, I finally made it to the ring in my first bout as the legendary Hulk Hogan. With blonde tresses moved from sight and a big fat guy who wanted my guts for his new garters, I was in charge of making sure he received the pounding he deserved. And pound him I did. Like a swinging, wobbling piece of meat he flopped around the ring under the influence of my über-masculine avatar. The fighting plays well enough, with extensive combos discarded for a much simpler control set. This renders random button-mashing redundant, but for those with a penchant for pad-pummelling, a fair amount of mashing is required to regain your footing following a knockdown. Importantly, the fighting is deceptively addictive, with every bout bearing some hilarious moment or just simple fist-flinging fun.
The graphics, though, are somewhat of a mixed bag. On the face of it, the wrestlers look very good, and, while a little rubbery-looking, are bright recreations of their real-life doppelgängers. Alas, under the sweaty, bloody, brilliant façade lie a few niggles. The main gripe manhandling my mind and grappling with my enjoyment of the visual aspects of the game is the crowd. While from a distance, the movements are fairly realistic and believable, as soon as the camera deigns to go anywhere near these idolising underlings, I catch a glimpse of their polygonal, prune-like faces, and I am flashed back to the beginning of the millennium playing an old PlayStation wrestler. Happily, the crowd spend much of their screen-time with a suitable amount of blur disguising their misshapen potato heads.
The graphics, thankfully, and understandably regarding the title and premise of the game, are not the only area in which Legends transports me back in time. Going through the WrestleMania Tour mode, I am taken back to my childhood, parked in front of my neighbour’s Sky TV on a Saturday morning for my weekly dose of destruction. The matches available to be “relived” form a comprehensive selection, with at least one match from most of the WrestleMania seasons, so fans of wrestling through the ages should be satisfied. A nice touch on the developer’s behalf is how the ring design changes depending on from what era it hails. While this may seem a minor and superficial point, it must be remembered that the main appeal of this title will be to fans of WrestleMania, and they will be the gamers with eyes for detail.
The audio selection is fairly diverse and fits the game’s wrestling pedigree, being composed of the entrance music to some of the sport’s greats. Offering the option to skip songs in the menus is another neat touch, adding nicely to the glossy finesse of the finished product. The ambient audio is well implemented, with the crowd’s raucous-o-meter topping out as your wrestler of choice whips out a dizzying suplex. The entrance music can get old very quickly, especially if you play regularly with one wrestler. Luckily, the entrances can be turned off in the options too.
Offering the opportunity to create a wrestler and ride said wrestler’s steroid-pumped physique to fame and stardom, Legends presents a progressive “campaign” type mode for those wishing to start at the roots and work their way up. Post creating the monstrous “Bearfists McDoody”, with a full complement of burly scars and hard-nut prison tattoos, it was left to me to guide him to glory through a series of tiers consisting of a range of opponents for my man to batter and bludgeon beyond belief.
After suitably disposing the AI wrestlers and sending them home to Mummy, for milk and cookies, and also wearing out the Tour mode, the last arena for you to flex your ridiculous muscle-mass is online. While the chance to prove myself to the wrestling elite worldwide is tempting, it is not a fun experience. As with many fighting games, lag is the deciding factor in the online mode’s failings, and in tag matches with more than two people, it can become unmanageable, though being able to take your created wrestler online with you is a nice inclusion.
I thoroughly enjoyed Legends Of WrestleMania. It’s repetitive, yet oddly refreshing gameplay is nicely interspersed with great examples of the positive use of Quick Time Events, the videos preceding the fights in the Tour mode are authentic and add to the fan appreciation value of the game and the roster of great names allows for some hilarious multiplayer antics. There’s not that much going against this surprising gem other than its lifespan, but this is a major factor to take into account when considering a purchase. If you are a long-time fan of WrestleMania, you will love this game and always be able to seek pleasure in its antiqued personalities and retrospective revelry. If, however, you are not well-versed in the ways of the turnbuckle, then consider a rental playthrough first and if you’re still gagging for the grapples, fancying after the finishers and pining for the pinfalls, then a purchase of this wrestling retrospectacle might turn out to be just the ticket. TO THE WRESTLEMANIA OF YOUR DREAMS!