Like many of you, I’ve been rather interested in Legends of Wrestlemania and I’ll be reviewing the PS3 version of the game closer to its release date. However, last night the demo for LoM went live on the Playstation Network and I decided to download it. As I was a pretty harsh critic of TNA Impact, I was left far too broken to review Smackdown Vs. Raw 2009, even though THQ sent us multiple copies. Below is a quick plug for those games.
PS3 version by Chris Pankonin
PSP version by Aaron Sirois
Wii version by A.J. Hess
As you can see, all three really liked 2k9 and that gave me enough faith to choose to review the game and also give you my thoughts on the demo.
There are two options available to you in this demo. You can either play an exhibition match between Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan in the Pontiac Silverdome just as it looked at WM III, complete with those awesome mini ring carts, or you can relieve WM XV and play as Steve Austin winning your second world title from The Rock in a no DQ match.
I have to admit, I was very impressed with the styling and recreations of the arenas and setting. Although the graphics are more cartoony than SDvR2k9, there’s more of a feel of authentication in Legends of Wrestlemania. The crowd graphics are god awful, but the wrestlers themselves and the environment feel spot on.
With the demo match, you can pretty much do whatever you want, whenever you want. You can play as either Andre or Hulk and make it a title match or more like WMIV where there was no title involved. Gameplay was pretty fast and frantic, with my match lasting only a little over three minutes and having pinned Andre after a bodyslam. In fact, I didn’t even have an option NOT to pin him after a bodyslam. It just went into it and I got the three count.
The WMXV “Relive” option was far more interesting. Not only were you given an actual five minute or so video clip of the Rock/Austin feud leading up to this particular Wrestlemania, including the beer truck o’ doom. Then it goes into the match, once again doing a faithful recreation of the arena and events. With Relive though, your goal is to re-create specific moments from the real match. You are given a list of things to re-create. For this specific match, you’ll want to hit Rocky with a stunner, beat the rock, but him through a table, and more options that aren’t available in the demo. For each of this tasks you accomplish, you earn points. It’s unclear what those points will be for, but I’m guessing it will unlock other matches, wrestlers, or arenas. In the real game there will also be options like “Rewrite,” which in this case would have you play as the Rock beating Austin. There will also be a Redefine option where I could, say, give this match a ladder match stipulation.
The audio of the game is the worst aspect so far. I noticed line for line pieces of dialogue by Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler that have been in the game since the 2006 version of Smackdown. Is it that hard to do new lines for the announcers? As well, it’s a bit jarring to hear Howard Finkel call Hulk Hogan, “The WWE Champion.” Instead of “The World Wrestling Federation Heavyweight Champion” as he was actually referred to then, but that’s what a lawsuit and a brand split will do I suppose.
The controls are a lot of fun, but I can’t deny it takes a bit of getting used to. The game is very arcade-like ala Wrestlefest or Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game You only use the L analog stick and the four shape buttons. There’s no trigger usage, which is nice and makes the game both simpler and more streamlined. The only real problem I had was running. The game said I could either press O or tap the L stick twice away from my opponent, but the O option never worked.
One of the things I really liked is that although the game is quite fast, it feels far more like a real wrestling match. Wrestlers can stay down, shake the cobwebs from their head and there is far more interactivity with your surroundings than any other wrestling game I’ve played before. At one point Rock and I were brawling outside the ring and I threw him into the steps, picked up the first half of the stairs (Which is what actually happens in matches unlike the video games where you pick up both sets together) and then they were slid into the ring in the exact same manner it would happen in real life. Then I pounded Rocky in the face and I think he actually bled from this. The screen went red for a few frames and it made a different noise, but I pinned him with a chain Stunner combo immediately afterwards, so you’ll have to forgive my memory as this was at 1:15 am. I was too busy being impressed by the shot by shot recreation of the stunner, down to rock’s flop and foot entanglement on the middle rope. Nice!
There were a few nitpicks though. For example, I don’t ever remember Austin wearing the title in the way he does in the game. Same with The Rock. Didn’t they almost always carry the title ala Big Daddy Cool Diesel? I was also annoyed that you have a block option as well as a reversal option. The computer liked to block. Just a head’s up.
The two best things about this were the taunt system and the managers. Taunting actually has a real effect now. Each wrestler has five taunts. Each taunt has an effect ranging from making your attacks do more damage to earning you back some health. However, using a taunt takes away from your energy bar, which needs to be maxed out to do a finisher. The managers though? That ruled. Bobby Heenan interferes and interferes a lot. He put Andre’s foot on the rope. He conferred with Andre, which gave him back 25% of his life and he would distract the referee repeatedly. Finally I threw him off the apron it was so annoying, and Andre headbutted me from behind. JUST. LIKE. REAL . LIFE. or as real life as wrestling gets here in the states. (Sorry my friends and I watched the MOTY from 1996 between The Great Muta and Jushin Liger yesterday and the work rate between that and Andre/Hogan at WMIII is well…let’s just say it’s a very different match.)
Overall I was very pleased with this and am now quite optimistic for a game featuring Sgt. Slaughter, Mr. Perfect and my Freebird Favorite, Michael P.S. Hayes. Although, what WM was Hayes ever in? I’m also glad to hear that you’ll be able to import wrestlers from SD Vs. Raw 2k9, although I’m not sure if that means CAWS or the actual roster. Either way that backwards compatibility has been needed for a long time. I’m just glad it is finally here.
Legends of Wrestlemania ships out March 24th and hits shelves March 25th. Check back here around release day for my in-depth review and probably a rant on the lack of Randy Savage. I might even do another “Macho Man Diaries” if I can successfully make him in this game. OOOOOOOOOOOOH YEAH!