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Legends of Wrestling II

Review By:  Nick Arvites

Developer:   Acclaim
Publisher:   Acclaim
# of Players:   1-4
Genre:   Wrestling
ESRB:   Teen
Online:   No
Accessories:   HDD (soundtracks)
Date Posted:  

3-11-03

Legends of Wrestling II is Acclaimís sequel to last yearís top wrestling title on the Xbox. Sadly, that is not saying much at all since all of the Xbox wrestling titles have been extremely weak or downright pathetic. At first glance, Acclaim managed to fix many problems present in the original Legends of Wrestling. However, Acclaim still has a long ways to go before this series is truly worthy of the title.

For the most part, Legends of Wrestling II is the same game as the original, only tweaked. This actually proves to be a good strategy since they were able to iron out many of the quirks from the original game. I will be mentioning the changes and new additions to the series, but this game is more or less similar to the original. I would suggest reading the review of the original Legends of Wrestling as well as this one.

The most notable change is found in the roster. There are now over 65 different wrestlers, although some are not real. The most notable addition to the roster is Andre the Giant. More tag teams are represented in this game than the previous one. Yet even with the massive amounts of wrestlers, people (like myself) can always cry for more. Most of the big names are represented, though a few are STILL missing (like Ric Flair and Randy Savage). Thankfully, the Create-a-Legend mode allows you to create many of the major legends. The major hidden wrestler (that isnít that hidden since heís on the back of the box) is the Inter-Gender Heavyweight Champion Andy Kaufman. Whoever thought to throw in Andy Kaufman deserves a special award. That is just really cool.

This game improves upon the ISP mode present in the original game. This is by far the greatest improvement to the series because this installment does not seem like a button-masher. There are a few instances where the controls feel sluggish, but the developers have really ironed out the control problems seen in the last game. The speed of the meters actually matches the pace of the game. Unlike the last game (where the meters would fly across at top speed), the meters are manageable and make the entire game based on timing. This really helps the game play like an old wrestling match since it is less on speed and more on timing. The audience popularity meter makes a return also. This is important in the career mode when the popularity gained in matches carries over to your overall popularity. Gamers should be warned that there is an extremely high learning curve associated with this title. There are many different moves that can be performed and the manual does not really do a good job of explaining the control system. The best way to get a feel is to either read the tutorials in the options menu or to mess around with a create-a-wrestler. I have to question why a training mode was not present in this game since most wrestling titles have such a mode. A training mode would cut the learning curve in half and seems like it would be essential to have for this type of control system.

One of my biggest complaints about the last installment in this series was the lack of gimmick matches. Thankfully, Acclaim addressed this issue by adding in a load of new match styles. The cage match is awesome. In order to win, you need to bust open the door. After breaking the door off, you can either climb over the cage or go through the door. I find it idiotic to have to break open the door in order to climb over the cage. I think it would be better if they had two types of cages (one with a door thatís topped and one where you have to climb out), but thatís wishful thinking. Strangely added was a ladder match. When I think back to some of the top matches that featured wrestlers in this game, I donít really think of ladder matches. The ladder matches are done well in this game though Iíve played better. There are numerous new tag matches in this version. There is a standard tag match, a three-team-two-wrestler tag match, a four-team-two-wrestler tag match, a two-team-three wrestler tag match, and a two-team-four wrestler tag match. They included the signature moves of many teams. Fans will be delighted to see the Road Warriors do their trademark shoulder tackle off the top ropes and the Nasty Boys perform their trademark face-into-the-armpit. Sadly, teams do not come out together during the entrances. This really puzzles me since they introduce them as "one half of (insert team name here)."

A Battle Royal was added to this game. I am a huge fan of Battle Royals and I was severely let down by this one. At first, the feature seems great. An over-the-top Battle Royal is always fun to play and this one is great once you get the control system down. However, only four wrestlers can be in the ring at one time. Yes, you read right...FOUR wrestlers. This game can obviously handle more wrestlers than that on screen (they have run-ins in the other types of matches). Regardless of that, having a minimum of six wrestlers on screen during a Battle Royal should be an unspoken rule with todayís consoles. This game doesnít exactly push the limits of the Xbox and I find it impossible to believe that it was not technically possible to fit more than four characters in a Battle Royal. Shouldnít Acclaim remember the complaints about this limited amount of wrestlers in Battle Royals from their old WWF games? Come on guys...this is just careless.

This game basically looks like the previous version. The wrestlers still have a massive, larger than life look to them that really brings out the massive (often steroid-induced) muscle-filled wrestlers seen in years past. The one major gripe I have about body sizes is the lack of any sort of physics. Take a body slam. If Iím wrestling Andre the Giant or Big John Studd, shouldnít my wrestler have some problems lifting them off of the mat? The REAL wrestlers did and it was a HUGE deal when Hogan slammed Andre. Even minor things, like the wrestlers struggling or just not being able to perform a move on a large wrestler, would make the game much more realistic and interesting. As it stands, Jimmy "The Mouth of the South" Hart can lift up anyone and throw them across the ring.

There are several different arenas ranging from the local high school gym to world class arenas. Some of the exotic locations reflect their name and you will find yourself fighting in Egypt, Rome and Moscow. I did notice that many of the traditional arenas were poorly lit on the outside. Dark lighting and dark mats do not mix. This makes it really easy to lose weapons. A minor annoyance, but still something that should have been fixed.

The Career mode was reworked. The system seen in the original Legends of Wrestling that featured local regions was dropped back in place. However, there are multiple storylines in place. They are not evolving storylines as seen in WWF: No Mercy for the N64, but set storylines that you chose in the beginning by a random selection. Each region has a promoter that advances the story after so many matches. Basically, you go through some "jobbers" until you are popular enough. Then you go through the superstars of the region until you are popular enough for a title shot. Then you are done with the region. Certain storylines give you certain stipulation in your matches. Some may have people constantly jumping you, while others may have you feuding with a certain wrestler. They are interesting, but overall light on the story.

The Create-a-Legend mode has been massively improved. The only thing I feel needs some improvement is facial construction. They only give a few broad models instead of the complex modes seen in other games (where you choose everything from overall structure to eye, nose and mouth shape). There are not enough options in this basic system to make enough unique and original faces. However, the clothing, tattoos, and the other parts of character construction seem to come together. One annoying part is dealing with the entrance. You cannot see what the actual entrance movement looks like and the music selection is limited to what the real characters have. They took out the use of custom soundtracks in the intro. Isnít that a step backwards?

The in-game music is annoying. I think there are eight songs, but it gets impossible to tell since they are the same, mindless nu-metal crap. Thankfully, Legends of Wrestling II allows you to import a custom soundtrack via the internal hard drive. If there is one thing you remember from this review, it should be "turn off the sound or import a massive soundtrack." If you do not, the terrible music in this game will make you go completely insane.

The biggest complaint I have with this title that, in my opinion, kills the replay value is unlocking secrets. Instead of the standard "beat-the-wrestler-to-unlock" style, this game employs a coin system. You have to buy various arenas, wrestlers, textures, and create-a-legend pieces. This would work fine except you have to earn two types of coins through gambling. Yes, you heard right, you have to gamble on what number the cursor will land on. This is not only time consuming, but completely idiotic. Whoever thought of this should be clubbed over the head repeatedly. Seriously, this is not cute and it is not fun. This type of garbage makes this game completely annoying.

The major bonus that most wrestling fans will really enjoy is the interviews with many of the "Living Legends." If the wrestler is alive and in the game, they have at least one interview where they describe the industry. Some are really interesting and some are funny (in a sick sort of way).

Highs:

  • Large improvement over the original.
  • Awesome cage matches
  • Huge selection of wrestlers
  • Andy Kaufman is in the game
  • The interviews are really cool

Lows:

  • Four people in a Battle Royal?  Come on...
  • Music is the type of stuff swat teams play to drive people out of hostage situations
  • No physics present with body models (translation: little guys can slam big guys)
  • High learning curve with no interactive tutorial
  • Still some notable legends missing

Final Verdict: 

Acclaim really has made some ground with the latest installment in the Legends of Wrestling series. The tweaked control system and massive amounts of wrestlers really helps this game step beyond its predecessor. However, there are a few major problems that really keep this title back. The lack of a true Battle Royal really kills one of the more entertaining and downright fun modes in wrestling games. There always could be more wrestlers, but this is enough for now. A realistic physics model really needs to be implemented in a wrestling game some time soon. Come on, Iím tired of picking a lightweight and tossing Andre the Giant around. The learning curve is high and took me several days to get the controls down. The lack of a training mode kills the ability to drop right into the game. Iím not advocating the abandonment of this control style, but rather the proper implementation. If there is one game that almost requires the use of custom soundtracks it is this game.

In short, Acclaim has made many improvements, but still has a little ways to go to make a good wrestling game. Hopefully a third title graces this series and fixes the problems in this installment. As for this game, Iím not really sure what to recommend. On one hand, this is close, if not the best wrestling title on the Xbox. However, there are enough flaws that would turn off casual wrestling fans. I would suggest renting before buying with this title.

Overall Score: 7.0

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