Review by Gruel

Reviewed: 02/07/03 | Updated: 02/07/03

"He stole my beer!"

Warning: This is a near 3000 word review on Legends of Wrestling 2. With that in mind, I don’t blame you for clicking the “back” button already. But this is my review, and there are so many issues about this game that needs to be addressed that I couldn’t help myself. So if you came here expecting a quick read please get the hell out and read one of those pieces by reviewers with handles like “Lesnar316” or something. With that out of the way, let’s get onto the review!

Currently, the wrestling business is in the worst shape it’s been in for a while. The “attitude” the then-WWF ignited that rocked the nation a few short years ago has worn off as the ratings plummeted to new lows. If you miss two or three episodes of television you are already completely out of date with the latest batch of storylines going on. Watching the now-WWE resort to angles involving necrophilia, lesbians, and racism is making matters get worse by the week. However, Acclaim is attempting to fix that with a sequel to one of the most nostalgic wrestling games on the planet. Let’s go back to a time way before this crap started cluttering the wrestling scene and when Hulkamania was running wild for the first time. Everyone, please step aboard the time machine for…..

******Cue futuristic sound effects******

Legends of Wrestling…..and 2!!!

Right when LoW2’s opening movie booted up I was instantly brought back to the memories of the business as I grew up watching wrestling on television. The oddly appropriate hard rock song “Superstar” by Saliva blasted as I watched clips of many past greats doing their old poses around the ring. Acclaim hopes to do it right this time after the original game, although very promising, ended up leaving not so many lasting impressions. It’s “ISP” grappling engine was a bit sluggish, and there was a complete lack of game play modes.

One of the things separates LoW2 from the rest of the market is of course, the roster. The dozens of legends showcased in this title cover several generations that range all the way back from the 1950’s to many that still wrestle today. All of the superstars from the last title are back in the sequel (with the exception of Rob Van Dam due to his contractual obligations with the WWE). The names we remember back as third graders are all here for another round. Hulk Hogan, Jerry “the King” Lawler, Bret “Hitman” Hart, “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka, the Von Erich’s, the Road Warriors, they’re all back. There was still a wealth of popular legends not featured in the original game that didn’t go unnoticed. Acclaim heard the feedback and added well over ten new wrestlers in this release. Some of the most notable additions are WWE Hall of Famers Bruno Sammartino and the most celebrated WWE Superstar of all time, Andre the Giant. Also noteworthy is the inclusions of the self proclaimed icon, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Sid Vicious, Scott Steiner, and the deceased British Bulldog & Owen Hart.

There are still a few grapplers I wish that could be in here that didn’t make the cut. For example, Mr. Slim Jim himself “Macho Man” Randy Savage, the Ultimate Warrior, and Jake “the Snake” Roberts. Acclaim already provided a decent enough roster as it is and I can only hope for the aforementioned exclusions to be in the already announced third installment of LoW.

On the surface, LoW’s control scheme replicates most others. The usual buttons involved do most of the traditional functions in wrestling titles like initiating a grapple, performing a basic punch or kick, and the like. Don’t be fooled, LoW2’s controls require a deep learning curve to master. I do stress the word deep because this has got to be one of the most difficult to master control schemes I’ve seen since one of the many incarnations of the quintessential pro wrestling video game franchise that is known as Fire Pro Wrestling. I do not mean that in a bad way, just keep in mind that you couldn’t do jack **** in Fire Pro until you got the controls down flat, and the same goes into effect here.

The thing that sticks out about the game engine is what Acclaim dubs, the ISP system which debuted in the original LoW last year. No, not Internet Service Provider silly, but it could be for all I know since Acclaim doesn’t label what it stands for in the manual. The whole concept for the ISP system is that some moves you perform can be continued into different variations. For instance, say I do a move like a Vertical Suplex, as I execute the move a meter will appear under my health bar with a cursor that floats across it. There’s a tiny highlighted area on the meter that I’ll have to press the A button on when the cursor arrives there. If my timing is accurate then I can continue the suplex into a suplex-pin combo! Other combos will allow me to combine two whole different moves simultaneously! The ISP system is also used for reversing moves.

This all sounds cool, and is as innovative as it gets with wrestling games lately. It would’ve been super if the system wasn’t so damn sluggish. Frequent times when I stopped the cursor smack in the middle of the highlighted area in the meter resulted in no combo or reversal. Hell, sometimes an ISP meter didn’t pop up at all. Also the mechanisms of the wrestlers themselves are insanely awkward. This mostly is the scenario with the way these brawlers run. Whenever you Irish whip your opponent or start to run across the ring the wrestlers will think they’re freaking Marshall Faulk and run across the whole ring in half a second. By the time I hit the X button to do a running clothesline I already zoomed by my foe. Smell the frustration.

Speaking of odd mechanisms, LoW2 acts just like its predecessor where the tiniest of wrestlers and managers like Mil Mascaras and Bobby Heenan can slam guys like Andre the Giant with ease. Also, humongous superstars such as King Kong Bundy perform hurricanranas and moonsaults fluently. Now I know most games always add a little bit of unrealistic characteristics to the grapplers in their games, it’s practically unavoidable not to (considering some of the wrestler’s real life repertoire only consist of only four or five moves). However, Acclaim sets a new level with this release.

The meat & potatoes of LoW2 is the career mode. It’s based on the same one from the original LoW. Just like last time around, I picked one of several regions of the United States to compete in (which was how the business actually ran a few decades ago). I met with the region’s promoter who notified me of my progress and title shot opportunities every few matches. I started off wrestling against local talent that looked like randomized created wrestlers with some name slapped on them. This is the cool part about career mode, it actually seems like I’m a rookie because I start off like everyone else against no-names in high school gyms and armories. After a few quick victories, I moved onto the bigger names that are featured in the roster of Legends of Wrestling 2. By now, the region champion has noticed my success and he did a few run-ins during my matches to try and put me in my place, but I proved him wrong as I earned a title shot and kicked his ass to win the regional belt! I then wrestled in all the other regions and won their belts too. Winning every one of the regions belts and unifying them so I have the honor of being the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World is the goal of career mode.

Only in Career mode is where I found in-depth post match recaps that notified me of how good my match is. It says how excited the crowd was into the match, an overall match rating, and a list of all the good and bad I did in the match. The latter recognized such traits like stalling, not doing enough ISP moves, and not tagging in my partner during tag matches which only occurred in my first few tag matches because the blasted manual doesn’t tell me how to tag! Every time a weapon is used, moves are varied, performing taunts or anything else to make the match better, this screen will let you know. My highest rated match so far was 134%.

My main complaint with the original LoW was that there was a complete lack of game play modes. The original only contained standard matches like tag, triple threat, and fatal- four-way. I knew Acclaim was holding out for the sequel, and I ended up being right because Acclaim added several brand spanking new ways to play. There are now 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 tag team matches as well as triple threat and fatal-four-way tag team matches to boot! Acclaim added its own version of the popular Royal Rumble mode by traditionally naming it the “battle royal.” Using the tried-and-true Irish Whip/Clothesline approach from most other games doesn’t work as well here because of how I mentioned the wrestlers run extremely fast. However, every now and then when you whip them into the ropes they get hung up in them and that is your key to eliminating them.

LoW2 included a cage match that plays out like no other I seen before. For the first time ever, there’s a cage door included in the match, but it has a life bar that must be depleted by kicking it a good dozen times before it busts open. This method worked out well and made most of my cage matches an enjoyable experience. Acclaim added a few twists in the new ladder match. I loathed competing against friends in ladder matches from the latest Smackdown where the match only lasted 20 seconds because they leaped from the ladder onto the belt just like that. Acclaim fixed that problem by not making the belt reachable from the get-go. As the bout progresses the belt lowers and lowers until it is in reaching distance. There is also a new “Bodyslam Challenge” match which only occurs when you wrestle Big John Studd exactly like Andre the Giant did in the inaugural Wrestlemania. There isn’t anything too special about it where all you have to do is mash the A button and fill up the meter before a time limit expires.

The Create-a-Legend feature from the original game is back. It still doesn’t have as much depth as Acclaim’s old WWF & ECW games, and doesn’t even come close to being as good as the one in Smackdown: Shut Your Mouth. You still can’t edit facial features like eyes, noses, or mouths and you still can’t add text on your costume. Nonetheless, you can still churn up some decent creations with the modest assortment of items readily available to you. Surprisingly, there is one feature that does stick out about the CaL. This is having the option to create face paint and tattoos. However, it’ll be a real challenge to do so because of the complex interface. My only words to describe it are that it seems worse then MS Paint.

The thing that made the first LoW so unique was how it portrayed the wrestlers. The character models for all of the wrestlers are remarkably well done. The developers exaggerated the wrestler’s most flamboyant characteristics and gave them a glossy makeover which made them appeared as action figures. The sequel carries on the tradition. Most of the wrestlers featured are based on what they looked like in their prime. Jerry Lawler sported the goatee from his Memphis days, and the Hulkster is wrinkle free and complete with a full head of hair! Acclaim even gave each wrestler several costumes to replicate how they changed throughout their careers. Some examples of this are Scott Steiner appearing in his old University of Michigan singlet, and in the current “Big Poppa Pump” gimmick he uses today.

One thing that is amazing about the graphics is the progressive facial damage included that was made famous in the recent release of Rocky. My jaw dropped as I saw streaks of blood run down the faces of the combatants as they wreak havoc on each other. The blood stains the mat, and I’m still baffled that none of the current crop of WWE games contains blood. The animations are hit and miss for the most part. Some moves look as how you see them performed on television. Others appear so choppy that I was shocked one even occurred. The entrances are improved drastically from the original game. There are no longer those horrendous load times to boot up the entrances and then transfer to the match. It all progresses just like that. The load times for everything else are no where as bad as the first LoW either. Thankfully, most of them are kept to a minimal.

For entrance music, Acclaim went all out. Legendary manger Jimmy Hart also is a music composer and worked on many of the themes found in Legends of Wrestling 2. While Acclaim couldn’t use the official themes for wrestlers due to copyright issues (Acclaim actually bought the rights for Hogan’s old “American Made” theme from his tenure in WCW), they came up with some great renditions. This holds true for the themes of Piper, Lawler, British Bulldog, and Billy Graham as their themes sound almost like their original ones. There is no play-by-play commentary in LoW2, but I’m not complaining since it seems like no one can do it right these days. However, there is a great deal of voice acting from the promoters of the regions you run into during Career mode. The quality is top notch as the voice acting is done with so much aplomb to get me to believe that the southwestern promoter sounds like a redneck, and the pacific promoter comes off like a Hollywood director.

The geriatric guitar riffs that dominated the first release and most other wrestling games are now replaced with licensed hard rock music from the likes of Saliva and others. As much of a fan I am of this genre of music, it just doesn’t fit the old-school tone of game play that LoW represents. Mercifully, Acclaim included support for custom soundtracks so I can enjoy the game to my own preference of music which just happened to be themes from the various wrestling soundtracks out right now. It made me wonder though, if Acclaim included support for ripped songs for background music, why couldn’t they have added an option to include choosing one of your ripped songs for a created wrestler’s entrance music? It’s what I have been hoping out of every X-Box wrestling game. Also worth mentioning is LoW2 theme found by accessing the credits. I now got the chorus forever imprinted in my mind. It’s so fitting that I must unleash it on you now:

“Hulk Hogan is American made, the only real giant is still Andre, Jerry Lawler will always be the king, because we are the legends, the legends of wrestling.”

While it looks like LoW2 has implemented wealthy amounts of more bells & whistles, its offerings still seems like small beans when compared to the mammoth amount of modes in Shut Your Mouth. There are still popular modes that have been omitted in this release such as Table Matches, Iron Man, and Survivor Series style elimination match ups. To make up for that Acclaim packed in loads of hidden goodies that are obtained much like they are through Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance. These range from common hidden objects like wrestlers & arenas to textures for CaL, and concept art. All of them are bought using red, blue, and green coins. Green coins are the only kind awarded during game play. Red and blue coins are earned through a complex gambling system where you risk so many green coins in hopes of getting just one red or blue coin.

There are also DVD-exclusive content included in the form of interviews with around fifteen to twenty wrestlers featured in the game. Some of these are fairly amusing to listen to as Jim Duggan had me laughing up a storm, and others told about the most memorable ribs and other occasions of their career. All of them are worth your time checking out and are a great way to round off LoW2.

RATINGS

Graphics: 8.0
Sound: 7.7
Game play: 6.8
Replay Value: 6.5

Overall: 7.3

It’s odd as all hell. There’s a big part of me that loves this game for its nostalgic presentation, and there’s another huge part of me that wants to snap this disc in half because of the monotonous controls. LoW2 still has a bunch of flaws and other shortcomings like its shallow Create-a-Legend and inane controls to name a few. But it also has enough to counteract it with such as its well programmed Cage & Ladder matches and superb career mode. If you’re looking for the ultimate wrestling game on X-Box don’t wet your pants just yet because you should probably give this one a rent first to see if it satisfies your own personal taste.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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