I'll never forget the first time I saw Legendary in action. It was two years ago at Gamecock's off-site E3 event (EiEiO '06), held at the strangely beautiful Hotel California. It was in a small, hot hotel room where the developers were overjoyed to finally show the press what they had been working on. Unfortunately instead of giving us a test run, the Xbox 360 they were using kept freezing, crashing and ultimately getting the dreaded red ring of death. Perhaps that Xbox 360 knew something we didn't know, even back then. Because there were times while I played Legendary that I wished my system would red ring and relieve me from my suffering.
Legendary is a standard first-person shooter that is clearly inspired by the greats of the genre, especially Half-Life. You play Jack Deckard, a professional thief who is hired to steal the mythical Pandora's Box from a museum in New York City. Obviously something goes wrong along the way, because it wouldn't be much of a game if all you did was steal the box, get paid and go on with your life. Then again, while that would have been a boring premise for a game, at least it would have saved me from my pain and anguish.
What Jack doesn't know is that there are powerful people trying to get their hands on this box, the kind of people that will stop at nothing to get it. But that isn't Jack's immediate concern. You see, while he was trying to take the box he stuck his hand in a place that it didn't belong, forcing a large spike through his hand and giving him special beast-busting abilities. But don't get too excited just yet. While it's true that Jack's hand is now tattooed with some sort of supernatural ability, the actual ability isn't especially exciting. In fact, I would argue that it's one of the worst "super powers" you will ever run across.
I hate to even call it a super power, because when it comes right down to it your hand is nothing more than a way to store power and refill your life. You see, whenever you kill a supernatural baddie you can suck its energy to refill your health tank. That's not the only thing you can do with it, though. You can also use the energy to push heavy objects out of the way. That's all your hand does. You can't use the super power to slow down time or control enemies or throw lightning bolts. You can't use your super power to force guns out of your enemy's hands or choke them or even make objects float. No. Instead of being able to do anything cool, your hand will slowly heal you and move large objects from your path ... when the story calls for it.
When you're not pissed off about your stupid hand, you're stuck playing a sub-standard first-person shooter with so many problems that I'm not sure there's a box big enough to stuff them all in. The game starts promising enough, huge mythical creatures escape Pandora's Box and start destroying New York City. I'm a big fan of needless destruction, especially when it's a city as iconic as this one. But as you try to navigate through the city you'll quickly realize that you are taking your life at risk by just shooting your guns. From the moment you hold that right trigger down to kill your first bad guy you know something's wrong. At first I couldn't put my finger on it, but then I realized that the game gives me almost no control over my gun. Oh sure, you can aim the weapon just fine, but the moment you start shooting people the bullets just fly in random directions. No matter what gun you're using, it's next to impossible to aim your gun while firing. At best you have to shoot, re-aim, and then shoot a few more bullets. However, if somebody gets in your face and you have to shoot you might as well just put the control down and let them kill you. What's more, larger enemies can actually punch you so hard that you'll aim straight up or into a wall. Trying to get your aim back is often more difficult than dealing with the enemies.
Speaking of enemies, I hope you like werewolves ... because that's just about the only thing you're going to fight. That's not to say that every enemy is a werewolf, you'll still have to deal with minotaur creatures, pesky little sprite characters and huge annoying birds. But these creatures are mostly used as bosses, so you won't run into them very often. Instead you'll be smothered with werewolves and enemy soldiers. The standard scenario works something like this: You are fighting off a bunch of annoying werewolves (who have to be decapitated, of course), but just when you're done with your last one, enemy soldiers show up with their overpowered weapons and kill you. I don't know why, but these enemy soldiers do much more damage than even the biggest mythical creature.
So you're dead, that means you'll just go back to the last checkpoint, right? Well yes, assuming the last checkpoint actually showed up for you. Throughout the entire game I had problems activating the checkpoints, which meant that when I died I was forced to play through fifteen to twenty minutes of boring level design I had already seen. This problem becomes especially bad towards the end, when the game feels the need to throw one incredibly hard fight at you after another, without a working checkpoint between battles. Throw in cinemas that can't be skipped and you have a recipe for a lot of frustration and aggravation.
And it's not like you're playing through this game for the interesting plot points. The game's story makes absolutely no sense, even though it's narrated and explained throughout the ordeal. At its best it just feels like a reason to get you from New York to Europe to London and then back to New York. At its worst it feels disjointed, the kind of game that will have you scratching your head no matter how closely you pay attention. The sooner you realize the story makes no sense the better, that way you can just sit back and enjoy the rollercoaster ride the game puts you on. At least, that's the idea, but even the rollercoaster ride is fatally flawed. Instead of feeling like you were front and center for all of these amazing events happening around the world, it really feels like you're just a fan of broken down buildings, sewers and other boring (and cliché) levels that start to look the same after about an hour or two. There are a lot of big things that happen on your watch, but it's never cool enough to make you forget about all of the crap you had to go through just to see Big Ben destroyed.
And while we're spending time talking about all of the game's negatives, it's worth pointing out the myriad of technical problems this game has. It's not just the constant freezing issues that I have a problem with; it's also the terrible frame rate problems, clipping issues and problems with cinemas. And that's just the start of it. You'll find that on more than one occasion you'll have to literally reload the game because your character got stuck on some invisible object in the level. It's not that this game has a few minor technical bugs, but rather the huge game breaking bugs that should have been fixed in QA.
And if all of this wasn't bad enough, the game is as ugly as can be. Perhaps Spark Unlimited bit off more than they could chew, but whatever the problem, the game is easily one of the ugliest games I have seen all year. If it wasn't for the fact that I had an Xbox 360 control in my hand the whole time, I would have thought that this was an early generation PlayStation 2 game. The character models are laughably bad, the levels use a lot of repeating textures, the enemies aren't very detailed and the cinemas have major problems. There have been no shortage of first-person shooters released this year, which is why it's so perplexing that any company would release a game in this state. The visuals in the game may have passed a year or two ago as a tech demo, but as a game it has a long way to go before it even hits acceptable.
But the bad graphics are nothing more than a symptom of the problem. The real problem comes with the terrible gameplay and questionable design decisions. I kept forcing myself to play through the game, even after it was clear that there was no reason to. There comes a point around the middle of the game where it feels like the developers just gave up. Levels start to repeat, you find yourself stuck fighting similar battles and the characters don't seem to have much motivation. Yet the game continues long after that point, for no good reason at all. It's not fun fighting through these shoddily assembled levels, especially when it seems clear that even the programmers have called it quits. And then the game goes from bad to worse when you realize that the entire ending chapter is nothing more than a giant rip-off of Half-Life 2's ending chapter. This could have been tolerable had I actually cared about saving the world, fulfilling the hero's destiny or anything else the game wanted me to do.
By this time I was done caring about Legendary. I was doing trying to figure out how a clever thief could get caught up on every little thing in the level. I was done trying to figure out why my axe won't cut the heads off of werewolves (even when they are down). I was done trying to figure out how the checkpoint system worked. I was done trying to figure out why my gun sometimes didn't fire after I reloaded the ammo. I was done trying to figure out why I had to break into every single door. I was done. I had had enough.
Legendary desperately wants to be Call of Duty, but even at its best it's not even on the same level as Call of Juarez. It wants to be a rollercoaster ride, but instead it feels more like a leisurely stroll with a lot of bad stuff happening around you. Even with the world tumbling down, there's never a feeling of urgency in Legendary. It never feels like you're destined to do something. In truth, the only thing you're destined to do when playing this game is get bored and yearn for a better first-person shooter. It doesn't matter which one, because as far as I can tell Legendary is easily the worst first-person shooter of the year.
Legendary is something of a marvel. While I've played a lot of terrible first-person shooters, I never realized that there would be one that missed the mark so completely. With its terrible graphics, horrible controls, lame gun play, stupid enemies, nonsensical story and broken checkpoint system, Legendary proves to be not just a bad FPS game, but also one of the worst games of the year!