Showdown: Legends of Wrestling


posted 8/16/2004 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
Platforms: Xbox
Acclaim hasn’t really fared well in the competitive wrestling market since it lost the WWF licensing rights in the last 90s. Since then, the company has tried to reinvigorate itself by going back to the old-school with its Legends of Wrestling franchise. The first entry was less-than-stellar, but it had a great number of things going for. This time around Acclaim tries to refine those elements while adding a few new ones with its sequel, Showdown: Legends of Wrestling. There’s a huge problem though, the designers simply cannot find a way to bring these features together to form a game that’s really worth playing.

If you’ve played Legends of Wrestling you should know what to expect from the sequel. Some of the elements have received a new layer of paint, but underneath the exterior it’s still the exact same game. Some call the pace deliberate, I call it sluggish. In fact, that’s a good way to describe the game as a whole. Every single fact of it is sluggish to the bone. Even the interface is hard to navigate (a carryover from the previous game) as it has a hard time keeping up with your inputs. Selecting a wrestler becomes a chore as you sit and wait for the interface to catch-up with your commands.

After you’re done wrangling with the interface you’re faced with the usual assortment of modes. A new element tries to add some back-story to the matches instead of just tossing you into the frying pan. For instance, in my first match as Bret Hart I was attacked in the locker room by Jimmy Snuka which in turn set up the match. That’s about all you get in terms of storyline, all of the rest of the modes are pretty much in the one-shot variety.

Once the nostalgia of pitting Bret Hart against Hulk Hogan wears off, you’re left with a pretty generic shell of a wrestler. There’s a grapple button, a quick move button (used for fast moves such as snapmares), a striking button, a run button and a taunt button. It’s really difficult to get into the game for any extended amount of time because of its sluggish engine. Most of the time you’ll have a difficult time grappling your opponent, even when you’re standing right next to him. Finishers are hard to perform because the game never really gives you a clear understanding of how to perform them. You just sort of have to feel your way through and figure it out on your own.

In addition to the weak controls, Showdown fails to bring the player into the wrestling atmosphere, although it’s not entirely Acclaim’s fault. Most of the fun of going to live events is witnessing the spectacle; namely the ring entrances. Since the WWE still owns the rights to most of the wrestlers, Showdown was forced to go with some fairly generic ring entrances. Some call it nostalgic but I just call it dull and listless. The artists went for a cartoonish “larger than life” approach to the characters and it works well most of the time. Characters like Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart are instantly recognizable while guys like Davey Boy Smith look nothing like the genuine article. Animations can be fluid at times, but are usually very stilted and unnatural. Some of the stadiums are nice but the placement of the jumbotrons causes the action to become very disorienting. Things don’t get much better in the audio portions either. Showdown features announcing from Tony Schiavone, Larry Zbysko and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. It’s a step up from the horrid announcing that appeared in Smackdown! games, but it’s still bad nonetheless. Announcers repeat statements, make calls that aren’t pertinent to the action and don’t really sound thrilled to be there.

I’m not one to make such calls, but I’d say that it’s time to put a fork in the Legends of Wrestling franchise. It’s not a NFL2K/Madden scenario where the game is well made but sells poorly. The Legends games are just awful, no matter which way you look at them. When you’ve gotten past the nostalgia hit, you’re essentially left with a wrestling game that doesn’t quite live up to its potential.

It's a bad game no matter how you slice it. Acclaim is capable of producing some diamonds in the rough, but this simply isn't it. If the company decides to continue with the franchise it'll need a serious revamping, starting with the grappling engine.

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