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Legends of Wresting 2 (PS2, Gamecube, XBOX)

I admit I was once a wrestling fan. Back before there were The Rock's, and Stone Cold Steve Austin's, there were Brett "The Hitman" Harts', Stiener Brothers, and Jake the Snakes. There was Hulk as the Hulkster before he became "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan. The People's Elbow was unheard of. What was the famous finishing move of choice? Ric Flair's figure four leg lock. There was Jerry "the King" Lawler as commentator, and even before that, Jerry "The King" Lawler the wrestler. This was all back in the day when it was just a fly-by-night rumor that wrestling was "staged" or "fake". Those were the good old days when, no matter how much the good guy got pummeled, by the end of the match evil would never win out against good.

Times have changed as has wrestling, so it was my great pleasure that I was able to review Legends of Wrestling, a nostalgic throwback to an age gone by. Acclaim delivers a game that classic wrestling fans could want in a game: a sprawling roster, cage and ladder matches, and the piece-de-resistance, bonus DVD interviews with the greats themselves. With all of the slick presentation taken care of, has Acclaim made a game that can stand on the shoulders of these giants? An emphatic yes.

Some of the character's legendary status is tenuous at best. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I wouldn't consider Koko B Ware a legitimate legend. Also, some real legends are curiously absent, namely Macho Man Randy Savage and Jake "The Snake". I know Macho Man has his hands full doing Slim Jim commercials, but he shouldn't be too busy to sign the contract to license his character to Acclaim. Here is a list of all the characters, so you can make the distinction of who does (and doesn't) deserve to be on the roster.

Bret "Hitman" Hart
Brian Pillman
Captain Lou Albano
Cowboy Bob Orton
David Von Erich
Don Muraco
Dory Funk, Jr.
Dynamite Kid
Fritz Von Erich
George "The Animal" Steele
Greg "The Hammer" Valentine
Harley Race
"Hot Stuff" Eddie Gilbert
Hulk Hogan
Iron Sheik
Ivan Koloff
Ivan Putzki
Jerry "The King" Lawler
Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka
Jimmy Hart
Kerry Von Erich
Kevin Von Erich
King Kong Bundy
Koko B. Ware
Michael Von Erich
Mr. Fuji
Nikolai Volkoff
One Man Gang
Rick Martel
Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat
Rob Van Dam
"Superstar" Billy Graham
Ted DiBiase
Terry Funk
The Road Warriors
The Rock-N-Roll Express
The Sheik
Tito Santana
Tony Atlas

The graphics are, for the most part, caricatures of their real world counterparts. The character models' faces and costumes are faithfully recognizable, but their larger than life physiques and cartoon-like top heaviness takes away from any realism that could have been there. Thankfully, Legends takes on a more cartoonish visual style with more saturated colors and flatter textures that sets it apart from the obviously graphically superior Smackdown: Shut Your Mouth.

The audiences in the backgrounds are the ugliest parts of the ring designs, consisting of sparsely dispersed pixelated sprites that look like undulating cardboard cutouts. The ring designs don't give the sense of scale that a large arena would give. There aren't nearly enough seats and not enough of those seats are filled with audience members. This gives the impression that you're wrestling in a half sold out bar instead of a sold out arena where you would normally find one of these legends.

The multiplayer mode gives the title ample replay value. Just as in Smackdown, wrestling a human opponent is much more satisfying than facing the computer. Ladder matches and cage matches are fun and break up the monotony of regular play. It's disappointing that the frame rate starts to suffer with four players on the screen in the XBox version. It slows down enough to make things look choppy and controls to get muddy. Maybe that could have been a result of the extra hot XBox it was tested on, but I doubt it. On the PS2, matches are limited to two human players, so there's no sign of slowdown.

The story mode plots are fairly elementary and it's nowhere near the soap opera that is Smackdown. The story elements are told in voice acted cinematics featuring your wrestler's manager telling you what's going on with the next match and how you're doing for yourself.

The controls are somewhat unresponsive, and take your eyes off of the action in the ring. The counter attack/reversal bar is placed at the top of the screen so you'll often have your eyes on the top bar than the crazy moves and reversals you're actually pulling off.

The create a wrestler option is rather deep, and a great deal more extensive than the last game. Standards like faces, muscle size, weight, and skin color are customizable. Special moves and custom finishers can be added. An amazing piece of detail is the user made tattoos that players can create for their wrestlers with a built in paint program. With LOW2's create-a-wrestler feature, you can customize your grappler as much or as little as you want.

The Bottom Line: LOW2 might not have the production values behind it, but its raw fun and action not seen in a wrestling game since WCW vs. NWO on N64.

Rating: 8.5/10
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