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WWE Legends Of Wrestlemania Preview

The '09 year appears to have a special treat in store for wrestling-game fans, or does it?

This March, THQ will unveil the first of two WWE titles for the '09 calendar year, WWE Legends of Wrestlemania. The release will come right before Wrestlemania XXV, and will feature a (currently unannounced) roster of classic WWE superstars. Apart from being an obvious marketing vehicle for the Wrestlemania pay-per-view itself, LoW will likely appeal to those older wrestling fans, as it will be laced with an intoxicating dose of nostalgia.

As always, *sniff* I am not important enough to have gotten a hands-on sneak peek at what WWE LoW has to offer. However, having bludgeoned myself with online research, I am prepared to present you with the preliminary details, as well as my always-cynical opinions and speculations.

 


It's Wrestlemania III all over again!

The Look

By now, most of you have probably seen the images floating across the Web that depict very sharp, yet cartoon-ish looking wrestlers who will come out swinging this March. Their inflated physiques and Saturday-morning-cartoon topcoats create almost Olympus-esque, godlike representations of our childhood heroes of the squared circle. This is certainly no accident. The graphics are a dead giveaway of LoW’s intent: bring us back to the good ol’ days of rasslin’.

Despite accomplishing this goal with the wrestler models, there are a few things that detract from the nostalgia of LoW’s visuals. One of the more glaring things I noticed was the absence of the classic WWF logo for the Wrestlemaina III arena, with the reinvented classic WWE logo in its stead. Obviously for legal reasons, World Wrestling Entertainment can no longer use the term "WWF" in spoken word, written word or logo, so I cannot fault the WWE too much. Still, it does detract from the overall ambiance, and ultimately, the game’s chief purpose.

IGN’s hands-on preview also notes that there are errors with some of the championship belts in the game, as they are inconsistent with the actual belts used during the live events.

Certainly, none of these details are deal-killers, but for a game that aims to incite fuzzy memories, one would think that THQ go the extra mile to make things relatively spotless.

Gameplay

Those of you who loathe WWE Smackdown vs. Raw’s right thumbstick grapple system will be pleased to hear that LoW will sport a button-oriented control scheme. While this has many SvR veterans cursing the thought of a new learning curve, others anticipate it to be a reinvention of wrestling games' past.

The game will utilize the face buttons primarily, with (on the Xbox 360) the X button controlling strikes, the A button controlling grapples, the B button controlling special attacks and the Y button controlling reversals. There will be different contextual functions for some of these buttons as well. What purpose the directional pad, triggers or bumpers will serve has yet to be announced. Historically speaking, it is likely that they will be involved with blocks, grapple-breaks and taunts -- but that is just speculation.

The wrestling action will operate via a system based on momentum and chaining moves together. Rather than the random, hodgepodge of action that the SvR series is known for, success in the LoW series will be dictated by your ability to string different attacks together. As you are able to inflict consecutive cruelties upon your opponent, more powerful moves will become available, culminating with the finisher. Thus, it does not appear that there will be a stored finisher/signature function available in LoW.

 


Hogan vs. Andre, one of many classic matchups you can expect.

 

Another little tidbit is that there will be "kick-out" meter, which is controlled by button holding/mashing, depending upon your wrestler’s health level. It sounds eerily similar to a system used in TNA Impact, but we will have to see.

Right now, it is a toss-up as to how this control/gameplay scheme will be to THQ’s betterment or detriment. A face-button focus gets me a little giddy, especially coming from THQ (hi No Mercy). However, over-simplification for the purpose of arcade-feel is a reason to worry a bit. IGN even went as far as to call the control scheme "underwhelming." A good wrestling game control scheme should have a good balance of instinctive ease to shorten the learning curve, yet provide enough complexity to allow more experienced players to trump the newbies. Time will tell if LoW hits that sweet spot.

The momentum-driven nature of the gameplay is also a cause for joint celebration and concern. For years, wrestling games have ignored the sense of pace in "real" professional wrestling. Actual matches are dictated by momentum, and sharp turns there of. Wrestling games, on the other hand, are more sporadic and generally slant toward those with nimble thumbs, regardless of context.

While it is nice to see this game seemingly take a stab at capturing the pace of actual matches, it also has me worried and a tad dumbfounded. This game has not been shy about touting its arcade-like nature. So why now, does it focus on realistic momentum? And also, how does this system play in to multiplayer contests? Building momentum and pummeling the piss out of a CPU opponent sounds great. But put the same system into a two-, three- or even four-player match, and it seems that there might be a lot of frustratingly one-sided contests.


Andre even looks huge in digital form!


The Modes

As of this very second, there are only three main modes that have been made public: Relive, Rewrite and Redefine.

All of these are pretty self-explanatory. Relive involves doing just that, reliving past matches and trying to mimic their events to the T. Gamers will be presented with a list of objectives to accomplish within the match, which will be based upon events that actually occurred on the Grandest Stage of Them All. Achieving these events will give you points of some sort, which will likely serve as currency for some of the game’s unlockable content.

Rewrite will present you with just the opposite of Relive. In this mode, you will create Bizarro-World remakes of some of the WWE’s greatest Wrestlemania matches. This is a big bonus for those of us who tend to cheer the heels and jeer the baby-faces.

The Redefine mode sounds a bit more open-ended, giving you the ability to change the type of match for some of the historical contests, and likely change the outcome as well.

As interesting as these modes sound, they ring a little bit gimmicky. Relive will have the least replayability by far, and Rewrite and Reinvent will likely trail by a wide margin. It will be interesting to see how, or if, these modes tie in with any kind of multiplayer or online play. Bringing friends to the party increases the shelf-life of any sports game, and this game will certainly be no exception.

Furthermore, the lack of an announcement about any lengthy single-player mode (such as season, career, GM, etc.) has me very concerned. We can only play through these matches so many times, even with the ability to rewrite and reinvent them. If this is all there is in terms of single-player modes, I can already see myself selling the game back to GameStop and taking $40 hit in the process -- only to see it back on the used rack for only a $5 discount, mind you.

If this game is to truly capitalize on its unique premise, it absolutely must include some kind of "fantasy" career/season mode. Can you imagine a season/career mode that included a roster of the all-time greats? It sounds like a slam dunk. I hope the folks at THQ have their collective heads in the right place here.


Or is it Hogan that looks absolutely gargantuan?


The Roster

Sadly, there is nothing new to report on the roster front. The only superstars that are confirmed are the ones on the box-cover art, Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock. The game will also include some of the WWE’s greatest managers of all time, such as Bobby "The Brain" Heenan and Jimmy Hart –- both of them also appear on the game’s cover.

There have been rampant rumors about who is in and who is out, based upon everything from wishes to politics of the industry. All I can say is, hope for the best but prepare for the worst. The roster will likely be adequate, but there are sure to be disappointments.

Miscellaneous

A couple other poignant points, the first being the aforementioned managers. The game will employ a manager mechanic of sorts, in which your ring escort will run interference within a match. All signs point to this being completely A.I. controlled, but prompted when the in-ring action reaches your corner. Managers will grab opponents' feet, distract referees and do all of the goofy things that a good manager should. Not a groundbreaking addition, but a nice little touch.

The sound of the game is also going to bring back some memories, featuring the unmistakable vocal stylings of WWE ring announcer Howard Finkel. Sadly, however, all of the in-ring action will be called by Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler, one of the game’s largest blemishes as it aspires to reach historical realism.

Final Thoughts

After all of the fresh information that has hit the Web during the past several weeks, my opinion of LoW has not changed. I am cautiously (and I stress CAUTIOUSLY) optimistic, but also gravely uneasy. Within LoW’s core premise rests the opportunity for a huge, mega success. However, I cannot shake the inkling that this game is nothing more than a marketing stunt to sell more pay-per-views and WWE DVDs.

Being only two months out from the release date, I am very concerned that we have not heard any more about the game’s depth. Is there a create-a-wrestler mode? Will create-a-finisher be in? Or better yet, can we import created models from SvR? And (not to beat a dead horse) are there any unique single-player modes? How about online or multiplayer? What gives, THQ?

Here is some more speculation for you. Could the new gameplay system be a plausible test-run for the future of THQ’s wrestling games? Is the face-button control system an attempt to recapture the simplistic magic of WWF Wrestlemania 2000/No Mercy,and could this be the ultimate next-gen multiplayer grappler? Or is this only a thrown-together, phoned-in attempt by THQ and the WWE to capitalize on the Wrestlemania hype and rake in a few extra dollars?

I’m on the edge of my seat…


WWE Legends Of Wrestlemania Videos
Member Comments
# 1 swiftychampleone @ 01/27/09 11:38 AM
You hit the nail right on the head, Will! I completely agree with you. The SD! series has been terrible since 2006 and I have NOT bought the game since '06. I'm very big on creating a wrestler and going through my own story mode. Not some glorified exhibition mode called "Career Mode". The commentary should have been done by Gorilla Monsoon & Jesse Ventura. I was totally surprised to see the Ultimate Warrior in the game but I still don't see the Macho Man in the game because of his falling out with Vince. That a big void right there because Savage plays a huge role in the history of Mania. Anyone that doesn't want to relive the greatness of Savage/Steamboat has to be a fool.

I'm glad that the face buttons as action buttons are back. That right analog BS HAS TO GO! Whereas 07 gave you a choice between classic controls and new controls, 08 & 09 leave you with no choice at all. Which is nonsense. Eliminating a person's choice can turn off many people. The SD! series has become stale and it shows. Sales for the 09 version was 22% lower than last year's.
 
# 2 Rob_NYY @ 01/27/09 01:27 PM
Gorilla Monsoon is dead.
 
# 3 Dprimetime21 @ 01/27/09 01:42 PM
if it has a caw it then this game could be great. cause whatever legends aren't in it u could create. i'm wondering what type of matches they will have? it would be cool if it has the match types like smackdown vrs raw.
 
# 4 swiftychampleone @ 01/27/09 02:23 PM
I know that Gorilla Monsoon is dead. Since when does that stop the use of technology to integrate his voice in a game?
 
# 5 johnny4LSU @ 01/27/09 03:23 PM
i agree macho man should def me in this game, i mean true savage and vince have and drama and thats prolly why hes not in the game but vince and warrior have had drama . i mean didnt warrior have a lawsuit against wwe and wasnt the warrior the one at summerslam when he teamed with hogan to go against the iron sheik and slaughter and their manager.. didnt warrior point a GUN at vince in the lockerroom because he wanted more money for the match and he got it? point is if warrior can be in this game macho man randy savage should def be in this game because he def has more history the the ultimate warrior or as sg slaughter once said and i qoute the ultimate puke LOL
 
# 6 swiftychampleone @ 01/27/09 03:58 PM
That's how I see it, "7stringking". "Terrible". Any time you don't try to progress a game, it's not good. The problem here is, each game took a step back. Let's look @ each installment:

2007: Same base as 2006. Only problem is where 06 had bad spots in AI, '07 AI was worse. Bad commentary as usual but the huge problem was an out-of-date roster.

2008: I can't really say a positive thing about this game. THQ should have mailed this one in. AI got even worse. There would be hardcore matches with nothing tangible in the air, but the computer would constant scale up the ladder for no reason. In Season Mode, Rey Mysterio could send you a threatening message but in the hallway you guys are "homies"?

2009: Okay, the AI stepped it up this year. Good visuals as well. Even had a Road To Wrestlemania mode. The problem here is no storyline for the created wrestler, which is huge staple for the SD! series since Day 1 and the mode itself is limited to 7 wrestlers with 2 of them being a tag team that's seriously out of date. Rey and Batista hasn't been a tag team since late 2005. That's over 3 years ago. Get hell out of here...
 
# 7 johnny4LSU @ 01/27/09 04:00 PM
FYI @crash davis.. yes i know warriors in the game and if you read what i wrote you'd see that. my point was that macho man should be in it also
 
# 8 Brandwin @ 01/27/09 04:12 PM
What were the wrestling games back on N64? NWO vs WCW ?

I don't recall, but I enjoyed those wrestling games. The newer ones I don't even check for anymore.
 
# 9 sportznut02 @ 01/27/09 04:51 PM
it sucks that Savage will not be in the game, IIRC didn`t he make sure that Foley is not in the game to. Kinda pisses me off that he is making sure guys are not in the game because he has a heat with them. Dang it just put the problems aside for a minute let them be in the game and give back to the fans who have made your business what it is
 
# 10 vernond @ 01/27/09 05:23 PM
I've read that you can import Smackdown vs Raw guys. I don't think this game is going to provide much replayability though. It seems like the controls are going to be too simplistic and arcadey. Lots of 3 and 4 min matches. Also, no story mode or season mode is going to make this pretty lame. I had high hopes for the game when i first heard of it but they've been coming down every time i hear more about it. I think they're just counting on people to by this based of nostalgia factor but I don't think there's gonna be a ton of substance to the game. Probably fun for one rental but not a buy.
 
# 11 swiftychampleone @ 01/27/09 06:31 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by 7stringking
Well, I took mine back this year after one month, so I'm sure not saying it's a good game...Huh Huh

I too thought this year was a little better, but in the end this game just has not moved forward enough in terms of immersing the user into the world of wrestling...And getting rid of GM Mode was a killer for me
See, it's reasons like that why I'll never a game before reading the review. On top of that, I'll never pay more than $35 for a game anyway. The terrible game was '08. 09 was merely average and I don't really like to buy average games when it comes to sports. I'd rather keep the old game (SD! vs. RAW 06 in this case) until THQ drops something that shocks and awes me. I feel you about the GM mode. That was awesome and should have never been scrapped!
 
# 12 Chavez21 @ 01/27/09 06:40 PM
I want this game but I don't see myself paying $60 for it.
 
# 13 statum71 @ 01/28/09 10:21 AM
Did they say no commentary???? OMG I think they just ran me away.
 
# 14 Vast @ 01/28/09 03:23 PM
Yall should Play WrestleFest for the Arcades. aka MAME.

The greatest wrestling game ever made IMO.
 
# 15 ehh @ 01/28/09 04:38 PM
I'm praying to god this is a good game. I haven't bought a wrestling game since No Mercy and stopped following wrestling in 2001 but as the article said this is a must-buy for nostalgic purposes for any 80's/90's WWF fan.
 
# 16 Shadymamba @ 01/29/09 10:44 AM
when i seen the commercial i said I have to get it....the main reason i dont buy RVS is because half of the wrestlers suck...and you dont wanna wrestle with them, but this is a classic def a must have
 
# 17 DJ @ 01/29/09 01:06 PM
I'll probably pass on this one; not enough features for me to pay full-price for it.

I have gone back to playing Shut Your Mouth! and Here Comes The Pain on PS2. Those were the last 2 SD! series games I really enjoyed.
 
# 18 IStillDoWhatIDo @ 01/29/09 01:27 PM
I am also hoping the game is good. I haven't bought a wrestling game since Virtual Pro Wrestling 2 for n64. I be half of yall don't even know about that (Japanese game)

If THIS game has good gameplay and good online play, then I will get it.
 
# 19 bdiddy578 @ 02/18/09 05:01 PM
I can't wait to get this game and go buckWYLD with the Ultimate Warrior!
 
# 20 nightcreeper @ 02/28/09 11:26 AM
i cant wait to get this ****!!!!!
 

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