The WWE franchise has been in good hands with THQ over the past nine years, now. Unlike Acclaim, who quickly let their WWF games go to the crapper, THQ's consistency and quality with the SmackDown franchise has been surprisingly good (with the exception of last year's broken WWE SmackDown vs. RAW 2008). Now, THQ looks to be borrowing a page from the, now defunct, book of Acclaim, by releasing a Legends game. Except, unlike Acclaim's Legend of Wrestling, this WWE branded game is actually brimming with potential.
For starters, you have a game backed by a proper license, allowing THQ to utilize every bit of WWE's assets with ease. In total, 40 of the WWE's greatest superstars and managers have been virtually cast for this Legends game, including Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, Yokozuna, The Undertaker, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Jerry Lawler, Ted Dibiase, Mr. Perfect, and many more.
The core of Legends revolves around reliving the past in a variety of ways, by either recreating it as it actually happened, re-imagining the event by putting your own variations to the fight, or altering it completely to change the course of WWE history, by having a different outcome in the fight. THQ has labeled these three qualities as the ability to: recreate, rewrite, and redefine. All of these aspects will come to fruition when you enter the Wrestlemania Tour mode, where vintage footage based around the events you'll encounter will set up the matches.
The game runs on the SmackDown 2009 engine, but it has been tweaked considerably so that the action is arcade based, with a larger emphasis on pick-up-and-play mechanics. The rationale for that decision was done as a means of creating a stepping-stone for the franchise in order to accumulate a userbase; if you recall, the original SmackDown games also started out as arcade-based.
But while the game mechanics may be arcadey and simple, the presentation surely isn't. Everything we saw demonstrated the authenticity behind Legends, as the game accurately attempts to depict the WWF telecasts from the 80s and 90s by featuring all of the signature ring entrances, the commentators, classic venues, and much more. The only genuine thing missing will be the original WWF logo that the WWE doesn't have a right to use anymore, unfortunately.
When we played the game months ago, we loved the fighting mechanics; the action felt smooth, and the controls were easy to get used to, as they utilized the face buttons over the analog stick. A modifier button exists to grant you more moves during the match. In addition, the personalities of managers have been realistically pulled off, as certain managers are more prone to interfering in matches, such as placing their wrestler's leg on the ropes during pinfall, or distracting the referee, or even climbing onto the ring and whisper into their wrestler's ear. It's little stuff like that which really made WWE Legends of Wrestlemania really stand out for us.
In addition to the Tour mode, other gameplay modes will include Create-A-Legend and online gameplay, both of which are self-explanatory, and should largely be based on the features already available in SmackDown 2009.
From what we've seen, the visuals look fantastic. The wrestlers boast embellished details with their arms and chests, a similar design trait found in the Legends of Wrestling games, and a design element I think suits the game well. But despite the embellishments, the wrestlers still look great, sporting very smooth texture work, and defined physiques. Unlike SmackDown 2009, WWE Legends boasts a beautiful, fully polygonal audience, and even at this early stage of the game's development cycle, it ran very smooth.
We're really excited about this all new Legends of Wrestlemania game, and you should be too. THQ plans to have this ready in time for March 2009.