Legendary PC, Xbox 360, PS3
During one of my regular visits to game trailers dot com, I happened across a few videos for an upcoming game that went by the name of Legendary. After suppressing my initial reaction to laugh out loud at the poor choice of name and logo that did nothing to suggest what the game was, my gut urged me on. I was happy to find out that this would be a FPS centring on shooting big monsters multiple times with a gun, until they stop getting up. After receiving a piece of information like that, I can only compare the feeling that follows, to the kind of overwhelming euphoria after you gain your sight after being blind for 30 years, or like the wet bit at the end of a boy girl hug. This was just before Christmas, and I continued to follow the entire behind the scenes videos eagerly, with my nerd radar going into overdrive. “Everyone is going to be buying Gears of War 2 and all the other AAA titles, they will miss this one. Then after the Christmas dust settles, I can point out that they all missed this amazing game, and that I had been following it for months!” Gaining me valuable superiority points, and securing my place in the virgin hall of fame. Needless to say, my plan hit on a snag, it isn’t very good…
Those of you that stopped at the previous sentence may have all the information you need, and if it stops you spending hard earned money on it, I will count my job here as done. But sadly Legendary is one of those games where it isn’t as simple as, “more enjoyable as a coaster”, it has multiple confidence building highs, surrounded by just enough moments of mediocrity to dampen your spirits, and the overall memory of the game that’s over-ambition means it lacks focus. Anyway, lets get into the specifics.
You are a career thief by the name of Deckard, and have been employed by a mysteriously mysterious organization to steal an item from a New York museum, which you accidentally (on purpose) open. Surprise! It’s Pandora’s Box, you screwed the world champ, time to do what you can to sort this mess out. Luckily the box stabbed a signet mark onto your hand when you opened it, which you can now use to suck the life force out of the corpses of the enemies you released from the box. This energy is called Animus.
Along with collecting it because it makes your hand all glowey and pretty, Animus has practical purposes, allowing you to heal yourself and execute an instant area of effect attack around the player. This system in itself feels surprisingly fresh, stepping away from the overused regenerating health bar, and granting you the visceral action of harvesting the energy of your defeated foes, although in execution it suffers a few flaws. Overall the timing works quite nicely, as you use your Animus to heal yourself, regenerating slowly at first, increasing over time to a rapid heal, obviously to grant the player almost instantaneous healing, without them being able to pull off a full heal during an intense fight. However, the game’s creatures are always in your face, granting you little time to heal. This of course in some places is clearly intentional, but there were several points during the game (near the end) where as far as I could tell my objective was something completely separate from the constantly spawning enemies, leading to confusion to whether I was supposed to stay and kill, or proceed to my objective. After several frustrating deaths at the hands/claws of seemingly unending enemies, unable to harvest or heal, while throwing away what little energy I had on my AOE attack, I was all set to launch the game disc at my pet dog, just so I could remind myself that most dogs don’t get back up.
Dogs might not be doing these creatures justice as werewolves come in two sizes, large and extra large. Yet both of them can be taken down in the same way, pump enough ammo into them that they fall over, then keep shooting them until their head falls off. That is if you haven’t already removed their head on the way down with your random spray of bullets, or precision shooting. Along side werewolves, we have minotaurs who die when you shoot them enough, griffons who die when you shoot them enough, fairy things who die when you shoot them once (when they aren’t intangible), and these other things that I cant remember how you kill them, but I remember it has something to do with a gun, and fast moving shards of metal, which brings me to my first and defiantly not last comparison to Half-Life 2. Each enemy from first encounter to final climactic battles is a near identical copy of a Half-Life 2 enemy. I would bore you with them all but for example; the fairies are the man-hacks, the griffons are the combine gunships, werewolves are zombies etc. This thievery of ideas comes to a head in hilariously blatant rip off conclusion at the top of a tower. I wont spoil it because it’s too bad for me to do it justice, where the game goes from “flattering imitation” to “what the hell were you thinking?”
Alongside Half-Life’s balanced and varied enemy classes, Legendary tries to duplicate the infallible Valve’s knack for pacing, with adrenaline fueled action highs offset by relaxing puzzle lows. If you have ever felt cheapened by Gordon Freeman’s love for getting into physics-based problems, and questioned the gaming icon’s thought process as he moves a barrel from one place to another, Legendary will reaffirm your faith in the crow bar wielding stud, having just solved your 20th ‘relaxing’ puzzle by turning a hidden valve (funny reference?). In a nutshell Legendary’s pacing is as follows – disappointing action, followed by pitiful puzzles. The action scenes leave you wanting, and the moments in-between feel like time-wasting filler, while the player is moved from one set piece to another. This in itself is not a bad system, I have certainly played games where I have been a lot less entertained, and after completion have been a lot less fulfilled. But the realm of FPS is an overcrowded market at the moment, and if you’re going to throw your hat into the ring, you need to have a concept and execution that makes you stand out among the giants.
Clunky controls on a standard FPS may be forgiveable, with cover for you to hide behind, and inaccurate enemies for you to shoot, it’s only a matter of time and averages until a bullet hits them. But in a game where the majority of enemies you fight require you to shoot them in the head, and they’re powerful enough that any mistake could mean your death, everything gets a whole lot less fun.
The weapons are nothing to write home about; standard machine guns, shotguns and rifles, coupled with detonation controllable grenades and Molotov cocktails, culminating in a rocket launcher on later levels.
As I tried to join an online game I was surprised to see that the match networking system was down and I couldn’t join a game in progress, I decided in order to try the multiplayer modes I would have a run about on a solo game to see what it entails. Shortly after creating a game one other people joined, and then I realized, that in the entire world I was the only person who had bothered to make a game. In a market where competitive play online can be the main pulling factor, or can add longevity to a game who’s single player has none, it’s a shame that people have already condemned this game to the proverbial graveyard, although perhaps it’s not completely unexpected. Each match is a team death match with the added twist of trying to harvest as much Animus from rampaging packs of additional werewolves as possible, while obviously trying to avoid death from all angles, claws and bullets alike. You then collaboratively all dump your Animus energy into a machine, the end result being that the werewolves focus on the opposition, whipping them out (a mechanic used in the single player). It seems pointless telling you if this mode is fun or not, seeing as you wont be able to play with anyone else, so I will leave it up to your imagination.
The game suffers from over ambitious design; at various points during your play through you get a vague feeling of greatness behind the scenes. During an impressive vista, an epic battle with a kraken by the side Big Ben, taking down a skyscraper sized golem, or watching a downed werewolf’s flesh regenerate, while you try and shoot off its head, only to miss and have him get up and scurry across the face of a building. There are some real moments of excitement and exhilaration, sadly the threads that connect those moments are slow, monotonous and uninteresting, and leave you shocked when something fun happens, rather than pleasantly surprised.
As I noted before, in the genre of FPS you’ve got to bring your A-game to be noticed. And apparently this team’s A-game was off flitting about in the land of make believe and fairies, receiving a warm consoling hug from the mythical creatures they envisioned for this game. The Minotaur says with his sad cow eyes glistening “Don’t worry guys, everything will be alright”, but the Minotaur knows it’s not going to be alright… it’s not going to be alright at all.