Publisher: 345 Games / Developer: Pipeworks Software / Platform: PSN, XBLA

The first Deadliest Warrior game took the interesting “what if?” anachronistic fights of the show and brought them to the next level in an entertaining-yet-flawed fighting game that still managed to gather up a rather strong fan following.  Deadliest Warrior: Legends attempts to improve upon this by giving players characters based off of real historical figures such as Alexander the Great and Vlad the Impaler rather than simply “Centurion” or “Viking,” as well as adding in a few changes to the gameplay mechanics.  At a glance it seemed like Legends was going to give the original game the polish and fine-tuning it needed to really shine, but did it really come out that way in the end?

In all honesty I barely played the first Deadliest Warrior game.  I watched a few videos and (briefly) tried out the demo, but it really wasn’t enough to get a real feel for the game so I’m not exactly sure how Legends holds up in comparison.  What I have played, though, are fighting games.  Good fighting games.  Legends, sadly, comes nowhere close to that of Mortal Kombat, Tekken and the like.

But nobody was expecting this to be a Triple-A quality fighting game, right?  You just want to slice Attila the Hun in half with William Wallace’s claymore, watch the blood splatter, have some fun.  Unfortunately, Legends’ fun wears thin rather quickly, and you’ll soon find yourself lazily button-mashing away just to finish Arcade mode.

Fights in Legends rarely last very long.  A real human being really can’t endure too many spear thrusts through the chest, so I respect the Deadliest Warrior games for making death both swift and unexpected, however there is a problem with making it too swift and too unexpected.  Winning or losing a match seems almost random most of the time; some matches I would win after two swings, others would drag on, neither of us seeming to do any sort of lethal enough damage until suddenly someone nails a lucky headshot.  You have a high, middle and low swing, however this doesn’t really translate into any kind of strategy.  Blocking will always block every attack except grabs and shoving, so there really isn’t a purpose to changing up your moves once you’ve found a long enough combo to do over and over.

Its disappointing if you think of how awesome a fighting game would be with the looming threat that death could come at any second, and yet Legends handles its combat so awkwardly that half the time you’re not even sure what you did to win the last match other than just press buttons and block every once in awhile.  Legends’ combat has almost no depth to it whatsoever;  it feels like the developers just had a bunch of ideas for gameplay mechanics and hastily piled them onto each other.  If the combat had some sort of interesting rock-paper-scissors play style or something similar, I really think Legends could’ve been something truely unique.

Legends’ nine characters each come with one alternate costume and an alternate version of each characters’ three weapons, all of which are unlocked through Arcade mode.  Once Arcade has been exhausted there is a challenge mode and what could have been a really interesting feature: Generals mode.  Generals mode is sort of like Risk… kind of.  You and one other character each have their own separate armies that you spread throughout the map, taking various sections as your land and protecting them from the other character.  There are castles to control as well that give you extra troops to reinforce your land with each turn, as well as triggering a fight each time your opponent tries to take it from you.  This could have been a really fun feature if it was designed better; I have yet to finish a single match because for whatever reason the opponent AI always seems to have more troops than I do, and each game just sort of devolves into the enemy and me pushing each other back two spaces, and then getting pushed back again once reinforcements come in.  From there, it never ends.  Maybe this is a problem with how I play?  I don’t know.

One of the more hilariously wrong things about Legends is the way the characters move and act.  Many of the animations seem awkwardly sped up, like someone made a perfectly fine animation and then just played at double speed and slapped it onto the game.  Characters’ voices are just hilariously bad, ranging from Wallace’s half-hearted “Scotlaaaaaand,” victory yell, Vlad the Impaler loudly slurping from a goblet like its hot soup, or Hannibal sternly stating “Now, I kill you,” after having just killed his opponent.  Characters’ mouths are also nowhere near synched correctly with what they are saying; a character will say something and his face will not move an inch, and then suddenly his lower jaw will just flap about like a Muppet after his sentence has finished.  Its hilarious to watch, but only magnifies the fact that Legends was rushed out well before it was completed

Other than design problems, Legends has one major problem.  The online multiplayer is completely broken.  I have yet to be able to play a single match online, as each time I join a game my Xbox locks up, forcing me to manually restart the system.  Looking online, it isn’t just me having this problem, although some people were able to eventually find a match.  I’ve tried a few times, and I just can’t get it to not lock up on me.  Big problem.

Overall, Legends really could have been something great but instead turned out to be a hastily-made throwaway game.  Multiplayer might be fun to play on the couch with a friend, and Spartan kicking an enemy down a bottomless pit is way more fun than it should be, but overall the game left a bad taste in my mouth, and felt like little more than a hastily thrown together cash-in.