Legendary PDF Print E-mail
Written by bobdog   
Monday, 16 March 2009 12:35
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Publisher: Gamecock Media Group
Developer: Spark Unlimited
Price (at review publication time): $50 new; $10 used
Demo Download (from Gamers Hell - 1.92 GB)

ESRB Rating: Mature

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Legendary (aka Legendary: The Box) offers something unique in the FPS genre -- a new IP (intellectual property) that has nothing to do with being Unreal, or Quake, or Doom, or Half-Life. For that reason alone, it deserves some love. I know many other reviews have hammered on this game, but I think too unfairly for what it tries to do, and that is to entertain with a new storyline. And Lord knows there aren't near enough of those out there!

So what is Legendary, and why did it gain so much ire among the reviews? Essentially, its a modern-day telling of what would happen if someone opened the fabled Pandora's Box. There's some back-story about how you are a thief hired by some evil financier to open the box and unleash whatever lied within, I think so that he could harness the energy or manifestations or whatnot. This part, and the chaos that ensues, are perfectly understandable in the scheme of things. I think where Legendary gains its harsh reviews is not in what it attempted, but what it didn't fully realize.

But let's proceed, shall we, and see where this thing leads....

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Curse the Consoles!!
My greatest gripe with the game is not in the AI or the visuals or the story -- it's with something that should be so simple as to be innate to games of today: you are unable to fully change the keyboard bindings! That's really the only thing I require as a player -- is to customize a game to my specific standards. While you cannot change the key bindings (maybe they'll fix in a patch?), the game offers SIX X-box controller bindings!! Luckily, I know just a thing or two about games, so I went into the Config file, where I had to spend over an hour on revising the key bindings to my satisfaction.

The other console blight: checkpoint saves. No, you can't save anywhere -- you'll have to start from the latest save, or restart from the front of the chapter. This means you cannot even pick a specific checkpoint to start from -- only those two choices.

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Visually Appealing
Graphically, Legendary uses the Unreal 3 engine, and (to me) looked spectacular, especially the water effects -- you'll see water pouring down tunnel walls, or red blood bubbling in pools. The atmospheric extras were also amazing: hordes of griffons flying overhead, insects pooled in corners, leaves falling from trees -- I only wish my computer could do it all jutice. The enemies are sharp, human characters are photorealistic, and the starkly beautiful settings feel like you are really in that place.

Now, I said it looked great to me, but I was running 1280x1024. I have read in some reviews that the game actually looks WORSE the higher resolution you go (i.e. 1600x1200 and beyond). This is beyond my understanding, but might be another consolitis issue.

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Engaging Enemies
Legendary has a plethora of enemies -- both human and fantastical. And for the most part, it gets them all right, although there are some miscues, I feel.

The human AI are pretty good -- they actually get way down behind cover when reloading, and look out from corners, making them harder to pick off than normal. Your human AI foes are all similar looking in black uniforms and helmets, so not much differentiation, although some of your teammates that you pick up later, also are similar in their green uniforms and helmets. So really, not much to complain about.

The creature AI are also very good, but of especial note are the werewolves, which can climb over walls and along celings to get to you, and then they get right in your face. You must behead them (or shoot off their head -- that's quicker) or they'll rejuvanate and attack again -- believe me, you don't forget that lesson after the first time!

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And do you remember that famed tentacle that they tried to implement in Half-Life 2 -- the one that they eventually had to pull because it wasn't working correctly? Well, they've gotten it working here! It splashes out of the water, grabs you and starts to pull you under. If you don't shoot it enough times, and quickly, it's a slow watery death you'll be looking at.

The first minotaur arena battle was especially tense, as I could never seem to get out of its way. It would alternate charges on two or four legs -- which was very cool -- and knock over anything in its path, including pillars and walls.

Other enemies you'll encounter include firedrakes that shoot fire at you, pixies that go through walls, blood "bags" with explosive spawn that constantly seek you out, and the griffon, which you eventually must face in another arena. These are "okay" foes and at least offer variety, although one notes the difference in locale where these come from. In other words, werewolves are English, minotaurs (and maybe griffons) are Greek, the blood "bags" are supposedly Asian -- perhaps it would have been better to have all the enemies from the same locale? One thought to ponder. And there are two additional enemies I'll talk about in ....

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Setting the Stage
You will explore a diversity of settings in Legendary, but I really hope you like tunnels, sewers and catacombs, because you will spend half your game time in them. The initial map starts in a museum after you have just opened Pandora's Box, and this serves merely as a training map. As such is is completely UNDERwhelming. However, upon finding the exit, you are thrust into a New York City downtown that is under siege by hordes of griffons -- tearing people apart, lifting cars and buses and throwing them madly about -- it's amazingly, gloriously chaotic.

As you jump through pitted out streets and rubble, all havok continues to rage around you, and then ... a rumbling arises behind you as cars and buses and debris go swooping into the air to form a gi-normous 20-story golem, who steps THROUGH the building beside you to form a new path, which leads to the aforementioned subway tunnels. In all fairness, they do look and feel like subway tunnels, and you'll gradually be introduced to some new enemies, but these tunnels do get repetitive over the course of the game, with various breaks into new territories and various enemy arenas. The highlight of the NYC episode is taking down the golem that's been stomping around in Times Square.

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From NYC, your path leads to London, where you get to face ... oh yes ... the Werewolves of London!! You gradually fight your way to your foe's HQ in a large cathedral with ... yup, you guessed it ... more tunnels and catacombs along with way. These are interspersed with several VERY tough arena battles with an Alpha Werewolf (tougher than the first ones you face), a Minotaur, AND a griffon. These battles make the breather you get at your own HQ all the more valuable. Then it's back into the fray!

It was while I was fighting the Minotaur that I had this strange sense of deja vu that I was playing Gears of War -- like it influenced the game level design somehow. (It is the same engine, at any rate). But from your HQ, you'll go topside into a London downtown that is fairing about as good as NYC's -- a huge Kraken is taking down London landmarks like Big Ben, with the London "Eye" and Parliament building in the background.

More monster killing, and back to NYC for the final showdown in a skyscraper. Minotaurs, troops, werewolves ... all lead to an intense final firefight that had shades of the HL2 final scene, only here you must take out three pumps and then overload a main reactor. [Be warned: one of the Foxhole regulars said he had a game-killing bug when going up the very last elevator before the final scene.] All which brings you to a hated "To Be Continued" ending!!! Arrrrgggghh!! But really, what can you expect out of an 8-12 hour game?

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Final Shot
Legendary is not its namesake, but its a far cry better than many other games I've played, and certainly much better than the reviews would indicate. The game designers have attempted to do something different and unique, and although they fell short in certain areas, I for one would like to see this IP continue, if only to give us a break from the preponderance of zombies and human foes we so often encounter.

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Game Rated 7.4/10
 

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