Deadliest Warrior: Legends is a game that takes us straight back to all of those mock-fight discussions held in the school yard. You know what we’re talking about - spending the majority of recess with your middle-school buddies discussing the finer points of why James Bond could kick Jason Bourne’s ass. Just like its television counterpart, developer Pipework Software’s latest sequel takes these hypothetical anachronisms and makes a fighting game out of it. Who would win in a fight: Sun Tzu or Vlad the Impaler? Attila the Hun or Alexander the Great? Incredibly gory and frequently hilarious, Legends can offer quite a few genuinely entertaining moments. It’s too bad that the actual gameplay is a sloppy mess.
The combat mechanics are a mixture of Bushido Blade and Time Killers. There are three attack types: high, mid and low. Attacking low can disable your opponent’s legs, which will hinder his movement; mid-level attacks can sever an enemy’s arm; high attacks will damage the shoulders and head. Mashing on your desired attack button will throw out combo strings of up to three hits. There’s no health bar to speak of - instead, fighters will drop dead when they receive what the game deems to be a fatal blow. As such, an average bout only ever lasts a couple of seconds. With that in mind, you’d think that most matches would be high-tension duels where one wrong move is the difference between life and death, but you’d be very very wrong. Legends maintains a loose interpretation of what constitutes fatal. For example, we had a few instances where we’d throw out a leg sweep only to have the other guy’s head pop off like a wine cork. Add to that, weapons will often clip right through fighters causing absolutely no damage, while at other times completely miss their mark and still end up killing the other guy.
Special abilities consist of grappling, parrying and shoving. Shoving can be used for a quick ring out if your opponent is teetering around the edge of the arena. By holding up your guard and pressing the exact same attack button your opponent is using, you can open up your opponents defenses briefly for a counterattack; however, the spastic flailing nature of the combat system makes it impossible to tell what type of attack your opponent is using. Lastly, grappling with the opponent enters the two fighters into a sort of paper-rock-scissors scenario where if your opponent doesn’t hit the exact same attack button as you, you get to either break his leg, his arm or outright kill him with a flashy finishing move.
There are nine different historical warlords, divided into one of three different fighter classes: the lightly-armored highly-mobile Guerillas, heavily-armored slow-moving Champions and the offensive powerhouse Berserkers. Each warlord comes equipped with a similar gear setup: a long-range weapon (throwing spears, crossbows, etc), a mid-range weapon (halberds, claymores) and a short-range weapon (sword and shield). All of these items can be swapped on the fly mid-match. Likewise, a cavalcade of tutorial screens will inform players that each weapon adheres to a specific damage type (piercing, slashing and crushing), which will have varying effects on the type of armor your opponent wears; however, spend five minutes actually playing the game and you’ll quickly find that all of this supposed depth is just bullshit.
Aside from the standard Arcade, Training and local multiplayer, Legends comes equipped with three newer additions: Generals, Challenge and Zombie mode. Generals plays out as a bastardized version of Risk where you attempt to gain control of a game board by moving troop divisions around and capturing specific map locations. It’s basically a giant numbers game and, yes, it’s about as interesting as it sounds (that is, not at all). Challenge mode is another game type that gets pretty mind-numbing pretty quick. It places you in matches with special victory requirements such as defeating waves of enemies or severing a certain amount of limbs. Zombie mode, on the other hand, is actually a relative blast to play. In a nutshell, two players square off against one another and can only win once they’ve hacked off all of their opponent’s limbs. Think Monty Python and the Holy Grail along with Shaun of the Dead.
While we understand that this is a downloadable game, we feel it deserves mentioning just how ugly it is - both visually and in presentation. The character models are incredibly plain, the voice work is horrendous and lip-syncing with the dialogue is so far off that we’re wondering if it wasn’t done intentionally.
As of writing this review, we were unable to play any of the online multiplayer as the game is currently suffering technical issues that cause matches to crash during loading screens and in between rounds. While this may be patched relatively soon, it won’t make up for the shoddy combat or the cheap look of the game. Like its previous iteration, Deadly Warriors: Legends is an unpolished mess with few redeeming qualities other than a nifty premise.
Jul 13, 2011