Were we a sniffy historical type, we might point out that it wasn’t Pandora’s Box at all, but rather a jar. Are jars more or less dramatic than boxes? Either way the mislabeled box in Legendary is one that contains not all the evils of the world, but generic monsters and one awesome rubble-golem the size of a block of apartments. Legendary is a first-person shooter that plays mix and match with both its fictions and its quality: the first five minutes deliver the kind of explosive lunacy that only videogames are capable of – then the game immediately pitches headfirst down a sewer of awfulness and drowns it its own detritus.
On the one hand this is a game that fills a New York street with swarms of murderous gryphons, and then launches that colossal concrete golem (crackling with the powerlines he’s dragged with him) through the side of a skyscraper. On the other hand it’s a series of lessons in how not to make an FPS. Take just one room in Legendary’s many arenas. Firstly it’s a jumping puzzle – bad enough, you might say, if it weren’t so easy. But then they’ve added in a constantly respawning baddie. Kill one and another magically appears in the room a moment later. He’s easy to kill too, so no worries there. But he also needs beheading to finish him off and the head regularly clips through the scenery, making it impossible to reach. No wait, it gets better: if you do die, it’s back to the checkpoint, this time – unusually – without an unskippable cutscene attached. That’s right: no saves, just badly-placed checkpoints throughout. Ugh.
Legendary is filled with such basic annoyances. The magic energy system of health means that enemies take away your hitpoints and immediately give them back again. Sucking the drama out of any encounter. Stupidly, battles with non-magical creatures give no option for health boost and as such prove to be instant spikes in difficulty. Then there’s the door-hacking. You hold for E for five seconds… ten? More? How long is this going to take? Oh, it’s finally opened… I have to do it again right away? Three times? Oh god.
It’s as if the person in charge of figuring out what fun is has had it explained to him on the bus on the way to work, but has never experienced fun for himself. Or perhaps they just haven’t bothered to study the tricks and nuances of the past decade of videogames to discover what works and what we hate. It’s not that it’s broken or malfunctioning in any major way: the game’s entirely playable and there are very few bugs. The Unreal Engine also performs admirably in delivering everything that Legendary wants to show us in a handsome way.
Nevertheless, the timing and delivery is way off. Every other scripted scene has you facing the wrong way, or getting lost in a 20-foot room. The design seems to mean well, but it keeps on insulting you – offering challenges that aren’t, or puzzles that don’t. Oh it’s not all bad: some of the scripted scenes of destruction are simply wonderful. We just wish the entire game had been delivered with such hysterical verve.
Dec 4, 2008