This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of WWE Legends of WrestleMania.
Tonight marks the 26th edition of WrestleMania, the premiere sports entertainment event of the year which is overflowing with the stars and personalities that define the modern age of professional wrestling. Along with its scope and importance to the industry, what makes WrestleMania important is its reverence for its history, and the respect that it pays to those that have come before (including the annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony that is held the night before).
That’s all WWE Legends of WrestleMania needs to capture, and it does! The basic controls are limited to the 4 face buttons and can be used between a choice of tapping, double tapping or holding along with a directional modifier. Each hit builds up your power meter to add additional damage to your grappling moves such as suplexes and submissions, until you max it out for a finishing move. The implementation here is a bit strange; there’s only 1 explicit finisher per wrestler, so characters like the Rock or the Undertaker end up with one of them mapped as a strong grapple instead.
Which doesn’t really matter, as the main attraction is the stable of wrestlers from previous eras. There’s a pretty good mix at about 40 men ranging from Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant to more contemporary choices such as Bret Hart and Triple HHH, and you can expand the roster even further by importing from WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2009 if it’s in your library. They look and feel authentic if exaggerated (even Shawn Michaels would be conventionally considered barrel chested in this game), but the scale isn’t handled quite right. There’s no way that Ric Flair should be able to pull off a vertical suplex on Big John Studd, but you can throw the big man around with the Dirtiest Player in the Game like anyone else.
It’s worth noting that the game has some obvious holes in its lineup, for a variety of reasons. The omissions of Kurt Angle and Mick Foley due to their departures to the competing TNA Wrestling as of the game’s release in early 2009 were understandable if disappointing, but the absence of Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboot is too great to ignore. The eventual (and no longer available) expansion pack with the Bushwackers, Doink the Clown and Vader further muddied the situation, as it changed the scope from actual WrestleMania greatness to simply notable presence in wrestling’s history.
That said, the colours are bright and the arenas look good. The audio is kind of grating as Jim Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler have oddly cornball deliveries, which seems like a deliberate but frustrating design choice. The best part of the presentation is the Movie Library with some great video package from WrestleMania’s past, which come up during the Relive experiences and are available on-demand after that.
These form the foundation for the variety of modes in WWE Legends of WrestleMania. The Exhibition matches are pretty robust, and include matches ranging from singles and tag team wrestling up to the Royal Rumble and Hell in a Cell. You can create your own Legend and take on the roster for experience points that can be used to improve your stats in Legend Killer mode (which is probably more fun if you make yourself in Randy Orton’s image) as well. The standout here is the WrestleMania Tour mode where you can Relive, Rewrite and Redefine. Relive lets you replay some of the greatest matches ever, Rewrite asks you to change the result of some iconic battles, and Redefine is a series of what-if scenarios that take wrestlers from one era and places them in a situation from another (Andre the Giant in the Hell in a Cell is pretty epic). WrestleMania Tour does the best job of capturing the appeal of the wrestlers from yesteryear, and will likely be the bulk of your experience with this game.
There’s an online mode, but I should note that I haven’t been able to find an opponent in the couple of times I’ve booted it up. That should change after this review goes up on WrestleMania 26’s afternoon, and I’ll be throwing out some virtual Stunners and Rock Bottoms at that time.
WWE Legends of WrestleMania is pretty good for what it is: a pro wrestling experience with oversized characters, held in classic arenas, with respect and attention to some of the great matches that have taken place in WrestleMania history. It’s not really for the hardcore wrestling fan, you’re not going to find the incredible work rate of Ring of Honor or the grittier independent vibe of Combat Zone Wrestling on this disc. What it does deliver is a steady stream of exaggerated moves with loud crowds, and it does it pretty well.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars