Every culture has its stories about the end of the world; a cataclysmic time where, amongst other things, tragedies befall the population and chaos reigns across the globe. Only in videogames can a player be both the cause of the apocalypse and the potential salvation of the human race, reversing the horrible effects of the disasters on earth. In Legendary, Spark Unlimited and Gamecock's recently released shooter, players get to take on this role, destroying mythical creatures as they try to save the world. Unfortunately, bland gameplay mechanics -- coupled with indiscriminately thrown-together monsters and weak story development -- cripples this title from the start.
Legendary is the story of Charles Deckard, a thief that's tricked by a mysterious employer named LeFey and his associate, Vivian, into breaking into a New York museum and inserting an object into an ornate golden box. Unbeknownst to Deckard, the box is actually Pandora's Box, the mythical repository designed to hold all the world's evil. By opening the box, Deckard unleashes a large number of supernatural creatures upon the world, destroying society and threatening to erase humanity from the globe. Even worse, Deckard is branded with a mysterious sigil on his hand as punishment for opening the cursed artifact. As he struggles to understand what's going on, both he and Vivian are double crossed by LeFey, leaving the pair to fend for themselves in the ruins of the destroyed city. It's up to Deckard (along with Vivian's help) to defeat LeFey's disastrous plans, eliminate the beasts released into the world and seal Pandora's Box once again.
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Initially, the concept of Legendary could have been an incredible one: apart from the monsters and end of the world implications, it covers secret societies that have been fighting each other for centuries over an artifact of incredible power, as well as supernatural abilities imparted on the unfortunate person that opens the box itself. However, the story is poorly developed, which leaves many of these elements flat and boring. Let's start with the limited scope of the game, which moves from New York to the outskirts of London, then into London itself and finally returns to New York for the conclusion of the game, which will take about ten hours or so to complete.
Not only are the environments not distinctive or unique enough, you frequently feel as though you're retreading the exact same ground over and over again. You'll move through hallways that look the same as four or five others, subway tunnels and platforms that are copied and pasted from one area to the next, and apparently every door in this world is equipped with electronic locks that can be bypassed by touching wires together.
What's more, you'll easily be able to guess what will happen in the plot, because it's so obviously telegraphed from moment to moment. While it's nice to be able to destroy some elements of the environment by breaking shelves, boxes and other items, the nondescript nature of the surroundings that you find yourself in, as well as how limited the scope of the game is, makes the adventure not feel nearly as "Legendary" as indicated by the title. When you realize that the ending of the game is set up for an obvious sequel or series of games, but you don't really feel like you've gone anywhere or done anything, you know that the ball was dropped somewhere in development.
The next problem is attached to the monsters, which come off as a cobbled together mélange of beasts without any rhyme or reason to being included in the story, other than a designer thought they might be cool to include in the game. In the first half of the game, players are introduced to things like firedrakes, griffons and werewolves, but the mix of these differing mythological beasts is never explained. Why creatures from Greek, Asian and other cultures would suddenly pop up in one city or another is a mystery that's completely left alone to the whim of saying "the box called them forth," which is a copout that highlights the aforementioned lackluster storytelling. Instead of being the manifestation of fears, which many of these mythical creatures were, these beasts are thrown haphazardly together as obstacles that you simply need to get through.
It's also quite obvious that much of the attention was paid to the werewolves more than any other creature, primarily because of just how doggedly (no pun intended) they chase you. Unfortunately, the other beasts in the game come across as extremely flat. What's more, when it comes to killing these creatures, the game does a mix of holding your hand and leaving it up to you to figure out how to destroy them (something that isn't particularly difficult in some cases, like water for a fire monster), which feels like an insult to the player's intelligence.
On top of this is the issue that the game is developed with obvious environmental triggers in mind. While you're supposed to get a sense of the chaos that's erupting around you, it's obvious that many of the creatures that exist around you in the environment are background creatures that won't attack you or perform actions that would make them seem like breathing monsters until you reach a specific point. For instance, in the sewers, you won't be attacked at random by tentacles of creatures that are obviously swimming beneath you -- you have to get to specific locations to be attacked. As a result, it's possible to sprint past these areas or leap around these triggers and avoid strikes (as a quick aside, what's with Deckard's jump? It's literally as though he has a six inch vertical, but a three or four foot jump when running).
That doesn't make you worried about the creatures you're facing, and even when you're going up against some of the environmental hazards or puzzles, you feel as though you're simply being pushed from one situation to the next instead of exploring your surroundings or coming up with a creative way out of a problem while facing off against beasts that want to rip your face off. Although the puzzles add a bit of variety to the constant attacks you face, it would add to the tension if you had to make a preemptive strike against a creature in the distance to whittle potential creatures down instead of always reacting to attacks and killing monsters that are right in your face.
Now, once beasts are dead, players can use the brand on their hand to acquire the life energy, or Animus, of eliminated creatures. While humans appear to not have this force, any monster does, and you can drain their remaining energy to heal yourself or perform energy pulses to repel objects or to make immaterial objects solid. You can also drain your energy to power different devices, but that's about it. You won't be leveling up these abilities to learn new destructive powers or anything else, which seems a bit tame, since you'll solely rely on melee or ranged weaponry to eliminate your opponents. Considering that some of the creatures shrug off many of these physical attacks, you actually wish that your brand allowed you to do more with the power that you acquire, like using spiritual energy to strike these mythical beasts, but unfortunately, you're little more than a walking battery, leeching power to recharge yourself and releasing it in portions before finishing off your enemies with weapons. It's an interesting concept, but it should've gone much further.
At least you have a variety of weaponry that you'll acquire to use against creatures. Players will be able to gain a primary and secondary firearm, as well as hand grenades, Molotov cocktails, and (for your last resort) a fire axe. Some are much better in situations than others, such as using a shotgun against a werewolf, which weakens the creature and makes it easier to move in for the killing blow. However, even these are handled rather oddly within Legendary. For example, players always acquire lots of ammunition whenever they pick up a weapon, making it practically impossible to run out of bullets when you're in a battle unless you're a horrible shot. Another issue is that aiming down the sight of any firearm immediately seems to eliminate all recoil or force from a weapon, which doesn't make any sense to anyone who's ever fired a weapon.
It may seem as though Legendary is all doom and gloom, but there are some bright spots to be found. Some of the visuals are good, such as the particle effects that wind up appearing throughout the game and depicting the energy sparks of Animus from a felled monster. Dust and rubble that descends from buildings or explosions also look quite good, and while character models of humans aren't necessarily the best, many of the creatures look pretty nice. Griffons and Minotaurs in particular are striking, and look exactly like you'd expect them to. Standard werewolves may look a bit like overgrown rats, but Alpha Werewolves look a lot like the mythical creatures that have always been described in stories.
On the other hand, you will discover that there are quite a number of visual issues that crop up in Legendary, such as slowdown, particularly if you're collecting a lot of animus from two or more eliminated creatures. There's also a lot of texture ripping and seams that are blatantly obvious as you move from one location to the next. You'll also detect some hitching during cutscenes, which interrupts the flow of gameplay. As for sound, the voice acting is passable at best, and while the game exalts in its heavy guitar riffs, it's easy to detect when a large battle or moment is coming up because the soundtrack will rise up, an indication that something's about to go down.
PS3 owners are particularly dogged by technical issues, which don't really make sense. For one thing, you're subjected to a ten minute install, yet there will be instances with loads that will easily take a good ten seconds or more, particularly if you need to load from the last checkpoint after you die. What the install is supposed to cut down on is unknown. There seems to be more frame rate drops in the PS3 version than the 360, and along with not having trophies at all, you'll find that the texture issues are a bit more pronounced here and there than the 360 version.
As for multiplayer, you're stuck with a rather mixed bag -- there's only one mode that pits players against each other in four-on-four battles against each other. A mix of team deathmatch and capture the flag, players have to hunt down werewolves and gain their Animus by killing them and install it into a machine which will allow them to take control of the monsters who will rip the losing side to pieces. While it's designed to focus on the chaos of the battlefield because there's essentially three factions on a map at one time (yours, your opponents and the werewolves), the game only comes with four maps, which aren't going to keep your interest for very long. But the most telling aspect as to how engaging the multiplayer of Legendary is revolves around the fact that no one is playing the mode online. After checking for a few days, we found that there were no games being played by anyone on either system at any time of the day or night, which speaks volumes by itself.
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