Showdown: Legends of Wrestling
System: X-Box
Publisher: Acclaim
Developer: Acclaim Studios Austin
Released: June 2004
Genre: Pro-Wrestling
Capabilities: Memory Unit, Custom Soundtracks

Review  Written: July 19, 2004

Is the third time a charm? That is what Acclaim is willing to find out with their third incarnation of its wrestling franchise, Showdown: Legends of Wrestling. The first game in the series was a decent effort, but was marred with too many problems relating to its ISP control system. The second title fixed many of those technical flaws, but the overall gameplay was unbalanced, and getting a full grasp of the controls proved to be a heavily unneeded task. With this third installment, Acclaim handed over the development duties to their Austin Studios, the same team responsible for the ECW wrestling games, and almost all the then-WWF games up until THQ took over the license in 1999.

The people at Austin gave LoW a complete makeover, with an all new “ready to brawl” control system, upped the amount of legends in the game to a whopping 73 (that’s about 20 more than your average new WWE title), and a new main single player mode billed as the Showdown Challenge. However, a lot of technical problems and glitches still rear their ugly head in this release, and tarnishes all the new features that Showdown brings to the plate. 

Showdown has added well over a dozen names to its already impressive roster. With these new additions, Acclaim has managed to fill the void and have almost all the big names in their game that are not already employed by the WWE. All the legends from the last game have returned, and as I said above, all the new legends in this game up the total to an impressive 73-man roster. New to LoW in this release are former world heavyweight champions Ultimate Warrior, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Sting, Dusty Rhodes, and Diamond Dallas Page. Other notable additions are icons such as Curt Hennig, “Ravishing” Rick Rude, and Jake “The Snake” Roberts.

Even though Acclaim has labeled that there is a new control system in place for Showdown, it still controls a lot like the last game in most aspects. There just aren’t those silly ISP meters anymore, yet it still feels like ISP moves occur in the game. I like to use the spear a lot with my created wrestler, and in the last game you could do a spear-pin ISP combo, and that still happens here, but at completely random points. It is as if Acclaim was still going to use the ISP controls here, but gave up on it midway through the development cycle and just took the meters out.

Controls will take a few matches to master, but there is also a nice tutorial on them that is hosted by Bret Hart that should give you a good feel for them within a half hour. Pressing the Y button with a direction has wrestlers instantly doing a basic move like your regular suplex or bodyslam, while pressing B will initiate a grapple where up to ten moves can be performed. Finishers are a lot easier to do, as you just build up a special meter, and once it is topped off, just give a quick flick of the right analog stick to perform a finisher to your opponent. However, getting the special meter full will take quite a while to do if you’re one of the gamers who primarily uses grapple moves, while using simple striking moves over and over will have that special meter filled up in no time. That factor alone makes gameplay very unbalanced. Another thing that helps unbalance the game is the fact that Acclaim took out one of the controls from the second game that I was very fond of, and that was the rising strike-counter, which was done by holding the R trigger as you got up. It made it so your wrestler wasn’t prone to getting hit as he was getting up from the mat. LoW2 was the only other game to have it aside from the legendary Aki-developed wrestling games.

Now those issues are actually small gripes, the major blows to gameplay are the wealthy amounts of glitches you’ll run across in almost every match you’ll play. Most of these are collision detection and clipping issues, and up until now I saw some unbelievable things that I thought would never occur in a wrestling game. Granted, there are usually tiny clipping issues in most wrestling titles, but Showdown takes it to a new level. Animation can be off a lot at times, where you’ll see no transition animations from wrestlers getting up off the mat and executing a move on you. Wrestlers would shift from one side of the ring to the other in a nanosecond. The list goes on, and these occurrences aren’t rare either, I ran into these and other instances at least several times in each match. I think I’m going to go through the credits see if there were even any game testers employed by Acclaim.

Acclaim has done away with its region based career mode from the past two titles, and has introduced two main single player games, the Showdown Challenge, and Classic Matches. In the Showdown Challenge, take any wrestler of your choosing and take him through three decades of wrestling: the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. You square off against five random opponents in various single and tag team match types from each particular era, with little bits of storyline thrown in before and after the match in an old school <i>Street Fighter</i> type of way. The wrestler also has a new costume for each era, and after going through each one, you face Hulk Hogan in the end to be crowned the new Showdown era champion.

On paper, this doesn’t sound like that bad of an idea, however once I breezed through all 16 matches in roughly an hour and a half; I was dying to go back to the old career mode that took a good 10 hours to complete. There is no benefit whatsoever of completing the Showdown Challenge more than once as there are no extra wrestlers, costumes, interviews, arenas, or anything of that nature to unlock. The little snippets of story seem rather blasé, and the opponents you wrestle seldom have any actual history with your character. Wouldn’t it of made sense for the wrestlers to fight guys they actually wrestled in those eras like having Hulk go up against the likes of Iron Sheik, King Kong Bundy, and Andre the Giant in the 1980’s and so on than instead of having a stupid two match storyline where Jimmy Hart turns on me as my tag team partner when I didn’t even select him to be my partner to begin with? The only positive qualities of this mode are seeing the various costumes for your wrestler in each era, and the little opening video packages for each era. Other than that, I’m quite disappointed with Acclaim as bringing over the region-based Career mode from the past two games would’ve still worked just fine.

Classic Matches is a mode where there are 13 classic match-ups to relive, and possibly change wrestling history. Upon choosing each match, you will be greeted with a screen that details the importance of the match and the game will place you in the climax of the bout. Decide weather or not wrestling history stays the same by controlling Hulk Hogan and making sure he keeps his key victories against Randy Savage, King Kong Bundy, and Iron Sheik, or rewrite it altogether where you control Andy Kaufman and have the opportunity to dethrone Jerry Lawler from their legendary encounter in the eighties. I was more fond of this mode than the Showdown Challenge actually, and it could have been better if there were more tag matches to relive other than just the sole Road Warriors/Koloffs match that I don’t even remember, and that half of the matches don’t circle around Hulk Hogan. However, except for gaining more Classic matches to relive, there are no unlocks from completing all the Classic matches.

Almost all the match types from LoW2 return. Besides your usual fare of exhibition, tag team, and 3 and 4-way dance match ups, there are the gimmick matches that return, like the spectacular Cage and Ladder matches that debuted from the last game in the LoW franchise. They still play out the same for the most part, except now you can have the ref open the door for you in a cage match instead of beating it open as in the last game. I enjoy the Cage and Battle Royal matches in here more than I do in the latest Smackdown titles as they are simply more challenging and fun to play. The battle royal in here is the best one I have played since No Mercy on the N64.

New types of matches introduced in Showdown are 4-on-4 Survivor Series style elimination matches. Other new gimmick matches introduced are First Blood, and Table matches. Working with the tables is a bit of a chore, as you can’t actually place your opponent on a table like you could in the Smackdown titles, you just have to stand it up, and do a move by it and hope the games shady collision detection marks your foe for going through the table for the victory. All in all, there is a fine number of match types that should keep any wrestling enthusiast happy for a good amount of time, especially in multiplayer.

Now if there were actually any unlocks for completing the single player modes, the replay value of this game would have been through the roof. Granted, it is nice to have all the wrestlers, costumes, and arenas available at the beginning of the game, but there still should have been some sort of extras that could be unlocked. LoW2 is a prime example of this as there were dozens of wrestler interviews, and special career ending montages for almost every wrestler in the game. Besides a nice little memorial for wrestlers that have passed away, there are no noteworthy extras in here at all, and it dramatically affects the replay value of the single player portion of the game.

Couple this with the fact that the Create-a-Wrestler feature has taken a turn for the worse. While there is a nice amount of clothing and mask options to deck out your own creation with, the game took out a couple of features that severely limits the amount of possibilities you can come up with. For starters, there are no options to edit miniscule details such as eyes, nose, and mouth designs like there have been in previous Acclaim create-a-wrestler modes. Nor can you add and text on costumes as well. The developers took out one of the most primitive options there is for CaW modes, and what is it you ask? Aside from just hair, they have removed the ability to change the color of any of the parts available to create your wrestler with. What’s that, you love those torn blue jeans, but want to make them black instead? Well, tough beans junior, you should be happy with what you get. The developers at Austin also took out the excellent create-a-face paint feature too.

The graphics got a major facelift, as the character models have stepped up a few notches from the previous LoW games. The wrestlers are about twice as large now, and sport a lot more detail than ever before. The developers made sure to pay attention to the little details that count such as the bands that wave through the air as the Ultimate Warrior runs across the ring. I’m glad there is still facial damage that is noticeable during matches, as wrestlers will sport the crimson mask with streams of blood running down their face.

The move animations are hit and miss for the most part.The moves are animated well and look nearly identical to how they’re actually performed on television, but the shoddy collision detection I described above can make the moves look very questionable. The finishing moves also look decent, but lack that extra ‘oomph’ that gives that finisher its own uniqueness like the <i>Smackdown</i> games do. Just compare Hulk Hogan’s leg drop finisher in here to how it is animated in Smackdown: Shut Your Mouth and you’ll see what I mean.

Commentary debuts in this installment of the LoW series, with the three man team of Tony Schivane, Larry Zybysko, and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Believe it or not, this is actually the first wrestling game that offers semi-decent commentary on this generation of consoles. Schivane does play-by-play analysis, and Heenan loves to throw in his infamous wise cracks, and all three spew out random historical facts about each grappler throughout the matches. The three actually mesh quite well, and it is just too bad there comments start to repeat too often, or else it could have established the bar for what commentary should be in all wrestling games.

Obviously Acclaim doesn’t have the rights to the official WCW and WWE entrance theme library, so you won’t have any authentic themes in place for any of the wrestlers. However, there are quite a few great covers for the bigger names like Hulk Hogan, Warrior, Rick Rude, Curt Hennig, British Bulldog and several others that sound as close to their counterparts as they can be without Acclaim getting a lawsuit from the WWE. Gone are the licensed rock tracks for background music from the second game, as it is replaced with some more suitable instrumental tracks of the standard fare you usually here in any other current WWE game. If you so desire, you can have custom soundtracks blazing in the background, as I find it more appropriate to be button mashing away to the many ripped wrestler entrance themes I have on my hard drive. However, I find it odd that Acclaim didn’t include an option to have custom soundtracks supported for entrance themes ala RAW 2, but at least the option is here in some degree.


Graphics: 8.0
Sound: 8.2
Gameplay: 5.5
Replay Value: 5.0

Overall: 6.6

It seems with every right Acclaim makes with this franchise; there is always a wrong that results from it. On the positive side of things, the graphics are far better, almost all the big name legends are in here, and there are as many gameplay modes as there ever was before. This game is especially fun in multiplayer. If you’re a hardcore wrestling fan, than the 73 legends available will be just your cup of tea, and you’ll probably have hours of fun recreating all the classic bouts from the past. Unfortunately, there are too many glitches and bugs involved in gameplay that will make you want to snap this disc in half, and the main single player mode is a huge disappointment. For the casual gamer, you’ll probably be better off with renting Showdown than chucking out the $50 retail price for this game.


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