The story of Pandora ‘s Box is well documented in Greek Mythology and tells the tale of a devious God Zeus, giving the lovely and perhaps somewhat inquisitive Pandora a wedding present in the form of a box. However in his mischievous ways, the instructions are given not to open the box under any circumstances. Well, like all human minds, we have to see what’s inside or what happened. Likening it to our own desires when driving past a terrible accident on the motorway (freeway if you’re American) and not averting our gaze away from the severed limbs and bloodied cracked windscreens, even though it’s perhaps not what we really wanted to see – cue being sick in a paper bag and feeling somewhat groggy for rest of the journey. Well as the myth goes, the curious Pandora opens the box, and unleashes all of mankind’s horror and torment into the World.
Legendary, the video game, pays homage to this tale, and propels the myth into a fictitious modern age, where Pandora’s Box has been discovered in the murky and watery depths of the sea. Taken to New York, the box is studied, but not really understood fully. With those rubbing their hands with glee over the discovery, being totally unawares of the implications and power of what lies before them.
However, there is one man, who with eager anticipation, has a fine grasp of the origins pertaining to this discovery, and conjures up a plan to not steal the box, but to open it and unleash untold horror’s into the World. This is where you come in. In game, your character is chancer, thief and mercenary called Charles Deckard, who sells his cunning services to the highest bidder, in this case a total loon, hell bent on World domination via the powers unleashed from the mysterious and omnipotent Pandora’s Box.
The game begins, with you breaking into the museum where the box is securely held, and unknowingly opening the box with complete abandon of any dire consequences. This naivety is soon shattered like a glass bottle falling on a stone floor, because once Deckard’s hand is placed on the box to open it, quite literally Deckard’s world and everyone else’s is turned upside down. The box is opened and forthwith spawns all manner of hellish creatures, intent on the destruction of humankind – except Deckard.
Having placed his hand onto the box, this has granted him a Signet which possess his left hand for the duration, and means that he’s not only the catalyst that has determined the end of the world, but also a potential, and unwitting saviour.
Without spoiling too much of the rather interesting story on offer here, let’s just say that the game starts off with a bang, and a dramatic one at that.
Story aside, Legendary is in no uncertain terms, a straight-up linear, first person shooter. However, gone are the tiresome Germans or unadulterated aliens, and replacing these are all manner of mythical beasts. These include, werewolves, Griffins, Minotaur and other rather large, screen filling abominations. As a player, your job is basically to survive by killing both man and beast who try to prevent your progress. Think a less confined and brighter version of Doom and you’ll be quite close to what’s on offer here. That’s not to say Legendary is filled with pretty fairy lights and cup cakes, because from start to finish you’ll be up close and personal with some intense and quite often gruesome scripted moments, that will make the more sadistic of you quite enthralled.
Legendary mixes up sections of gameplay where you’re either isolated or teamed up with a special unit, who provide some basic support to Deckard. It’s not a new mechanic by any stretch, but when fused with the gripping story, makes plenty of sense as you play (not offering any spoilers here). There are some moments where you’ll be able to interact with inanimate objects, such as door control panels or valves, perhaps even shooting parts of the rather chaotic scenery. I say chaotic, because New York, is not like the postcards you may have seen, but more akin to Hell itself. Those unleashed beasts haven’t come to rub their rough and perhaps pungently smelly animal fur against your legs, looking for a tummy tickle, but rather wanting to sink their sharp, pointed teeth deep into your soft and warm bloodied frames. You will be seeing lots of people in pain, bleeding, suffering and totally bewildered at what’s happening; a true horror story of epic proportions made all the more real by its modern and familiar locales. One such terrifying moment, has London’s magnificent Big Ben smashed in half and crumpled into a mere shadow of its majestic former state. Amusingly, the London Eye in the background remains continuously rotating like a normal day here in old blighty.
One thing to get straight is that although Deckard is able to suck energy from the mutilated remains of those creatures who stand against him (this predominantly regains health), he is but a mere mortal man, rather than some godlike being. So you will be seeing the death sequence quite often, although this is rather dependant on your playing skill. He’s vulnerable, but also a little bit handy with a sub-machine gun, axe, pistol, shotgun etc, – you know, the usual suspects. There’s a plentiful supply of weapons available, and so you’re never going to be left short-changed when it comes to ripping the heads off werewolves for example, although in some cases, that fire axe purports an eager thirst that needs quenching.
Your victims are not the most intelligent bunch, (I guess the werewolves were too busy comparing claw length during class) and will basically jump around the scenery asking to be hacked or shot to pieces. They will on occasion attack some of the human opponents you face, although the AI scripting seems to be focused on lil’ old you! Come on, it would be too easy to idly twiddle your thumbs whilst the werewolves did all the work for you. That said, you can be a little sneaky with it at times to your advantage (something we’ve seen in this year’s Turok for example); although you can’t rest on your laurels because those wolves really do offer the invitation to smell their tainted wolf breath quite often. You might have guessed by now, that the werewolves are the mainstay of the opposition you face throughout, and that enemy variety is not necessarily one of the game’s strong points. I will add, the combat is fairly solid and reasonably satisfying whether you’re slicing off werewolf head or burying bullets into humans. The encounters with the other beasts on offer here, are in fact just slug fests, with you back peddling whilst emptying whatever weapon you have to hand. It seems tactics exited via the same door as variety in this game to find a home elsewhere – perhaps they were too frightened or arrogant to show their faces in such a simplistic game.
Legendary uses Epic’s Unreal Engine 3 technology and puts it to very good use indeed. I was left suitably impressed at some of the lighting and textures presented here. The game does omit a rather glistening sheen to some of the enemies, but this lends itself to the rubbery nature of the fallen. This is something Bioshock suffered from, but in context can largely be laughed at or ignored. My only real gripe was the fact that some enemies would get stuck in the scenery, which meant my friend Mr. Choppy the fire axe was unable to satisfy its thirst for decaffeinated coffee…I mean decapitated wolf head.
Legendary features some genuinely impressive scripted moments, that left me somewhat in awe at the grandiose display of destruction. Times Square in particular looks stunning (in an unusual hap-hazard way) considering the mass carnage portrayed here. Spark have really worked well with the Unreal Engine, and I commend them for getting some rather cool effects from it – minus the dreaded texture loading that some other games using the engine have suffered from.
However, it’s not all rosy, because I felt there was an air of laziness in some instances, such as Deckard’s hands not being seen when turning a valve or bypassing a door. It’s a small complaint, but somewhat takes you out of the experience and just screams in an annoying high pitched voice, “we couldn’t be bothered”. I would have settled for an explanation that Deckard was given some sort of telekinetic powers, however my desires weren’t catered for.
The music in Legendary is as gritty and hard edged as the gameplay, and features a pumping rock soundtrack. I actually felt it was a pleasant change from the usual music we get these days, and harks back to the old school where screaming leads and frantic beats drive you through the levels. It’s cheesy, cheap, and I wouldn’t have it any other way for this type of game.
The sound effects, although repetitive are all functional, providing enough contrast to the constant drivel pouncing on your ears from the voice acting in-game. With only semi-decent performances from a particular leading lady character, who shall remain unnamed in this review.
Playing through the single player story is going to last around 8 hours depending on difficulty and player skill. Although part of me would like to tackle it again on a more challenging setting in the future. There’s some decent achievements to compel you to play again, although I figure for most, one play is probably going to be enough. That said, if you’re a gamer who likes to get everything, then expect to play through the game at least three times – although for my tastes I don’t think I’d be able to stomach that many werewolves.
Legendary does feature a multiplayer mode for those of you online, although with so many titles out at present, you’ll be hard pushed to find a game going. Perhaps Spark should have used resources to flesh out the single player a little more rather than including an oh-so predicable and complacent multiplayer.
Now that I’ve beaten the game and stand back to surmise my feelings, I can honestly say that although there were a few times when my blood boiled and I was tempted to reach for the teabags, cups and saucers(because of cheap moments); Legendary is actually quite compelling and solid fun. The story in particular is very good, and although lacking in depth for the main character, the presentation was engaging enough for me to desire some sort of closure. I think the main point to remember here, is Legendary isn’t trying to be the next Halo or COD 4, but rather a simplistic take on the complexities of modern shooters. It’s a no-brainer, and that’s part of the charm, and I guess a good portion of why I enjoyed it as much as I have done. If you approach the game with this in mind, I’m confident that you’ll come away with a similar feeling, and sense of accomplishment. Legendary is not trying to be clever, as far as I can tell and so if you’re looking for something less taxing, totally unrealistic, that appeals to your inner desire to just point and shoot, then I would recommend this game.
If however you’re spoiled by the semi-realism of COD 4, and taxing tactics of more modern shooters (by design), then Legendary is perhaps going to appear quite unfulfilling and a step back from what you’re used to. There’s a solid game here with a splattering of claret coloured fun, but it’s not something universally appealing, unfortunately. Had this been released a few years ago, I’m sure it would have had far more of an appealing impact. Now excuse me whilst I go clean my clothes of festering werewolf hair – damn that stuff gets everywhere.