New Legends is in a precarious
spot. On the one hand, it is a really fun game to play and has a lot going for it. On the
other hand, it is pretty obvious that this title is going to look really old in another
year or two. You might wonder how Infinite Machine, one of THQs prize development
houses cobbled together from ex-LucasArts developers, could screw up. The answer to that
query, however, would be that they didnt screw up. They just stopped too soon.
creates an intriguing future-past version of China. The evil Xao Gon has begun to take
over "New China", and that means eliminating all of the clans who currently run
the show. Xao Gon, along with his five half-demon spawn offspring, pretty much goes
through these clans like you-know-what through a baby. The game opens as the Soo clan is
attacked and it is left to the clans only remaining survivor, Sun Soo (not to be
confused with Sun Tzu, who wrote The Art of War), to reclaim not just his
familys land but all of China. Its a big job, so Soo will need help.
Soo gets help. During the course of his adventures he manages to wrangle a good cast of
characters, including Boo, the burly and kind-hearted half demon, Jen Chi, who rides a
great Chinese dragon, Fa Zhang, the centarian with a deadeye rifle, and Topo, who is a
fighting monk in a tradition undoubtedly based on the Shaolin legend and reality. These
characters, and a couple more, assist Soo in his efforts to route the forces of Xao Gon
from China and restore order to the land.
gameplay is probably the best brawler experience Ive had. As you fight, you can
execute combos. In most brawlers these combos are too few and ineffective to be much use
or much fun. However, New Legends keeps everything fresh. The combination of old and new
allows the game to include weapons like swords and staffs as well as machine guns and
rocket launchers. You have access to a variety of weapons as you pick them up from slain
enemies or have them gifted to you for defeating a boss, but you only carry four weapons
at a time. In the heat of combat you can quickly shift between these four weapons (and you
can even hit pause to swap out those four weapons for four new weapons, which kind of
defeats the purpose of the limited inventory).
weapon you use requires a different style. The firearms are limited by the availability of
ammo as well as their effectiveness in certain situations. The traditional martial arts
weapons can be just as formidable as the firearms, and these weapons carry special combos
with them. Each main weapon has several combos that can be used in combat. That means that
as you go along you must continually learn new combos and figure out more efffective means
of martial combat. This keeps the brawling in the game fresh and prevents it from becoming
too repetitive, which in turn means that a major chunk of the gameplay stays fun the whole
the complex fighting system is really cool, the game has a lot of other features going for
it. Unfortunately, none of these good qualities are evident at the outset. New Legends has
possibly the worst first level Ive ever seen. It practically begs gamers, "Put
me down! Im not a fun game!" This is a big problem because, as I believe other
reviews of the title show, the blandness, confusion, and generally "not fun"
aspects displayed in the first level will put off many gamers. However, I encourage you to
keep going. That first level isnt much fun, but it isnt too difficult either,
and the following levels and unfolding story really make you wonder why Infinite Machine
shot themselves in the foot with such a bland opening. We need a hook, fellaz!
the first level, the story begins to unfold and you begin to hook up with your buddies.
The gameplay gets exponentially more fun. Youll do a whole ton of brawling, some
running and gunning, and some level-specific tasks. One aspect of the gameplay that is
truly rewarding is the group vibe of the combat. Sure, you can run ahead of your pals and
try to hog the kills, but, especially on your first time through the game, thats not
really a winning strategy. It is better to hang close to your friends so you can retreat
amongst them when enemies get overwhelming. And let me tell you, there are plenty of
enemies in this game. But your allies fight well and are fun to watch, so they provide
excellent cover when the going gets tough.
quite a few really unique and interesting elements to New Legends. There is a level where
you must go to "the other side" and fight ghost soldiers, and another where you
must outrun an avalanche. You free a dragon from imprisonment, and the rendering of the
Chinese dragon is just really neat looking. The movement throughout the game is excellent,
which enhances all aspects of the play. Soo can only carry four weapons at a time, but he
actually carries them. Switch weapons and his appearance changes to reflect his inventory.
Levels set among mountain passes and hidden monastaries are well designed and fun to play.
Some of them even look pretty good.
thats the other downfall of New Legends. The visuals are thoroughly mediocre, and
this is a game that should be beautiful. The story and dialogue is actually decent, and
gorgeous graphics could have made this title a major cult hit if not a mainstream success.
However, for the most part, the textures are bland. I dont mean to harp on it, but
the ugliest level is, by far, the first level. Later levels, such as the mountain pass,
look much better, but are still far from beautiful. Since so much of New Legends rests on
the story, and since so many details are provided in other aspects of the game, it is
noticeably lacking that the visuals are so midrange.
other things could have been done to New Legends to make it a bigger, perhaps better, and
definitely different game. Early in its development, the title was rumored to support
multiplayer, and it is easy to see how this could have been a good addition. However,
taking New Legends as a narrative-based action brawler is not a problem for me. We need
some good games in this genre the brawler has always been a sorely underrated and
out there wont get past the first level of New Legends, and thats too bad. I
suggest at least a rental on this title, and make sure you suffer through that opening
its short enough, I promise. Once you get into the game, it is genuinely hard
to put down, which is a stroke in its favor. As I said in the opening of this review, New
Legends will probably look and feel pretty dated in another year or two. Hopefully by then
Infinite Machine and THQ will have teamed up on a sequel, and hopefully theyll be
able to further polish and hone this gem in the rough. Well look forward to it.