360 XBLA Review - Deadliest Warrior: Legends

17th July 2011 - The first Deadliest Warrior title, released as a downloadable game (DLG) last year, was a big hit. Gamers loved the unique realism the title delivered, but there were still some obvious flaws in the mechanics. Deadliest Warrior: Legends is the next instalment in the series and while polishing over the original mechanics, also adds a few new ingredients to the mix. Read on to find out why the Deadliest Warrior series has all the potential and more to be a full retail game.


The game is based on the popular TV show of the same name, which demonstrates fantasy scenarios of different types of warriors, both modern day and ancient. Just like the original title, Deadliest Warrior: Legends, takes a unique stance in the fighting game genre by delivering a highly realistic fighting experience. That’s not to say it recreates the more unruly Friday nights at the local, but instead attempts to show how lethal even the simplest of strikes can be. Unlike the original though, which features archetypes of different types of fighters from throughout history, Legends fighters are all renowned war heroes and historic figures all, ranging from Sun Tzu to William Wallace.


While I loved the ability to recreate some childhood dreams of things like Pirates vs. Ninjas in the original game, this new take on the characters is a very neat addition for history buffs, however, potentially alienating gamers a little less versed in the warriors of ancient.


The main fighting mechanics have been reworked from the last game, with new abilities like grappling and pushing being implemented into the scheme of things. I found that the pushing mechanic was a great new treat, being able to be used very well in conjunction with new fatal stage pieces, like pits and ring edges on some of the stages. But the grappling moves, they were a little less effective. Where they actually add a certain degree of awesome to the fights and look brilliant, the strange way in which they are executed and won (you must fight the other warrior for supremacy while grappling) creates a sense of randomness and uncertainty, rendering using them pretty useless you’re in danger of losing yourself.


Aside from well polished fighting, Legends adds a few new single-player options to the overall package of the game as well. A new ‘Generals’ mode makes good use of the whole ‘Legends’ theme, with a standalone strategy add-on to the title, allowing for players to undertake Campaigns as the warrior of their choice where you fight and assign battalions over a large map, fighting for control of the land and dominance of the other warrior, or Legend. It’s a good idea, but the over-simplicity and underdevelopment of it bring down a potentially groundbreaking addition for the genre, especially given the XBLA format.


Multiplayer is as fun as it was on the original title, with the realism in the fighting offering a greatly different experience from other fighting games. Assuming both players have mastered the mechanics, the battles this game offers are second to none in terms of skilful fighting. But new players best learn every inch of the ropes before taking on more weathered opponents.


I praised the first titles animation quality a year ago, and in that time, its sequel has certainly been given a touch up. For an XBLA title, you can’t ask for much in the way of technical feats, but Legends offers some pretty fantastic visual qualities. Models are still kind of blocky, but the animation of the fighters and the fluent way they interact with one another in the heat of battle is great.


Shamefully, this game has shows a few problems with things like swords and spears seamlessly going through and protruding the warriors who wield them in strange fashions. This comes from the animation obviously being designed without too much thought being placed in the location of the weapons when the warriors happen to attack. It doesn’t affect gameplay at all, but it rubs off on the overall experience when the fighters genuinely look like they are stabbing themselves in the legs and head.


Still present in Deadliest Warrior: Legends is gore. The last games use of blood and body pieces came as a bit of a shock, and thankfully, Legends brings it all back into play, even upping the bar a little. Heads will fly, arms will rip and legs will tear from the bodies of your enemies. And probably you, too. Its suits the realism, especially when the lethality of an accurately thrown spear aimed for someone eye makes itself clear.


As you play through the main arcade mode of the title, you unlock a surprisingly large range of weapons and armour specifically catered to individual warriors. And along with the new stat system for weapons, making a return is customising the warriors’ colours for battles. But this is as useful as a condom vending machine in the Vatican.


Trying to focus on most sound effects in a fighting game is always a bit of a giggle, especially in a low budget one. Just imagining voice actors standing in a room, alone, in front of a microphone, and being told to make sounds like they are getting their arms chopped off and kneecaps broken simply gets a raise out of me. But enough chucking – this is serious. And serious it seems, as every sound effect – particularly music – in Legend takes a very crisp stance. Menus and loading screens are complemented with almost heavy guitar riffage and orchestral sounds. It creates a sense of brutality that would have worked wonders if played in-game when the limbs are flying and knives are being thrown.


Legends fails to make anything noteworthy out of the audio department. The voicing for the characters features silly catchphrases and taunts that seem to try to hit on par with the ancient warriors proposed personalities, and ranges from attempted humour to dreadful seriousness, never completely being clear which one is which. But it doesn’t necessarily fail here either, instead landing nicely right in the middle of audacious perfection and purposeless silence. The very definition of mediocrity folks.


There is quite a lot on offer in Legends. With a range of single player modes, from the standard Arcade and training/practice options, to the unique Generals and Challenges, the game manages to provide a great deal of longevity with its mode range allowing for players to fighting their way through a series of warriors, as well as learn and hone their skills. As the gameplay features a very difficult learning curve and punishes button-mashing, value comes from players dedication to perfection and personal stance on realism in their gameplay. Legends is also easily enjoyable with other players of equal skill, but can be crushing to those who want, or expect, the next Street Fighter out of it. Definitely worth the 800 Microsoft Point asking price.


Deadliest Warrior: Legends came out of nowhere. With very little marketing, and even less word of mouth, the sequel to the surprise XBLA hit of yesteryear is everything the original was and more. Building on the strengths and weaknesses of the last game, Legends deliverers a well rounded and enjoyable experience that shows that the series and themes of the game really have a lot to offer. With some more polish and redefined modes, the strengths and mechanics of this game have the potential to become a boxed retail game. Then at least, it would get the recognition it deserves, because even as a LIVE Arcade title, Deadliest Warrior: Legends holds a torch to the big contenders in the Fighting game market in more ways than one.




+ Unique fighting mechanics
+ Good deal of content
+ Legendary warriors theme works well
+ Smooth fighting animations


- Some visual hiccups
- Underworked Generals mode
- Still daunting and difficult to newcomers


Reviewed and written by John Elliott