Hands-on preview / Legendary: The Box

Gamecock executive producer Tim Hesse and marketing and production coordinator Jason “JD” Livergood sat patiently next to me as I struggled to play their upcoming game for more than three minutes without dying. To my credit, I was thrown into a level about half-way into the game in hard mode. Needless to say, the game was changed to God mode so I could play it without worrying about losing some more face and gaming cred.

My shameful display of gaming prowess took place when That VideoGame Blog recently visited Gamecock’s offices in Austin, Texas, where I got a chance to play the Xbox 360 version of the upcoming first-person shooter Legendary: The Box.

Legendary, developed by Spark Unlimited, tells the story of Deckard, a thief who steals a mysterious artifact. When the story’s hero opens the artifact, literally all hell brakes loose, as the artifact turns out to be Pandora’s Box. Werewolves, griffins and other creatures enter our world, and the only person capable of sealing the artifact is, of course, Deckard.

The opening level of the game, which was played by Hesse, consists of great scripted moments like when Deckard touches the artifact and a huge beam of light erupts into the ceiling, breaking it, and as it grows, people begin to get sucked by the force of the phenomenon.

Once outside, the scene is reminiscent of apocalyptic-themed movies such as Independence Day or War of the Worlds. People are running around desperately seeking shelter as werewolves and griffins attack everything that moves. At the same time, the whole city is getting destroyed by the power of the beam that erupted from the box. Moments later, what seemed to be a building begins to move and kick everything in its path. The enormous monster turns out to be a golem made out of rubble and pieces of cars and buildings.

While all this is happening, Deckard needs to find a way out the mayhem, running inside destroyed buildings with his handy ax, which is the first weapon the hero carries.

While the graphics may not be on par with some of the games that will come out around the same time as Legendary, such as Gears of War 2, for example, what sets this shooter apart from the rest is the story and the type of enemies Deckard gets to fight.

“You’re not a soldier in some war-torn area, running and ducking for cover. You’re actually empowered to kick the crap out of werewolves and (other creatures),” Hesse said.

And those creatures are not easy to beat either. Once I was allowed to play one of the later levels, I got my first taste at fighting werewolves and members of the Black Order, which, without giving too much away, play a big part of the story and are looking to control Pandora’s Box.

I began the level with an arsenal consisting of the ax from the first level, an automatic rifle and a shotgun. More importantly, Deckard also has a special weapon, “Signet,” which is a sort of Force-like power that allows to push enemies away, among other things, and also serves as a healing tool. The signet is refilled by absorbing the soul or animus of fallen creatures.

The controls were very responsive, but I had to lower the sensitivity, which was just a personal choice, and I was glad to know it was available in the options menu.

At first I had a hard time finding my way through the streets of what seemed to be a European town, which was odd because the level was very linear. But once the action started, the game got very interesting.

Through one level, I had allies supporting me along the way, and eventually we got to a point where there were Black Order soldiers attacking us. Suddenly, werewolves arrived to the scene and began attacking the soldiers. I played this part twice and I choose a different path each time. First, as the seasoned FPS player that I am, I went head on into the action and tried to take out the soldiers and the wolves at the same time, which resulted in a quick death. The second time around I waited as the werewolves attacked the soldiers and nearly wiped them completely.

In that same scene there was a futuristic-looking crate holding a mean looking werewolf, one of the Alpha Werevolves. It was larger and meaner looking that the rest. I shot the crate’s keypad and the huge werewolf began attacking everything that moved, including the other werewolves.

Once it defeated most of the other enemies, it was my turn to face the alpha monster. It was tough, but a couple of shotgun barrels later, it was finally down.

The level had a boos fight, a large minotaur that constantly charged at my character. After a coupe of failed attempts to try to stop it with the shotgun, I realized that the best way to go about it was to do a sidestep and the shot him in the back as he charged past me.

Once I finished getting owned by the werewolves and the minotaur, I finally had the chance to ask Hesse and Livergood a couple of questions.

When touching on the subject of the less-than-stellar Fall of Liberty: Turning Point, also developed by Spark Unlimited, Hesse explained that it was published by a different company and it probably had a different budget and development timetable. He noted that Legendary’s development is different – and more importantly, it has a different development team.

“Legendary is not like Turning Point,” he said. “It’s just a different game. Would I say it’s a better game? Yes I would,” he said, adding that it doesn’t mean Turning Point was a bad game, it just had some flaws.

“Every game has flaws. Some are just better hidden than others. Bioshock has flaws, every game (has them), so it’s unfortunate that Turning Point scored poorly. We, again, are not concerned that Spark made Turning Point and now are making Legendary,” he said. “We played both games and we know what we have with Legendary, and we’re very happy with it.”

Hesse also confirmed that Legendary has multiplayer, although it was not ready to be shown to the public yet.

“Legendary is built around the single player story driven experience, but it has a multiplayer component. We’re not building a multiplayer component on the scale of Halo or Call of Duty. It’s not that type of multiplayer experience,” he said.

Although Hesse downplayed the multiplayer component of Legendary, it sounds like it might be a refreshing take on deathmatches, specially because there are AI opponents in the maps, including monsters.

“There’s a three way fight all the time,” Hesse said, adding that there is a device in the map that allows the player to control the monsters, which will then attack opponents. If nobody controls the device, the monsters “will tear the crap out of everyone no matter what.”

It sounds very promising, and, if executed correctly, it could be very fun.

After a long day with Hesse and Livergood, and despite my poor marksmanship and the seemingly unstoppable attacks of the werewolves and the Black Order, I left Gamecock offices wishing I had had more time with Legendary, which is definitely a good sign. Hopefully the game’s development will continue to chug along and stick to its September launch window.

[See also: Legendary: The Box gallery]