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Legendary

"Legendary" has the heart of a great monster mash-up: it throws together mythical beasts that span the globe, from the Greek griffon to Jewish golems to Slavic pixies, and marries them to a cornball story about the rediscovery of Pandora’s Box.

“Legendary” has the heart of a great monster mash-up: It throws together mythical beasts that span the globe, from the Greek griffon to Jewish golems to Slavic pixies, and marries them to a cornball story about the rediscovery of Pandora’s Box. Though it brings gusto, wit and a sharp eye for horror cliches, “Legendary” is still at its core a clunky, mediocre first-person shooter that’s likely to vanish under the mountain of topnotch actioners shipping this month.

Originally saddled with the unfortunate title “Legendary: The Box,” the game stars clueless thief Charles Deckard, who unwittingly opens Pandora’s Box and unleashes a horde of monsters on the world. Deckard finds himself allying with one shady militia against another as he chases the titular container from New York to London, looking for a way to close it back up. The plot is perfunctory, as the real star here is the environment. The cities and buildings feel genuinely devastated: jagged walls crumble around the player, and the pavement cracks under a five-story-tall junk golem. Schlocky haunted-house logic rules the day: No sooner does an innocent civilian or a gung-ho soldier greet Deckard than a giant tentacle sweeps them away — or a bus lands on their head.

Deckard gains one novel trick from Pandora’s Box: a signet welded to his arm that can absorb “animus” energy from monsters and turn it into a burst of force, or a healing balm. Gathering animus is the only way to heal wounds, forcing the player to ration it carefully — and sometimes, stop to scoop up more in the middle of a firefight. Unfortunately, this resource is frustrating to manage. Thanks to a poorly designed meter, it’s easy to unwittingly use it up on a quick heal, and there’s no feedback later to remind players that they’re firing blanks.

The monsters show engaging variety, and the challenge of wearing down a frighteningly bull-like minotaur leaves the player winded. However, the bestiary peters out well before the end: After a climactic battle against a Kraken that knocks the top off Big Ben with one lazy tentacle, “Legendary” runs out the clock by rehashing the same monsters and battlegrounds. The weapons are fairly conventional, and while they look realistic, they feel underpowered. When a van-sized bird gets hit by a flamethrower, at least a few of the feathers should singe.

Basic gameplay mistakes also mar the experience. The rockier the environment becomes, the more frustrated the player will feel as six-inch-high obstacles block a grown man’s progress and silly impediments — like the electronic door locks — pop up for no clear reason. Aside from werewolves, who are limber and erratic, most enemies follow predictable patterns, and human foes often don’t hide while under fire.

And while a humans-vs.-werewolves multiplayer mode may extend the game’s approximately eight-hour campaign, at press time, other players were hard to find.

Legendary

Rated M. $50-$60.

Production: A Gamecock presentation of a game developed by Spark Unlimited for the PC, Playstation 3 and XBox 360. Reviewed on Xbox 360.

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