Review by neothe0ne

"One can't possibly rule them all"

Official LotR movie game
Movie footage from the not-yet-released movie
Excellent music
Now has co-op

Just the story campaign, nothing else
Next to no replay value
Limited ways to fight
Basically it's just hacking and slashing

I must admit, when I heard EA was releasing the Return of the King game, I had high hopes. It was coming out before the movie, so we all expected scenes from the movie. It was going to have co-op, which The Two Towers game did not have. But, after all the hype on the new Lord of the Rings game, it can't be denied that EA has, yet again, dissapointed us all.

You're greeted on the title screen by the Rohan theme. That's all and well, but that should have been the Two Tower's title theme. Where's the new music, like the Minas Tirith theme? Even though this game features lots of movie footage, the music is pretty old stuff. On the bright side.. well, the graphics are dark most of the time. The fog in the Paths of the Dead looked nice enough at the time, and the units are just like from the movies. There isn't much to compare the Orcs and Uruk-hai and Trolls to except from the movie, but the units look like what they're supposed to look like. The levels were pretty well laid out, also according to the movies. The story splits up among the different parties, and you can only go so far with one group before you have to catch the other group(s) up. The music was great, all LotR music from the soundtrack. Howard Shore has great scores on the soundtrack, so no real complaints there.

Gameplay is one of the places where the King does not return but falls. There is the Speed Attack and the Fierce Attack, there's kick, there's the range button, and of course the finishing-off move that looks cool... But the Speed and Fierce attacks aren't well balanced out. Many heavily armored enemies require Fierce attacks to take out, but the Speed attack can be extra cheap against weaker enemies. One of the problems in the game is the camera. The camera is centered on your character some of the time and it is fixed some of the time. When you're trying to find the ladder to get down from Osgiliath, for example, it's covered by pillars in the current camera view (at least the many times I've done the level). The other glitch in the system is your AI. Both your allies and your enemies can be extremely stupid at times. Every character also has a ranged attack that has auto-aim. While this probably looked good on paper, and probably satisfied many people's complaints of how it would balance the game, some people aren't meant to have a long-range attack, and it removes from the fun of the game. Throwing knives, for example, take forever to charge up if you want to do any damage. And Gandalf's ranged projectile count is for magic blasts.. he picks up magic blasts off the floor? Medieval wizards were frauds, yes, but THAT bad? Every attack you do is rated from poor, fair, good, excellent, or perfect, and it all depends on how you attack and how many hits you use on the unit. The overall difficulty of the game is usually fairly low, except for some frustrating spots that are timed. At the end of the level, Return of the King feels like a more visually stunning but less fun version of Gauntlet Legends. It counts up your attacks, gives you experience, and lets you buy upgrades with that experience.

Replay value is next to zero. Yes, I know there's co-op mode. After you beat all the levels, you'll probably only have a few favorites (probably the epic battles shown in the movie), and all you can do is level up, get all the upgrades (most of which are useless), and then level up for nothing at all but satisfaction. The Co-op mode isn't much of an improvement over single-player play, and sometimes it can be worse. Your friends are generally brighter than the AI, but you can't move if your friend is on the edge of the other side of the screen, but enemies can move and fire arrows while you're yelling at him. There really isn't any reason to own this game after you beat it once. A good rent for a night or two can be fun, but this game is overhyped, overrated, and not fun.

All in all, this is another Electronic Average game. Only extreme movie fanatics would give this game a high rating; I'm more of the book fanatic type, and I didn't find this game nearly worth the $50 I paid, and I don't think it's worth $20, either.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 12/01/04, Updated 01/07/05

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