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Xbox Review - 'LoTR : The Two Towers'

by Chris "Fozz" Breci on Jan. 9, 2003 @ 7:57 a.m. PST

One ring to rule them all… Based on New Line Cinema's epic adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic fantasy novels, The Lord of the Rings™, The Two Towers™ video games will integrate cinema and gameplay to deliver an epic interactive experience. In the game, players will be able to relive the most memorable movie moments from the first two films, "The Fellowship of the Ring" and "The Two Towers." Does the game measure up the the excellence of the movie? Read more and find out!

Genre: Action
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Electronic Arts
Release Date: 12/31/02

Let’s take a trip back in time to a day where a company named Vivendi decided to take on the task of recreating one of the greatest books of all time into a videogame. “The Fellowship of the Rings” was what came out of there work and troubles, and from what it seemed, all of the pressure of faithfully recreating the book into an adventure had seriously affected their development process. The Fellowship was not what you would call “quality entertainment,” in fact the game lacked anything that might even remotely resemble fun. Worry not, and do not let that bad taste left in your mouth corrupt your outlook on Two Towers because it proves itself to be as much fun as the movie was. One of the features I, personally, was waiting to see was if the game could replicate the feel of taking part in a battle against very high numbers of enemies without running into any hardware slowdown. If you, by some odd chance, missed the movie then you’re not going to be left in the dark on the storyline. This game covers The Fellowship of the Rings and The Two Towers just to make sure you’re not lost. The cinematics of the game will let you in on what you need to know, but not enough to ruin the movies completely, and if you are planning on seeing the movies I wouldn’t suggest watching the final cinema after beating the game.

As the game starts off you take the role of Isildur, the heir to the thrown of man, to battle the orcs and trolls that comprise the army of the evil demon Sauron at the foot of Mount Doom. Unless you took the time to read the manual before you got to this point, you might pause and look at it. You just got thrown into game play without even knowing how to play; this is becoming an unwanted trend in the gaming industry. Right away one will begin to learn how fast-paced the action is in this game, as opposed to the mindless meandering. The battles are fierce and invigorating and do not get to the point where you get bored too quickly. The controls are simple enough such that you can pick it up about two kills into the game, however since the controls are so simply mastered you will quickly engage in combat with many enemies at a single point in time. One of the main tasks that this game was given was to be able to show the scale of battle that there was in the movie and to give the illusion that you are fighting enemies on a much larger scale than you actually are. Some levels, however, are simply just diving your way into a large group of enemies and just start swinging, on the other hand of that it is very hard to finish a combo because there is nothing stopping an Urak-Hai from driving their sword into your backside while you are attempting to inflict the heavy damage. To avoid diving into a battle that can prove to be deadly you may want to consider using your characters projectile weapon to thin out the numbers before you go in to do some more damage.

In the bottom left hand corner of your screen you will see a circular dial with a tall bar sticking out of it. These are your Skill and Experience meters. Your skill meter fills at different rates depending on the level and complexity of the attacks and combos you use. As your skill meter starts to fill you will be stronger with your attacks and get higher ratings and each attack adds on to your Experience meter. When your Experience meter fills you gain a level; every other level gives you more attacks that you can buy with the points you will earn from filling your experience meter. Some of the further attacks will include: stronger projectile and charge attacks, more knockdown combos, and the troll, orc, and Sauron Banes that all provoke an instant kill. If you are not high enough level to purchase the Bane attacks then you can pull the R trigger while your enemy is on the ground to stab your sword, axe, or dual blades into the opponent to quickly end their existence. The fighting of this game is one of the best and most fun I have seen. I would compare the game play of this one to that of a 3D Final Fight with melee combat that includes more than hand-to-hand. It’s along the same lines with Final Fight when it comes to replay value because it doesn’t pose many new aspects when you beat it again and again. The only real change is your fighting style, switching from Legolas’ shooting arrows to Aragorn’s swordplay and finally down to Gimli’s mastery of the axe, and some minor changes in dialogue from character to character. It carries over in replay ability because of the simple fact that the game play alone is fun enough to do over and over again, but to be quite honest Helms Deep (the last three levels) are enough to keep me occupied until the Return of the Kings is released. The battle at Helms Deep really did well with the illusion of fighting Ten thousand Urak-Hai.

The Two Towers demonstrates how the water effect should be done. The rest of the graphics in this game were pretty decent. Giving the visuals and keeping a good amount of Sauron’s minions on screen were balanced out quite well. There is an endless supply of Urak-Hai, Orc, and Trolls, which made me wonder how they did it without downing some resolutions and pixel count. The main characters Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli are good enough that you don’t think anything of them at normal distance but if you look close enough you can see some minor imperfections in Gimli and Legolas’ faces. The Urak-Hai look just as they did in the movies, but without the “hand of the white wizard” print on their chests. One of the things that made me stop and look was the ground in the forest of Amon Hen. The ground doesn’t look flat or bland, rather, it looks colorful and the leaves are really well done. Another visually pleasing feature, and also kind of a neat connection to the books and movies, was that “Sting”, Frodo’s sword, actually lights up when orcs are around. When you play through Fangorn Forest if you stop running along some of the straight aways you’ll actually notice several ents, tree people, in the background walking around. All around the visuals in this game are not half bad, but it’s the little tidbits in the background that make it interesting to look at.

The sound sort of defines the game with the actual voices of each and every character from the movies and also the musical score from the Fellowship, so no cheap voice-overs here. It’s very cool when you get to the interviews because several of the actors describe how much more fun it is to do voices for the games as they have more room to say what they want in a tone that is more exciting than when they are trying to match up with the lips on screen. They had more room to exaggerate what they said and how they were saying it. In terms of music, I never really paid attention to many musical scores in games, but if you are one of those people this game has got you covered. The screams of the orcs and Urak-Hai were enough to do it for me. As one needs to realize that there is a large-scale battle going on, a game designer has to do more than visual illusions. There are numerous battle cries in the background coupled with fighting noises and clanking of swords, and plenty of other aural effects that will help put you in the proper state of mind for this game.

All in all if fighting games like Final Fight weren’t your cup-o-tea then this might not be the right title for you to pick up. If you are, however, an LOTR geek then this is a must have, or if you are into fighting games at all you absolutely should own this game by now. The only major score cut for this title is that there is no multiplayer mode, and there are several times in the game where you will wish your friend were there to back you up. Overall this is a very good game with many effects that are pretty pleasing, but the lack of multiplayer leaves a serious scar on the games overall score.

Score: 8.9/10

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