Developer: The Collective
Release Date: May 5, 2005
Ah, the inevitable movie game tie-in. Star Wars has no brief history of these types of games – most of them quite bad. Some Star Wars games have actually offered up some fun; the original Star Wars arcade cabinets are always more than worthy of a quarter, and a few console games along the line have been pretty good – most recently, perhaps, Rogue Squadron for the GameCube, where the player often found himself reenacting memorable action sequences from the movies.
This particular title is a bit more limited in that it only recreates scenes from the new Star Wars film, Revenge of the Sith. Admittedly, it's the most action packed of any of the Star Wars films, but it still makes for a restricted number of situations controllable by the player, and many of them greatly altered in order to let the player actually do something.
That wouldn't be so much of a problem if the game were actually very fun. It's not that it's awful – far from it. It just isn't terribly exciting, or inventive, or even interesting. Sequences featured only briefly in the film are extended into whole stages – there isn't enough material here, and what takes place in these extended scenes just isn't too compelling. Take, for example, an elevator area from the beginning of both the game and the movie. In the movie, the elevator plays a small but cool little role, as it seems to be completely out of control and our heroes struggle to survive their trip through the elevator shaft. In the game, you simply ride some elevator while fighting a legion of foes. It's not exactly the same thing. It's quite repetitive, and frankly, not very cool.
The basic gameplay lends itself to repetition easily, you will find. Playing as either Anakin or Obi-Wan, you'll progress through the game with essentially a light saber and a few Force powers. Mashing on the controller tends to kill the baddies, with the occasional "Force Push" to conquer some enemy's shield or block to deflect some laser beams. The game is linear, fairly easy and pretty short, and likes to spell everything out for you if there's even a hint of confusion. Doors that can be cut through are only a select few, highlighted by a bright blue light and exact instructions on how to do such a thing. Spots where you can "Force Jump" to a higher level are noted with a bright blue light on the ground. The game feels very limiting in this respect, as you are pretty much forced to do everything exactly a certain way as events unfold.
Sword fighting in the game can go beyond simple hack and slash if you desire to delve deeper into it, though it's never necessary and in fact might be more trouble than it's worth, as mindless killing seems to do the trick better than any attempt at stylistic fighting. Nonetheless, going beyond "Force Push, then slash away" is, in fact, possible. A small number of nifty looking moves are available with easy-to-execute button combos, as is blocking and strafing.
The Force powers outside of pushing and jumping include stunning via lightning, Force Healing, Force Speed, and Saber Throwing (which I never realized had much to do with the Force, but apparently, I'm not an expert.) Using any of the Force powers will run down your magic juice, which does slowly replenish itself during gameplay. Due to that fact, however, one can easily wait for a free moment and charge up their health meter, as their mana energy will soon return. It takes some element of challenge away from the game.
Anakin and Obi-Wan are always honing their skills throughout the true Star Wars storyline, so it only makes sense that something similar be included in the game. The developers have implemented an RPG-esque leveling up system that can be accessed between levels. As you fight, you gain experience points; the more effectively you battle, the more points you gain, and thusly the more that can be spent in the little shop. There are three levels for each attribute that can be altered, ranging from things like jump attacks to grapples, or the rate of critical hits. The system is far from perfect, nor is it all that intriguing, but it may be one of the few things that keeps the game somewhat fresh as you progress through it – a few neat tricks can be gleaned, like levitating objects or making your enemies turn on each other.
The level design leaves something to be desired. As a rule, AI-deprived foes must be charging at our heroes every 15 seconds, and making the paths too narrow or complicated may have resulted in troublesome fights. Instead, wide-open rooms are common here, with narrower hallways littered with gun turrets rather than moving creatures dispensed here and there. Each affair is decidedly linear, with very, very little in the way of options for the player or paths that deviate from the main course.
The game just feels disjointed. To keep the action flowing, any elements of drama seen in the film are removed, and any characters with no direct relations to Obi-Wan or Anakin are out of the picture. What's left is a mish-mash of action sequences that are a heck of a lot more fun to watch in the actual film than control in the video game. There's no real reason to continue playing it after beating the game, which is rather short in itself; less than five hours are required to complete this, and the few bonus missions aren't going to add much more to keep it off of your dusty shelf.
The graphics that Revenge of the Sith sports are less than impressive, but they get the job done decently enough. Character models are fairly detailed, and animation is relatively smooth; it's no Wind Waker or Beyond Good & Evil, mind you, but it's less herky-jerky than one might have expected. Lightsabers look pretty cool – it's hard to mess up a lightsaber – but the actual battles look neat enough, especially when using the combos and abilities that are available to you as you build up experience points. The level design is mostly drab, though, simplistic and flat; you'll be seeing a lot of bland grey. Overall, it has its ups and downs, and while it's not all horrible, it's not really amazing, either. At its worst, it's only a little disheartening.
The sound in the game isn't awful. Sword swishes, blaster fire and all the usual sound effects are here in full force. The game's soundtrack by John Williams, while not composed specifically for the game, is classic stuff and always worth lending an ear to. Unfortunately, neither Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan) or Hayden Christensen (Skywalker) were there to actually voice their characters, and the stand-ins for their respective characters hardly do an adequate job. This does drag down the quality of the listening experience a great bit, especially since the two characters are often spewing repeated lines that are bound to get on one's nerves in very little time. Nevertheless, on the whole, the aural experience isn't that bad.
In the end, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith isn't an entirely respectable game. It's obviously been slapped together from action sequences in the film to make a complimentary game and hopefully some easy cash, but on its own, it's less than stellar. Not only does playing the game offer a limited, messy, albeit spoiler-ridden view of the storyline, it just isn't much fun to play through. This is the very definition of a Star Wars beat-'em-up. It has its moments, but really, this game won't last you much more than five hours. Seeing as the movie is half that length, but only one-fifth the price and a whole lot more fun to watch, isn't there an obvious choice here?