STAFF REVIEW of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Xbox)


Thursday, February 6, 2003.
by Kraft

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Box art Many movie franchises have come and gone, most hardly worth mentioning, few with a great amount of power. But from the fires of Electronic Arts came a new franchise, the ultimate franchise: the one franchise to rule them all. Already the Peter Jackson?s Lord of the Rings trilogy has drawn an incredible amount of people to the theaters, and the third movie has yet to be released. With something this immensely popular it was without a doubt that a videogame would appear using the movie?s license. The question was, would it live up to the grandeur that we have come to expect considering the hype and popularity of the series? The answer, for the most part, yes. This game attempts to blend actual footage from the latter part of the Fellowship of the Rings and the entire Two Towers movies seamlessly with relentlessly fun gameplay. This game, like all others, does have it?s shortfalls, but will definitely satisfy anyone out there yearning to step into the shoes of a human or elf, or possibly even manage to squeeze themselves into the shoes of a dwarf. As I popped in the game I set my controller back as I figured a game of this type would have a great intro; it didn?t disappoint. Taking from the first movies description of the creation of the ring, you see Isildur preparing to fight the armies of Mordor. All of the sudden the game went from live action to digitalized in a smooth transition. I found it rather odd, though, that Isildur was just standing there as the Orcs wailed on him with their axes? it took me a good thirty seconds to realize that I was actually supposed to be playing! Quickly I snatched the controller up and started whacking buttons hoping to cease the pummeling that was going on. Slowly but surely the game taught me how to play it with audio clues and after a few minutes I was killing Orcs like it was my job. A very interesting introduction to a game by any means, no menu, no options, you end up being involuntarily thrust into the gameplay. After the battle at the heart of Moria, the cutscene takes back over and fills you in on the rest of the storyline and gives you the chance to choose between Aragorn the ranger, Legolas the Elf and Gimli the Dwarf. Overall the gameplay is swift and enjoyable, though EA may have made it too swift, as the game seems a little too short. I managed to play through this game in a little over 4 hours to the very end, though there is some replayability by being able to play through the levels with all three characters.


The gameplay itself is not innovative or new by any means, but that doesn?t mean it isn?t enjoyable. Reminiscent of the styles of older games such as Double Dragon games like that, there isn?t much side-to-side moving, just very linear forwards and backwards. Though this is very restrictive, the path you take winds through the wonderfully rendered world of Middle Earth so it isn?t too frustrating. The actual combat system is very simple, involved basic moves such as quick attack, fierce attack, parry and push. As you gain experience in the game you can purchase combos that let you fight with more powerful moves. Also each of the three characters has a ranged attack varying from the bows of Aragorn and Legolas to the thrown hatchets of Gimli. The downfall to this system is in very active fight scenes you will find your self quickly regressing from strategy and moving into the evil realm of button mashing. The game does a wonderful job of making it seem like there are a lot more enemies coming at you than there actually are. A 10,000 Orc army at Helmsdeep would be a daunting task for a professional level SGI machine, much less an average Xbox. Instead EA used many less exquisitely rendered characters fighting in the background and implemented an array of fighting noises and moving shadows which engulf you and make it seem as if you are in the midst of a huge scene from the movie, when truthfully there might only be about 25 actual interactive characters.

I?m quite torn in the visuals department. On one hand I would like to think that for a licensed game, Two Towers looks just fine. But then there is the other more reasonable hand who realizes just how EA treats its? Xbox games. They are at it again with Two Towers: they released it on the PS2 almost 3 months before the Xbox games. Of course that 3 months gave them time to develop it and tweak it to take advantage of the Xbox, right? Nope, this game is on par, if not worse than the PS2 version. While the fluidity of it all stays intact, some of the textures in the landscaping and such seemed almost muddled and washed out in places. Also, the digital cut-scenes, though they flow smoothly, could have used an extra couple of polygons. I am praying that it isn?t pre-rendered as the Xbox could handle more than that on the fly. But as I said before, whether or not this is all that the Xbox is capable of, it does a good job bringing you into the world of the movie. Many extras were also added to the game, not in the line of gameplay, but as bonus material relating to the movie and the making of the game. By playing through the game and mastering it you will unlock concept art, screenshots and eventually even interviews with all of the actors who did extra voiceovers for the game. This is definitely a perk for people who absolutely love the movie, and this game almost plays out as something that should be bundled with the movie, as they are quite complimentary to each other. Of course if you aren?t a big fan of the LOTR franchise, you will probably have a hard time caring less about how much fun Elijah Woods has playing this game.



I?m quite torn in the visuals department. On one hand I would like to think that for a licensed game, Two Towers looks just fine. But then there is the other more reasonable hand who realizes just how EA treats its? Xbox games. They are at it again with Two Towers: they released it on the PS2 almost 3 months before the Xbox games. Of course that 3 months gave them time to develop it and tweak it to take advantage of the Xbox, right? Nope, this game is on par, if not worse than the PS2 version. While the fluidity of it all stays intact, some of the textures in the landscaping and such seemed almost muddled and washed out in places. Also, the digital cut-scenes, though they flow smoothly, could have used an extra couple of polygons. I am praying that it isn?t pre-rendered as the Xbox could handle more than that on the fly. But as I said before, whether or not this is all that the Xbox is capable of, it does a good job bringing you into the world of the movie. Many extras were also added to the game, not in the line of gameplay, but as bonus material relating to the movie and the making of the game. By playing through the game and mastering it you will unlock concept art, screenshots and eventually even interviews with all of the actors who did extra voiceovers for the game. This is definitely a perk for people who absolutely love the movie, and this game almost plays out as something that should be bundled with the movie, as they are quite complimentary to each other. Of course if you aren?t a big fan of the LOTR franchise, you will probably have a hard time caring less about how much fun Elijah Woods has playing this game.


The sound department seems to be the area that they put the least amount of work into. All of the actual gameplay music is ripped directly out of the movie. This isn?t a terrible thing, as the movie has a wonderful soundtrack to begin with, but doing this seems to shout ?Hey! I was rushed to the shelves because all I am is a capitalist cash-making tool! BUY ME BUY ME!? Maybe you could have made a little custom music, EA? They did make up for this somewhat in the character voices department, as they enlisted none other than the actual cast to do the voiceovers. Recording new lines for the movie are Elijah Woods (Frodo), Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn), Orlando Bloom (Legolas) and John Rhyes-Davis (Gimli). Don?t expect droves and droves of new audio though, as it is usually delivered in bits and pieces during the gameplay and some of it tends to get quite repetitious during long fight sequences. Again, like with the gameplay and every other area of this game, it isn?t new, it isn?t innovation, but it is good.


Suggestions:
EA, why do you have to play me like this? I know my Xbox is capable of so much more. Also, where is the multiplayer? Honestly this could have been the best thing for multiplayer combat since the original Gauntlet came out in the arcades. It?s always a shame to see this kind of potential go to waste.


Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10

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