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The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (GameCube)

85
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.8
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Guy Chapman (1745)
Written on  :  Feb 19, 2005
Platform  :  GameCube
Rating  :  5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars

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Summary

Proof That Beat-'Em-Ups Still Have Their Place In Current Gaming.

The Good

For those who love a good side-scrolling fighter, or even a game that captures the action of fighting from the books or films, this is the game.

This game is a masterpiece as far as movie-based and fighting games go. Everything from the soundtrack, to the three branches of hero quests, to even gameplay, this game is exceptional. "The Two Towers" was a great movie tie-in game. This game takes all the popular elements of that and eclipses the previous installment.

The Hobbit quests are interesting, as are the Hero and Wizard quests. They follow the film very well, but add in elements that could possibly happen in the story. Even when they take liberties, it still feels proper.

The music does nothing but inspire the action of the game. The movie had a great soundtrack, and it's once again proven here. The actor voices taking the roles of their characters only adds more to the sense of realism, as does every slash, explosion, grunt, and roar.

Graphically, this game is stunning. The heroes look and move like the actors. The backgrounds are just jaw-dropping with the particle effects, and even if every enemy doesn't come at you, it looks like there is a huge war being fought just a little farther over the path or hill. Nothing in this game looks empty. The production value is just stunning.

Gameplay, it just adds another layer of polish on "Two Towers"' gameplay, but this time, it's a two-player romp, and this is the kind of game that multiplayer action was meant for. The Hero path is the only one that starts this way, but once you open certain features....

And gameplay also offers more than just hack 'n' slash action this time. There's a bit of strategy involved, and times needed where the player is called to try and use the environment in their favor. And quite simply, upping the character select to pretty much cover the entire Fellowship, it clears up a complaint that I had from the previous title.

Even the bonuses push this game to a higher level. They give you three noteworthy surprises at the end of the game, and it makes it worth tromping through the game one more time just to test it all out.

The Bad

Don't expect an easy romp. Not leveled up properly, this game will eat you alive, especially in later levels, when you get closer to Sauron's Keep. And there a lot of timed areas that require you to move quickly, or figure out a strategy before you're overrun.

The level where you have to keep the Fellowship alive at Sauron's Gate is a test in patience. It takes a lot of effort to make sure everyone is being taken care of properly. Controlling the characters, each member is a skilled fighter. Computer controlled, they sometimes get a little slow witted.

Since it came out just before the movie, the game is very protective not to release any major scenes from the film. The game improvises around that, but most of the footage could be seen from the second film, or ROTK's theatrical trailer.

And truthfully, there's nothing more embarrassing than getting stepped on by an Ent.

The Bottom Line

If you remember and loved the days of early '90's beat-'em-ups in the arcades, this is a recommended game. Tolkien and movie fans are not going to be disappointed. This game has so much going for it, with its increase in strategy, character selection, multiple story branches to take, and multi-player action, it takes the good of the previous installment, and goes beyond.

ROTK is a fantastic title all around.

Even when players are done with the game, there are still several interviews and production stills to look over, and with the bonus content unlocked, it's fun to cheat the story a little bit with the rewards given.

This is old-school gameplay at its finest. I haven't played a brawler this good since the heyday of Konami's games. It's simple, but aggressive, and ranks as one of my favorite titles released in 2003.

Well worth the look.