The Lord of the Rings; The Return of the King (GameCube) Review

By Nick Cheesman 22.11.2003

With the conclusion of the Lord of the Rings trilogy this Christmas, it's only right that a game is to be released to further advertise and make even more profit out of the famous franchise. Having said that EA have not simply made an average game and coated it with a Lord of the Rings license, no they have made a decent game and then coated it with the license. ROTK's predecessor only appeared bar average to many, however this game succeeds with leaving its mark.

With the battle of Helm's Deep won the heroes of Lord of the Ring set out to finally complete their quest and destroy the one ring. Frodo and Sam are deep within Mordor slowly crawling to the Crack of Doom, though Shelob's lair and the tower of Cirith Ulgol, Gandalf has taken Pippin to Minas Tirith to warn the Steward of Gondor of the oncoming danger from Mordor and Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli have ventured into the mountains to awake the army of the dead. This then all ties together as the heroes fight a final battle at the black gate of Mordor. If you are unfamiliar with Lord of The Rings then you are probably lost by now but never fear to enjoy ROTK you require very little Lord of the Rings knowledge.

While in the Two Towers the Graphics were very unimpressive and far to close to PS2 graphics for comfort, ROTK boasts very impressive character models that really do give the game credit. There are very small effects that while not important do add to the game immensely, such as the way the cloaks of the hobbits slowly glide behind them or the way in which Legolas' hair floats behind him as he runs. Very small detail but they make their mark. The overall camera angle varies from following behind your character or being locked into a position. When the camera is locked there is a certain difficulty and sense of constriction as you only get a far out view which does not help the in game action. The animation and flow of the combos that the heroes perform look very fluid and effective and never feel jerky or inconsistent. The texture of the levels in Middle Earth are very impressive in the majority and the sense of detail s very great such as the varying brick work or foliage and general in depth feel of the environments themselves. One small flaw that can become an annoyance is the use of smoke; it is used very rarely but when it does it becomes a trial to get a decent view of the action. Another small point is EA have brought into the game a system where if you get to close a friend or another member of the fellowship they will become slightly transparent so they do not block out any of your view of the screen. While on paper it sounds like a good idea, the actual performance of it lacks, as sometimes your player can become invisible if your playing in co-operative mode meaning it is hard to see where you are on screen, or the reverse can happen and sometimes an enemy fades, leading you to believe he is dead, while really he is just catching his breath to throw his axe at you again. To be fair this happens very occasionally but the fact it happens show the game was rushed in places.

While The Two Towers let you play as Aragorn, Legolas or Gimli, ROTK takes this up a notch adding three paths to the game. You can either play as the three mentioned previously in the Path of the King, or you can play as Gandalf in the Path of the Wizard or finally as Frodo or Sam in the Path of the Hobbits. This variety is greatly appreciated as it means the game is given a much boarder feel and allows players to find their favourite characters and generally not get bored with the same formula. Each character has their own strengths and weaknesses, for example the hobbits are much faster than the rest of the fellowship but lack strength so most of the time running is a good idea, while Gandalf has powerful magic you can use to take out enemies at long range, as well as Legolas who has the most powerful arrows, while Aragorn and Gimli are much better and full frontal combat. When you fight through the various levels at first you merely have the A-button to deliver a quick attack, the Y-button to use a more stronger, yet slower attack, the B-button to parry and block on coming attacks, the R-Button to stab at your enemy while their on the ground and the L-Button to use your throwing weapons, such as bow and arrow, or small axes. Yet as you kill enemies you will receive experience points that are accounted for in your experience meter, when the meter fills your characters is upgraded a level and as such has access to new upgrades. You can purchase these upgrades at the end of each level with the experience points accumulated in the previous level. Another nice new addition is the fact this time round you can buy upgrades for the whole fellowship so you no longer need to upgrade every character in the game. Simply stringing together the various button combinations can perform these combos.

Also in the game, every time you kill an enemy your skill meter slightly fills and if you kill more and more in a certain amount of time the skill meter will fill and you will enter perfect mode and will be able to kill most enemies with one hit. Plus every kill you get in this time gets you a perfect kill and accumulates more experience points. A new inclusion in the game is the fact holding down both L and R will activate your characters special ability, be it using the ring for invisibility or merely being able to deliver more powerful attacks. A great improvement from the Two Towers is the interaction with the environment. Before it was sued very sparingly, however in ROTK there is barely one level where you do not need to interact in someway. Furthermore the interactions are on a far bigger scale, from simply turning a winch to pouring bowls of fire, to pushing bells on enemies. The Gameplay itself is very fast paced and enjoyable however there are small annoyances. At points the game turns into a mere frenzy of tapping the A-button and hoping the hordes of enemies around you die and at other times you press the R button to finish off your enemy and you end up missing when you are right in front of them. But over looking that pulling off various combos brings with it a very sick sense of satisfaction.

Once again EA puts every aspect of Lord of the Rings straight into the game with all the audio straight from the film. With the exception of Orlando Bloom as Legolas, all the voice actors return including: Elijah Wood as Frodo, Ian Mackellan as Gandalf, Sean Austin as Sam, Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn and John Rhys Davies as Gimli. But not only that the original soundtrack from the Lord of The Rings has been included and when in deep battle and you hear that traditional theme it is a real sense to tap those buttons harder. This really does show a good sue of the license and for Lord of the Rings fans makes the game feel so much deeper.

As in the Two Towers there are 15 levels to get through each with their own bosses, including the King of the Dead, Shelob and the mouth of Sauron. Once again the problem here is lifespan. Put it simply the game is to easy to complete, however EA have sensibly added a co-op mode to play through that is a great challenge in itself as you must share one life between the two of you so must work as a team to complete a level. The game is by no means a walk over and most levels will take a bit of replaying to complete it fully. Also along with this is the inclusion of footage from Return of the King and the Fellowship of the Ring and the Two Towers as well, which we have all seen by now. Plus exclusive interviews with the cast are added in the game when you unlock levels to make even more use of the franchise. And even when you have been through all that you must then unlock 3 characters and have the GBA connectivity to get stuck in to, but when it comes down to it, the game is still far too easy even on hard mode.

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

If you love Tolkien's story or merely Peter Jackson's films, then you will enjoy this film for the nostalgia; that it is Lord of the Rings. It may not be a game of great depth but it does have its good moments. There are some pretty awful movie tie-ins out there, but Return of the King is certainly not one of them. It just is not one of the good ones either.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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