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XBox Reviews: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King


The Return of the King Screenshots


The Final Say!


The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King - reviewed by Andrew B
Review Date: January 2004
Review Score: 9.3/10 
Distributed By: Electronic Arts

Electronic Arts once again returns gamers to the world of J.R.R. Tolkein's Middle Earth in an epic battle between good versus evil. For those that are unfamiliar with one of the best literary pieces of the 20th Century, the Lord of the Rings revolves around a magic ring that was created by the Dark Lord Sauron. Whoever wields the ring will slowly be tempted by the Dark Lord until they have totally given themselves to this insidious evil. If this shall ever happen, then Sauron will once again walk Middle Earth and the very fate of man, elven and dwarven kind will be in grave peril.


In the previous instalments, a fellowship was created to help return the ring to Mordor so that it could be destroyed in the Pits of Doom. Unfortunately the fellowship was broken and now it is up to the heroes of Middle Earth to hold back the onslaught of Sauron's army and keep their faith in Frodo, the hobbit who was entrusted with destroying this nefarious item before he too, loses his soul to the Dark Lord.


The game begins at the last scene from the previous movie, that of Helms Deep and the return of Gandalf with the powerful riders of Rohan to help liberate this last stand of man and elf. Depending on which method of gameplay you choose, the game supports single-player and co-op but in single-player mode, you play the role of Gandalf and as you progress through the first few levels of the game, you get the chance to play other characters such as the ranger Aragorn, the elf Legolas or the dwarven warrior Gimli.


The storyline revolves around three different paths of the movie that include the path of the wizard (Gandalf), the path of the hobbit (Frodo) and the path of the King (Aragorn) that are all beautifully linked together by the developers. As you progress through the levels in the game, certain other characters are unlocked until you virtually have a plethora of Middle Earth characters to choose from. The storyline follows the movie almost exactly and beautifully mixes real movie footage with the game. I was amazed at how much extra footage is in the game when compared to the movie that is now showing. The game features quite a few scenes that were cut from the final movie. Therefore, if you cannot wait for the Special Edition of the Return of the King, then you really should buy this title to get a few sneak titbits.


The control system of the Return of the King has a very low learning curve and even the most novice gamer will be able to master the controls in about 30 minutes.

The left analog stick is used to control your character through the world of Middle Earth, whereas the right stick can be used to attack your foes in a variety of different ways. I was not a huge fan on using the right stick to attack my foes because the pad was much easier. Although each character plays similar, they all have their own "special move" that is activated by pressing the two shoulder triggers down at once. You can also do various combos in the game such as tapping certain buttons in order such as X A A and Y that unleashes various other moves.

The Return of the King plays like an arcade RPG and for every foe that you defeat in the game, you are awarded certain experience points that can be used at the end of the level. For instance, if you defeat your foes in Perfect mode, you are awarded more points than you would if you just defeated them in fair mode. The experience points can then be used to purchase certain special moves such as the "Orc Hewer" move that is basically a super chop move that can be used with your weapons. The characters also have access to other weapons such as bows and daggers that can be thrown at enemies, in order to activate this manoeuvre, you must hold down the left shoulder trigger and press the A button to fire your arrows or daggers.

Graphically, the Return of the King is an extremely impressive looking game that almost looks like it has been taken directly from the movie itself. The characters models contain a high amount of polygons that have some amazing texture details and it should also be noted that the characters in the game have the same faces as the actors of the movie. The enemies, allies and various beasts of Middle Earth all look identical to their movie counterparts and when you are playing the game, you almost feel like you are part of the movie. I commend the developers to the attention to detail and even the small things have been included in the game from Helm's Deep to Shelob's Lair and to the end battle at the black gate of Mordor. There are some brilliant effects in the game from the magics that Gandalf wields to the realistic fire effects that are used by both the heroes of Middle Earth and the armies of the Dark Lord. The only thing about the graphics engine that does become a little frustrating are the strange camera angles that the game sometimes switches to that sometimes leave you wondering just where on earth your character disappeared to, apart from that, it is a very sturdy and impressive gaming engine.

The audio of the Return of the King is superb and uses the voices from all the actors in the movie from Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf to Viggo Mortenson as Aragorn, just to name a few. The musical score of the game is directly taken from the film of the same name that features the majestic score of Howard Shore that not only sounds amazing but also helps draw you into the magical world of Middle Earth. The battle cries of the orcs to the sounds of swords clashing on shields all comes together perfectly in this very addictive arcade game.

In conclusion, the Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is an extremely action orientated title that drops the gamer into the official movie of the J.R.R. Tolkein that not only contains amazing graphics, gameplay and sound but is probably some of the best fun you can have on the XBox. It should also be noted that the single-player version of the game is a little harder than the co-op version but gamers of all ages will enjoy both versions. If you don't want to spoil the final movie of the series than I suggest that you wait until you have watched the movie because this game goes hand in hand with the movie, highly recommended!

- Andrew B

P.S. There are also plenty of interviews with the cast to be unlocked throughout the game.

Also available on Nintendo GameCube, PlayStation 2 and PC-CD-ROM

Copyright 2004 www.impulsegamer.com