Published by: Electronic Arts
ESRB Rating:T for Violence
For:PS2, Xbox and Gamecube Console
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King picks up where The Two Towers left off. Starting at the end of Helms Deep and carrying you through various places from The Return of the King, this is one game that lives up to the hype.
If you\'ve played The Two Towers, you\'ll be able to quickly pick up Return of the King and start playing. Basic controls are the same along with some new ones. A new feature this time around is the ability to use objects. For example: If you see a glowing circle of light around something, you can use it such as a spear to take out a giant troll in one shot. This new ability greatly enhances gameplay and for the most part, it\'s optional, so you don\'t HAVE to use that item if you don\'t want to. Three difficulties are presented and if you get into hard mode be prepared for a fight! I suggest you start on easy to begin with and then give the higher levels a try. Also, be prepared for unfair fights, enemies will come from all over and you may be outnumbered and get ganged up on. The plot follows the movie fairly closely, you are given three paths to go on: Path of the Wizard, Path of the Hobbit and Path of the King. On \'Wizard\' you are in control of only Gandalf, on \'King\' you can choose between Aragorn, Gimli or Legolas and on \'Hobbits\' you can be Frodo or Sam. After finishing the game, you are able to go back with ANY of these characters and play any level again. There are also some unlockable characters once you finish. Gandalf is a personal favorite, with his staff and sword and various powers to use, he is among the strongest as well. The RPG elements are back with various ways of leveling up like on Two Towers. An interesting thing that\'s been added is the Fellowship Upgrade, which let you purchase certain upgrades which, upon leveling to that point in game, will automatically be activated without everyone having to buy it. This time, your experience points carry to every character so you won\'t have as hard a time buying an item later on. The best new feature is the co-op mode where you and a friend can go through the entire game (minus the Helms Deep level). In this mode, one person chooses one character and one person, another. You share a respawn which usually is one or two respawns per level (so you can only die once or twice between the two of you). It brings a new element to the gameplay and greatly enhances the replay value and hours of fun as you try to survive Sauron\'s forces together. Some Unlockables, including Characters and 2 Endurance levels, also lend weight to it\'s replay value. Also a warning: Don\'t play this if you haven\'t seen the movies, it will ruin the ending for you.
The only reallyl negative thing is the camera angles can get a bit odd at times but not as bad as Two Towers could get. It\'s just a minor thing all in all.THE LEVELS: The levels in Return of the King can get quite massive and grand in scale. From the Paths of the Dead, to Shelobs Lair or maybe fighting on the Fields of Pellenor, you are thrust into the land of Middle-Earth. The enviroments provide a genuine movie feel and you might see a place you remember in the movie. Cirith Ungol (the tower where Frodo is held prisoner) provides ash falling from Mt. Doom as you walk through the tower looking for Frodo. Shelob\'s lair can get confusing in the begining, as I honestly got lost and came back to the begining of the level without meaning to. Osgiliath and Minas Tirith provide the typical tower look and feel of hectic battle. There are others, but you can see for yourself.
Different than Two Towers, things are not quite as they were but that\'s not to say they\'re bad. The character models look more like their actor counterparts than the previous game, mainly Gimli. The lighting is quite nice and creates some spooky and wonderful effects. There are some obvious problems such as things going through objects but its a minor problem and you won\'t notice it too much during gameplay. The Paths of the Dead show off a good amount of blue and white and are quite striking to look at. Water effects are good although not very many levels with water in them. Explosions are huge and you best stay back when it happens. Scenes from the movies are played and narrated by Gandalf himself and are almost like a mini movie at times.
Quite loud even at low volume but in a good way. Swords collide, soldiers shout and bows twang with proper sounds and places. Howard Shores wonderful music is played throughout the game and gives the feeling of being in the film. Creatures sound as they should, from Cave Trolls growling to Oliphaunts sounding off, you will know to get out the way. Your talking enemies will say things like \'Cut him down\' as you try to defeat them, adding some element of realism as they taunt you. Some of the actors return such as John Rhys-Davies as Gimli, Ian Mckellen as Gandalf and Christopher Lee as Saruman (among others). Some such as Legolas and Aragorn are (apparantly) not voiced by their respective actors but do a reasonable job anyway.
Any fan of the novels of movies knows of the underlying Christian symbolism and the games have many of the same things. There is no sex, drug use or swearing. If you\'ve played The Two Towers, you know its hack and slash. There\'s no blood sprayed enemies are simply struck and knocked down then vanish after a short break. There are ghosts if you are bothered by such things but good ghosts (if you\'ve seen the film you will understand). There\'s also a giant Spider and several smaller ones that may be scary to younger players (or the occasional Arachnophobe). Orcs and Trolls and Nazgul beasts are true to the films but aren\'t overly scary. Overall: If you can see the movies, then you can play the game.