The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
-EA Games (2003)
-Also on: PS2, GameCube
An elf-loving tree-hugger and his posse reclaim the throne from a giant party lamp.
By now, you’ve seen the incredible film that is Return of the King. Whether or not you were disappointed in the theatrical release's ending which omitted parts from the book, you still have to give props to Peter Jackson for releasing an awe-inspiring trilogy that doesn’t suck. Besides, you know the Extended Edition is going to totally rock, and may have your "precious" ending fully realized.
The game has some Extended Edition stuff. Actually it has a lot of it, stuff that may have been off-screen and off-page. Actually fighting the Army of the Dead is one example but, you need to make a game fun and exciting, and RotK excels in both.
RotK is a hack-n-slash side-scroller set in the wondrous world of Middle Earth. The hacking and slashing is spiced with some light RPG character building and varying mission objectives. As you complete stages you earn experience based on your performance in kicking orc arse. You use your experience to purchase new combos, health, and weapon upgrades. The mission objectives consist of slaughtering a hundred orcs, launching catapults to stop the bigger enemies, sneaking past a Black Rider, and saving your Fellowship members from death. Many times you’ll be performing multiple tasks all at once.
The Fellowship members won't be helping your chosen hero much. You’ll be doing most of the world-saving by yourself. The A.I. of the Fellowship members that fight along your side is less than desirable. Most of the time they’ll simply stand around, watching you do all the work. If an orc starts to attack them they’ll put down their cup of coffee to take a few swings, but you are on your own most of the time. At least there is a two-player mode this time so you can get some real help from a friend.
The lack of good heroics by your Fellowship crew wouldn’t be so bad if the game wasn’t so tough. Prepare to play through the stages multiple times before the first time you beat a mission. Seeing how tough fighting the good fight actually was makes you appreciate the skills and heroism these characters had. If I were in the battle for Middle Earth, I probably would have been one of those unlucky bastards hit in the first volley, maybe the second if I was riding a horse.
The vocals and visuals are all straight from the film. Because of the access granted to the movie sets for the developers, everything in the game looks and sounds as it should. All the epic music is there and the characters sound as they’re supposed to thanks to the excellent voice work of these skilled actors.
The unlockable bonuses are nice, too. You get movie and game production art, interviews with the actors, and secret characters. The interviews seem more like self-promotional stuff for the game, but some of them are good. The secret characters include the rest of the hobbits and Faramir. Ah, good ol’ Faramir, who never got the respect he deserved, is now saving the world single-handedly. You can now completely deviate from the storyline and have characters that aren’t supposed to be in certain stages fight in those stages. There's also an extra tough secret stage to get through when upon beating the game. Yea, good luck with that.
Return of the King is by far one of the best movie-licensed games to be released, with its slick visuals, terrific gameplay and, of course, excellent source material.