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Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb - XB - Review


Posted by: jkdmedia

Review Rating 8.0 Great

"Fortune and glory" have long been the rallying cry of archaeology professor Indiana Jones, but instead of achieving either, all he seems to do is find trouble to extricate himself from. As the slogan so accurately states: "if adventure has a name, it must be Indiana Jones."

Indiana Jones and The Emperor’s Tomb is an original Indy adventure for the Xbox from LucasArts Entertainment and The Collective. While the game follows some of the gameplay paths trod by former adventures, some notably changes have taken place that are bound to make this the best Indiana Jones adventure yet.

The first major change that players will notice is that instead of using a reasonably generic face, the new Indiana looks like his real-life portrayer, Harrison Ford. Using the rotating camera will occasionally cause double takes. The face, while not always crisp and clean, does look like Harrison Ford. Throw in the familiar-sounding voice and you have the core essence of any Indiana adventure.

And it only gets better.

The tale begins in the year 221 B.C. when a warlord named Ch’in Shih-huang-ti wiped out the opposition and declared himself the first emperor of China. But all accounts he was a ruthless monarch, killing and torturing any whom opposed his authority. As years passed he became obsessed with the occult. He commissioned alchemist and astrologers to find a mystical means to grant him eternal life. Whether or not he found what he was searching for is a matter of speculation, but those who had looked so diligently were later buried alive by his order.

He died in 211 B.C. and his body was placed in the tomb of Shensi. The tomb itself was a marvel of engineering and art, containing an army of thousands of life-sized terracotta warriors, a planetarium, a necropolis, traps and a gigantic floor map of China. It was estimated that 20-30,000 people were buried with the emperor, including thousands of his fanatical and loyal warriors.

(While the tomb was excavated for the first time in 1974, the Chinese government ­ afraid of angering the superstitious population ­ has limited the excavations to a few of the outer areas. Emperor Ch’in’s body has never been found.)

Fast forward to 1935. The country of China is again suffering from internal strife. China is in need of unification, a powerful leader that will unite its warring factions. Thrown into the mix is the Nazi war machine, with agents scouring the world for the mystical means to guarantee Adolph Hitler’s dream of a thousand-year Reich.

The opening game sequences are in the jungles of Ceylon and act as in introduction to the game itself. The goal is simple: navigate the flooded ruins from one side to the other ­ in essence a maze puzzle. But this is not a simple lab rat experiment of running up one path and down the next. You will have to use Indiana’s famed whip to swing from one ledge to the next. And there is company in the place.

"Ivory hunters," Indiana informs you. "These are no boy scouts. I’d better watch my back."

Of course trying to sneak past them is not going to work. You’ll have to defeat them. That is when the next newest feature comes into play. The hand-to-hand combat is impressive! Indy throws combinations and blocks. One thrown punch is grabbed by his foe, and Jones’ hand is twisted off to the side. Before it goes too far, Jones throws a kick, low, well-aimed and enough to take his opponent completely out of his fight plan, and leave him groaning in agony.

But that is not all he can use. Pick up that shovel, liquor bottle or chair and use them as a weapon. If the health runs low, just refill you canteen. Of course, this is all very early in the game. There will be submachine guns and other weapons as you progress through the game. Indiana does have a partner for this adventure; a mysterious oriental woman named Mei Ying. And the action takes place in a variety of exotic locales, all lushly rendered and full of visual delights.

Some of the control elements are a bit ponderous. You will need to be in the right position to do some of the special moves. For example, hugging a wall to move around a narrow ledge requires more than a press of a key. You have to position your avatar exactly right before the Y button (used to activate this move) will work. Detaching from the wall is much easier.

Of course, being Indiana Jones, you will have to explore all avenues and examine most of what is available to you. You never know when a treasure lies hidden in a crate or down an abandoned corridor.

From the well-scripted vocal characterization and familiar musical score to the exceptional fight animation, this is a title that will tickle the adventuring spirit of gamers. The game does have a few setbacks, and some of the puzzles are tired and lack innovation, but overall this game is a treat for the eyes and ears.

Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb will also be released on the PlayStation2 and PC platforms. No rating was assigned at the time of this review.

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 7.8
The game is a revolving arcade of traps and mazes, bad guys and creatures to battle. Though initially exciting, the game seems to bog down a bit as you progress. The mapboards are a good size, and there are lots of explorable areas.

Graphics: 8.4
The fight sequences are very well done, and the environments are wonderfully three-dimensional. Putting Harrison Ford’s face on the Indiana avatar really helps sell this adventure.

Sound: 8.4
Indiana’s voice may not actually be Harrison Ford, but it sounds enough like it to sell the illusion and secure the movie feel. John Williams’ musical theme and the rest of the soundtrack is equally well done.

Difficulty: Medium
The control elements can be ponderous, even at the easy setting. On-screen prompts may give you an idea of what is required, but working to get the right angle can be trying.

Concept: 7.8
There is some repetitive gaming here, but the back-story and look makes for an enjoyable ride down adventure’s highways and byways

Multiplayer: N/A

Overall: 8.0
Indiana Jones has had marginal success in the gaming world. This is a character that has inspired the Tomb Raider series and while the latter has achieved success in the gaming world (whereas Indiana rules the movie competition between the two), Indiana Jones has yet to really catch on. This game takes some big steps to catching up with Lara Croft. There is something grand about an Indiana Jones’ adventure, and the Emperor’s Tomb comes close to embracing that feeling in the videogaming world.

For more information on this title and an interview with producer Jim Tso, please see

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