reviews\ Oct 27, 2002 at 7:00 pm

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers - PS2 - Review

Gimli sees the orc on the trail ahead and, with a cry, rushes forward to the attack. As the hapless creature falls beneath the fury of Gimli’s axe, another orc descends the wall behind Gimli. The dwarf is oblivious to the new threat, but his companion sees it, and quickly notches arrow to bow.

As the orc sneaks quickly up to attack the dwarf from behind, it senses something and turns – just in time to catch a shaft in the forehead. The force of the blow twists the dead creature through the air as though a discarded rag doll.

The duo resumes the march, clearing the path to the Gates of Moria. They pause now and again to listen, their breath steaming upon the chill air. Many battles lie ahead, and many dangers that will require more than one arrow delivered on target.

The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, a PlayStation2 release from EA Games in conjunction with New Line Cinema, is a graphical masterpiece that encompasses both the first and second books of J.R.R. Tolkien’s amazing trilogy. But if you are expecting an adventure game that forces you to solve puzzles as you walk the path of the ring-bearer, you will be disappointed. This is a combat game – pure and simple. You encounter hordes of enemies that you must wade through in order to get to the boss monster. The only puzzle you will have then is how to kill it.

Take, for example, the tentacled monster that lies in the lake near the Gates of Moria. If you are playing as Aragorn, Legolas or Gimli, you can’t just waste projectile weapons firing in the water. If you stand there, the creature’s tentacles will whip you to death. Therein lies the extent of the puzzle. Figure out how to attack and score hit points against an elusive and powerful monster. And while that tactic may work, you will have to come up with another plan when you encounter the chained monstrosity in Balin’s Tomb.

The game begins with the prologue and a tutorial of sorts. You take on the persona of Isildur during the first battle for the freedom of Middle-earth with Sauron. This will get you in the fighting frame of mind. Then, after you accomplish that task and are scored for your effort, you are whisked off to Weathertop and into the skin of Aragorn as he battles the Ringwraiths to protect Frodo.

There are 13 levels in all, which will take the game player all the way to Helm’s Deep. Players are scored on killing moves, from fair to perfect, and you rack up points, which you can use if you successfully complete a level to buy special moves or increased health.

What sets this game apart from the other current Lord of the Rings game is the use of New Line Cinema movie footage. The game will show a scene from the films (yes, LOTR movie fans, there are scenes from the next release included in here), and then transposes that over to the game version. Gimli may be talking about going to Moria when the game moves from movie footage to game animation. However, the designers of this game have done a remarkable job in keeping the animated characters looking like their movie counterparts. And the voices are used, as well as music from the LOTR film.

The scene described at the start of this article referred to two parts of the game – a cutscene (the orc’s lobotomy) and actual game play. The details are so good in this game that you will see breath exhaled from the heroes. The environments are terrific as well.

The game does have a fair amount of arcade power-ups, which are necessary. You can run out of projectile weapons (arrows for Aragorn and Legolas, and hand axes for Gimli), but you will find supplies cached in the environment. And some kills will release glowing green vials, which restore health. And the game is linear in regards to how each boss is killed. If you find the key as Aragorn, then the same method works for both Gimli and Legolas. The only challenge is to score higher with either.

The way you kill translates to the points you get for successfully completing a mission. Those points can be used to purchase special moves. Gimli can get a War Rush, Legolas may benefit from Elrond’s Swift Terror, while Aragorn can get his sword to glow for a brief surge of power with the Ranger Fury move. You can also purchase a permanent increase in health.

The Two Towers is a combat game, with more swordplay, whirling blades and dynamic fight sequences than several games combined. The graphical elements are stunning, and the game is an absolute joy to play. While every Tolkien fan may not favor the movie version of this remarkable tale, this is certainly a game that will strike a strong chord among those who love combat games.

This game is rated Teen for blood and violence.

Gameplay: 8.5
The game is very linear in regards to the boss monsters, and the path you can take from point A to point B. However, tactical elements come into play: positioning yourself and selecting opponents to attack are key to scoring well. The game has numerous cutscenes – some which can’t be bypassed if you need to retry a level.

Graphics: 9.85
This game is breathtaking graphically. The attention to detail is amazing and the animation is stunning. The environments are exquisite.

Sound: 9.8
Howard Shore’s movie score powers that portion of the program, and the voices of the movie actors are used. This is a game that is tied in strongly to the theatrical films – both the first and the upcoming second one.

Difficulty: Medium
There are three difficulty levels, and the game is played from a third-person perspective. The camera doesn’t always help the view, and at times it is hard to tell how close you are to an opponent directly in front of your avatar.

Concept: 8.5
The game is a tactical combat game tied closely to the movies. You only control one character during a fight, but others are there fighting as well, and you can align yourself to make use of other character’s fighting tactics. The control elements of the game, and the player interface are designed to make getting into this game quick and easy.

Overall: 9.75
There are a few elements that pull this game back, such as the linear aspects, and having to wade through cutscenes again to repeat a level. The game may not have much replayability other than to improve your score.  When it comes to the graphical elements, this game is easily head-and-shoulders above others in the genre. From the spark of a parried attack, to the whirr of a blurred blade slashing through the air and a kick that knocks opponents back and off-balance so the killing blow can be struck, this game is a visual delight. The sound elements only add to the overall effect, and make The Two Towers a fantastic outing.


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