reviews\ Jan 14, 2003 at 7:00 pm

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

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far - whoops, wrong movie.  As you very well may know, J.R.R. Tolkien's classic trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, are being remade in movie format.  Peter Jackson, the director, has done a fantastic job filming the first two episodes, and this game attempts to turn them into a game.


Despite the name The Two Towers, this game actually covers both The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers.  The developers had access to things like blueprints for sets in the movies, which allowed them to do nifty things like craft stages just like the ones in the movies.  At times, it actually feels like you're a part of the movie.  This is helped in part by the way which levels are introduced.  We usually get to watch a piece of the movie, which at one point fades into actual cinemas created by the developer.  While these clips aren't nearly as impressive as the film, they take us right into the gameplay.  It's very nice, as there are no loading times whatsoever while this is going on.


And, thankfully, the actual game isn't bad at all.  It generally takes a beat-em'-up approach, where you have to kill so many enemies.  But it's not just plain old killing--there are twists.  Some missions will have you defending things like a gate, or townsfolk, while others have time limits, and one particular one features you fighting up on a wall, where enemies throw up their ladders and try to climb up.  While you can fight them, your job is to go around and knock down the ladders so the enemies don't even have a chance to come up.


Of course, it's not as easy as it sounds.  The game can, at times, be very frustrating.  This is often because of the erratic camera.  Sometimes it is good, following you at a neat angle while you fight.  But other times, especially when turning corners, it will cut to a different position very quickly.  The direction you had just been pressing now causes you to turn around.  Or perhaps you'll get stuck on the corner.  All too often I died in a heated fight because of this.


And boy, those fights can get pretty hectic.  It's a good thing you have a nice arsenal of moves and upgrades available to you.  The game sports a cool leveling up system where you can buy combos and more powerful weapons and arrows with points you earn by killing enemies.  Also, you are graded for each kill: fair, good, excellent, and perfect.  You receive more points for better kills, so there's actually motivation to fight better.


The only other real problem I have with the game is its length and lack of replay value.  One trip through the game takes only a few hours.  It can be beaten with a little determination in less than a day.  While you can go through the game with a few different characters, the differences are mostly aesthetic, and the game itself doesn't differ.  I know Tolkien fans will appreciate the extra stuff you can get by playing with everyone, but you might not want to go through the game several times just to unlock some concept art or interviews with cast members.  The unlockable character is admittedly pretty cool, but that's only because he's really powerful.  The unlockable stage is a joke - it's basically a survival challenge, where you have to last through twenty waves of enemies.


The graphics in the game are by no means horrible.  The environments are definitely well-done, and animation is realistic.  Character models don't look bad either.  However, the in-game cut scenes are really pretty pathetic compared to the film, and nothing was optimized for the Xbox's graphics power.  As it is, it is above average, but could have been better.


The sound isn't bad either, as they sometimes use music straight from the movies.  It is implemented nicely - you could be walking along alone one moment, but when enemies pop out at you, the music really kicks in.  This dynamic system is pretty cool.  It's just too bad more of the music isn't so memorable.  The voices are good, too, and voiced by the real actors themselves.  Sound effects hold up just fine.


Overall, I recommend renting The Two Towers.  It would make nicely for a good way to spend a weekend.  The reasons to play through again may not be worth it, considering the lack of differences each time through.  It's still worth checking out though, and I am certain Tolkien fans will absolutely love this title.  Bring on The Return of the King, I say...just make it a little longer, please! 



Gameplay: 8.0

The game is fun to play, with a wide variety of moves and ways to fight.  The game is quite short, however, and some areas can be frustrating, often because of the camera.


Graphics: 7.5

The graphics are more than bearable during gameplay, with nice animation.  The transitions from film footage to game cutscenes are well-implemented, but there's an obvious difference.


Sound: 7.5

The sound works well, kicking up at exciting points and slowing down when the action dies down.  The musical score itself isn't too bad either, as some of it was taken straight from the films.


Difficulty: Medium

The game definitely has some frustrating areas, but usually nothing that can't be overcome in a relatively short amount of time.


Concept: 7.0

The idea behind the gameplay is very much "beat-'em-up"-esque, but thankfully, there is a nice control scheme worked out.  Other neat elements include a leveling up system and very nice looking transitions from film footage, to in-game cutscenes, right into gameplay, with no loading spots.


Multiplayer: N/A

There is no multiplayer mode in The Two Towers, but I feel that the game could have greatly benefited from a co-op system.  You end up fighting with other members of the fellowship during many missions, so it would have been a nice touch to have a friend able to control them.


Overall: 7.5

The Two Towers is a fun experience that is probably best played over a rental due to its length and lack of replay value.  There are some incentives for Ring fans to keep playing though, so anyone interested in Tolkien's work would not do wrong picking this up.


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