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Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

It was always likely that this game was going to be a hit. Anything connected with the worldwide phenomenon created by Peter Jackson’s epic was almost guaranteed to be a money-spinner. But is it any good?

The simple answer is yes. It is a very good game. It combines a sound combat engine with some superb graphics to give a good quality, if somewhat short action adventure game.

Just in case you didn’t know that this was a sequel the game starts automatically in the middle of the battle of Helms Deep. As Gandalf you wade through the legions of Uruk Hai and literally save the day. Despite the fact that it is impossible to lose this level it is an excellent way to throw you head first into the action. Once this level is finished you get to choose the path you will follow and the characters you will play. You also access the special features you can unlock during the game from here.

Both the path of the wizard and the path of the hobbit are shorter than the path of the king, but you need to complete them both before you are able to complete the central role, which in a way gives the game the feel that it is indeed one story.

Throughout the game you have the opportunity to play a variety of different characters from Samwise Gamgee to Aragorn and although Tolkien purists will undoubtedly feel it is ridiculous for a mere Hobbit to be as efficient at killing Orcs as a Dwarven Warrior the characters do indeed move in different ways and have differing strengths.

Some of the combos are a little tricky to pull off but they are by no means necessary to complete the game and the select enemy function can sometimes be a little unreliable, but the increase in levels attainable and special powers make this a better game than its prequel The Two Towers.

The backgrounds are stunningly rendered and the action switches effortlessly from video footage to game play and back again without causing any problems to the player, also the NPCs magically become transparent when the appear in between the camera view and the character being played so as not to interfere with the game.

The Multiplayer mode makes some of the levels laughably easy but a lot of fun all the same. Also the opportunity to play any level with any character once the game has been completed gives rise to some amusing “what if?” episodes. The strict scripting of each episode does however remove some of the re-playability of the game.

All in all this a great game for anyone who is a fan of the films. If you aren’t a fan I would probably hold off until it hits Platinum as for all its good points it is a relatively short game that any decent gamer will complete in a matter of days.

Overall Score 8/10

Reviewed by Martin Austwick © 2005

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