Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

Games -Lord of the Rings: Return of the King Review PS2
Lord of the Rings: Return of the King Review PS2

Anyone one up for some full on hack and slash action Lord of the Rings style? Well if i told you Return of the King is a better game overall to the Two Towers and you can play through the game with your mate in the cooperative mode you would surely want to check this game out. EA have taken the Lord of the Rings trilogy very seriously and to finish off in style they have left the best part till last, the combat system is very good indeed, the game has a great cinematic feel and the battles are no less than frantic.

Return of the King starts with some very nice FMV, you wont see any menus or options at all, you will be flung straight into battle after the arrival of Gandalf and the Riders of Rohan. Basically the good guys are being overrun by Sauron's evil army, then the films cuts to Gandalf appearing over the horizon closely followed by a huge army, while this if all going on Gandalf is narrating the story and it finishes with something like, "A wizard is never late or early, he always arrives at the exact

 
Games - Lord of the Rings: Return of the King Review PS2

moment when he means to". Well is goes something like that anyway. Gandalf and the Riders of Rohan charge down this huge and very steep hill into the midst of absolute chaotic battle. At this point the film merges into the in game graphics and the action starts. Basically you, Gandalf, will take on masses of uruk-hai, scale the walls of the castle to aid Aragorn and then blow up the main bridge to the castle to stop any more evil beings from entering the battle. All this happens while all out war is being waged all around you.

Once you have completed the first level of the game you will be accessed to see how well you performed in battle. You will be given points for all the attacks you have carried out during the level and these are then counted for you under each ranking, fair, good, very good and excellent. If all your attacks are good you will only score in the good section and so on. You will get a fair mix of attack scores throughout the level and an average will be taken. After this you can use your points that you have earned, based on your score for that level, and buy power ups which come in the form of attacks. All the power ups are grouped in experience levels. For example, when you first start the game as Gandalf you will be on experience level one, but by the end of the level you should have earned at least experience level 2. So when you come to power up Gandalf at the end of level one you can by experience level 2 power ups. You can also buy power ups for all the various characters as well as Gandalf, but these are more expensive and you must bear in mind that is you buy a level two power up it will only work with Gandalf to start with as the other characters are still on experience level one. In this case you will have to play through the game until the character on experience level one is awarded experience level 2. At this point the power ups you have bought will come into effect but not before. In order to guarantee all you characters have some sort of special attack or power up it is a good idea to buy some level one power ups for all the characters after the first level.

After you have finished buying your extra powers you will find that you will not be able to fight with Gandalf until later in the game as he, along with a couple of other characters are locked. So don't spend your experience points on Gandalf straight away as it would be a waist of resources in the short term, unless you choose to play the path of the Wizard before the path of the King. You will be able to choose from Aragon, Legolas or Gimli when playing the path of the King and Samwise during the path of the hobbit. All these various paths are just different levels, you are able to choose you path through the game and in which order for most part. As mentioned above, the path you choose dictates the characters you will be able to use. You will find that each character can hold his own just as well as the other, this may sound a little strange as you would not expect Samwise to be able to dispose of uruk-hai as well as the seasoned warrior Aragon. The main reason for keeping characters very similar is a good one, it lets you concentrate on using the special attacks, parry's, combos and general power ups that you buy with your experience points rather than having to relearn each move for each character.

Having said all this, the combat system in Return of the King is very simple. There are a couple of things to remember though your fast attacks will not work against enemies with shields as the attacks will automatically be deflected. Only the fierce attacks will be good enough, these attacks will smash the enemy's shields allowing you to get about your business as usual. If your character and the enemy strike at the same neither of you will receive any damage whatsoever, the same goes for the parry's as there is no real skill or timing needed to pull them off, all you have to do is keep tapping the parry button to deflect all the enemies blows. Combos are also nice and easy to pull off but the link moves which enable you to parry and then pull of a kill move straight away are a little tricky to get the hang of. Basically if you can remember all of the moves in Lord of the Rings you will not have a problem using them. During most levels you will find white circles on the floor that are situated next to catapults, throwing spears or leavers for opening doors and bridges. These are basically action icons, if you stand within these circles and press the action button you will find yourself throwing the spears at enemies and opening bridges to make passages possible.

One of the best additions to Lord of the Rings Return of the King is the cooperative mode that enables you and your friend to to fight your way through the game together. The gameplay itself is much of the same although the number of enemies will increase to make things just as difficult as the single player game. Unique to the Playstation 2 version of the game is the online element which allows the cooperative player mode to be played over the web with your friends. This is further enhanced by the use of the USB headset for voice communication. Shockingly the PC version does not include the online mode which is a real shame and something that I feel should have been there on the PC version, especially as the PS2 has this capability.

Graphically Lord of the Rings portrays a brilliant cinematic feel that makes you briefly believe you are in the movie. While battling walls will crumble, huge explosions will white out the screen for split moments and the sheer number of enemies of amazing if a little disheartening. Out of the three consoles the XBOX and GameCube versions look sharper than the PS2 version but it certainly is not a bad version by any means. The GameCube does suffer a touch of slow down which is not really acceptable considering the PS2 can handle all the onscreen action, even if it is at a slightly lower resolution.

Lord of the Rings Return of the King is a great hack and slash fest that features a very simple yet reasonably deep fighting system. The upgrade system is a great addition that keeps things from getting too repetitive. The cooperative system is something that will give LOTR a great replay value especially as it is available online. The one downside is that the fun doesn't really last ling enough as you will get through most of the game in a couple of days. Lord of the Rings Return of the King really does do the films great justice and it does offer a great experience for fans of the books and films as well as the rest of us who aren't really that interested in the whereabouts of Gandalf and co.

8.0 out of 10

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