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Jones and the Emperor's Tomb
Score: 7.4 / 10
I just can’t say, “Indiana Jones” without
hearing the strains of John Williams’ score. It’s hard for me to even
separate the words “fedora” and “whip”. This is why I was so looking
forward to seeing what today’s technology could do with the world’s most
famous “archaeologist”. And for the most part, Indiana Jones and the
Emperor’s Tomb satisfies as an action game save for one crippling flaw
that I really didn’t expect.
For reasons only known to the Collective and LucasArts, Emperor’s Tomb
(ET) turns into jittery slideshow at the worst occasions. Indy’s just
running along, beatings Nazi’s senseless when the Xbox hard drive or ROM
drive (not sure which) goes berserk. The soundtrack starts cutting in
and out and the action on-screen tanks,
more often than not resulting in death. At
first I would let the seizure run its course, but then I found I could
pause the game, wait a couple of seconds, unpause it and everything
would be back to normal. This was a “fix” in the loosest sense but on
one level I went the last half of it under these crappy conditions.
How’d this get by the QA testers? Is it a fault in the disc
manufacturing? Who know, but it does make playing a (sometimes)
experience since it seems to crop up in the same places all the time.
That being said, most everything else is faultless. The fisticuffs are
good, the camera is above average, the graphics suitable, the puzzles
well designed, and the control very good.
Like Jedi Knight II’s lightsaber, my weapons of choice always put me in
close quarters. While Indy isn’t above using a gun, his best weapons are
his fists and versatile whip. (Although if your opponent has a
flamethrower you may want to rethink this strategy.) His inventory can
be stocked with a whole assortment of weapons like Mausers, swords,
spear guns and machine guns. In true Dr. Jones fashion, objects found in
the environment can also be used to pummel opponents, including shovels,
table legs and chairs.
The combat itself is quite enjoyable. You’ll be looking for
opportunities to heave enemies off catwalks or crack them against a wall
so Indy can smack them silly. But sometimes only a grenade will do. Any
issues with the control are directly attributable to the episodes of
stuttering; otherwise it’s very good.
The enemy AI varies from level to level so each new enemy has to be
considered. Some areas, when they spot you, they’ll run to raise the
alarm. In pairs, it’s typical that one will brandish a gun and the other
will attack with fists, blocking when appropriate. This makes every
situation a little different than the one before it (especially when
dealing with sharks). But the big thing here is that I didn’t see any of
them do stupid things, like get caught on corners, etc. You might think
this would extend the replay value but it doesn’t. Levels are designed
in a very straightforward manner, eliminating surprises for any further
play-throughs. (I have to admit, some levels really are fun to replay –
the closing level, the sunken city especially – even though you can walk
through them "blindfolded" after a few attempts.) Your progress is saved
after each mission and becomes playable at any time after.
LucasArts claims that ET is broken into equal thirds – action, puzzle,
navigation – and this seems to be a fair assertion. Most levels do a
good job mixing the three to drive the story forward, which has Indiana
neck-deep in a plot to uncover the Heart of the Dragon in China. The
story is quite cinematic complete with chase scenes. With a few
modifications this could have been another Indiana Jones movie.
Eye and ear candy (now 100% wax free!) is good. There are some that may
decry “low-res textures!” (which I just can’t take points off for
because I didn’t notice) or the occasional clipping, but the entire
package oozes style and distinctiveness. The sound-alike for Indy gets a
special mention – he does a very good job.
If you’re an Indy fan, I’d recommend Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s
Tomb even with its low replay factor and seizures. It has enough to be
very playable and enjoyable for the most part thanks to the strengths of
the other aspects of the game.