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Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Score: 8.8 / 10
Movie-to-game conversions are almost always
hit and miss – never landing on a comfortable middle ground. And
unfortunately there’s no real template of success.
Platformers have benchmark games like Mario Sunshine and Jak & Daxter;
sports games have models like EA Sports and any 2K series. Movie-to-game
conversions don’t have many titles to look up to… until now.
Before I begin my glowing appraisal of Lord of the Rings: The Two
Towers, I have to admit there’s room for improvement.
The action moves at a fast pace from beginning to end, complete with
cinematic camera angles, wherein lies my biggest beef. At points the
camera it too zoomed to
be of any use – enemies remain unseen until
they’ve landed a few blows. This bogs the play into frustration at
crucial junctures. There’s also a problem with the camera cuts. For
large sections the action moves along like the classic Golden Axe then
shifts to another perspective, which is fine – it really acts to draw
you in – but if you’re on one of these switch lines while taking on a
group of orcs, it’s a
wonder it you don’t succumb to epileptic seizures. The camera will
continually jump back and forth between the two angles. This forces you
to go back or rush forward to break through the line so you don’t have
to deal with the shifting perspective. But these detractions seem minor
compared to what the game does right.
The same high-intensity battles of the first two movies are present and
accounted for, accompanied by additional ones not seen in the movies.
The opening level puts you in control of Isildur who famously cuts off
the ring finger of the evil Sauron. Then you get to play some of the
most intense battles ever committed to celluloid. But no matter how far
I progressed, I always found myself drawn back to Balin’s Tomb (even
though it has one of the best examples of the “too zoomed” phenomenon)
for it’s shear intensity and faithfulness to the movie. The place
literally crawls with orcs! Which brings me to problem #2.
The action is so filled with bodies, arrows and swords that it can often
be difficult to see what you’re doing. This too often leads to intense
button mashing, which is not as rewarded as finesse fighting.
In a nod to RPG’s, your fighter earns experience points that allow
access to higher-level attacks, equipment, and health. The higher-level
attacks require button combinations and maybe a split-second longer to
fully execute a move. In large fights, trying to perform finesse moves
will get you killed. The attacking ranks have to be thinned by button
mashing. The one-on-one and two-on-one encounters allow for greater
combos and more experience points. Overall though, this method of
increasing your attributes works.
Most levels give you the option of choosing between Aragorn, Legolas,
and Gimli. Each have their own considerations. Aragorn’s the balanced
fighter, while Gimli is the most powerful and Legolas is the speediest
but weakest character. (You’d think that if anyone was packing mithril
it would be Legolas!) Each has access to ranged weapons, which are
easily accessed thanks to the solid control.
The story generally follows the action of the first two movies right up
to Helm’s Deep, meshing the audio and video to the game in a very
pleasing way. (The actors even chipped in extra dialogue.) There are
some liberties taken with the story but nothing that makes you want to
question what the developers were thinking. And the developers, bless
them, have included a raft of extra levels (and Easter Eggs) to unlock.
There are enough challenging levels to keep any action fan happy, but
with the extra levels, Two Towers should easily keep you gaming for a
month. (Be warned though, when you die – and you will – you have to
restart from the beginning of the level.)
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is a very good game in its own right,
the best movie-to-game conversion in recent memory, and establishes a
benchmark all other movie-to-game titles can aspire to. In short, play