'EA will conclude the thrilling trilogy with a few surprises up their sleeve'
Almost coinciding with the second films release last year, EA entered its foray into the Lord of the Rings franchise which is fast becoming overcrowded with a variety of games. The Two Towers may have been at its core a hack and slash but with the authentic replication of major scenes from the film it won a lot of fans around the world. Later this year EA will release their second title, The Return of the King and recently I got a chance to go hands on with the latest build.
Return of the King for the most part will use the same structure as The Two Towers. At its heart it will be a hack and slash game but again it will replicate some of the most significant and epic battles from the final film. The build I played was fairly limited, possibly due to restrictions New Line cinema has on content of the film at the moment but a few levels were available for my perusal.
One down side for avid Lord of the Rings fans with the Return of the King will be the fact that due to licensing issues the game has to completely replicate the movie and this means changes that Peter Jackson has seen as crucial to creating the motion picture. One of these particular changes is rumoured to be a structural change in the final chapter of the trilogy and this will no doubt be replicated in the game. Most people will be looking to play through the movie as their favourite character and Return of the King will deliver this in spades.
Like the Two Towers, you will have the ability to control Aragorn, Gandolf, Gimli and Legolas but also Frodo and Sam as well as a few other hidden characters. This will not only add replay value to those who want to complete the game with every character but change co-operative play significantly (co-op will be available on all platforms, something that really should have been in The Two Towers). Each has their unique moves and weapons but since the Two Towers the returning four characters seem to have had a slight animation change. They now seem more fluent and realistic as they hack and slash their way through the enemies featured throughout Middle Earth.
The two levels I got to play were vastly different. Selecting Aragorn as my character I was thrust deep into a cave like structure where various ghouls became my enemies. The level featured a maze like structure and the enemies were quite tough so I assume that this is from quite far into the game. The other level was set in a township under attack by Saurons minions. This is where the fun begins with orcs and other enemies rushing non stop at our illustrious heroes, until finally three big ogres come to the party wanting to squash the party.
I selected Legolas for this particular level and this is when the control system really came to the fore. It is entirely possible to control your character with the buttons but the much preferred method was me was to use the right analogue stick. Depending on which direction the player points the stick, will determine which way a character swings or fires their bow. This was first implemented with Star Wars Obi Wan on the Xbox but rest assured it feels much more smoother and useful in Return of the King.
Return of the King will begin at the battle of Helms Deep and continue right through to the thrilling climax of the trilogy. Those of you who have read the books may already know the journey that will be taken but the final section will most likely be a complete surprise to you, it wasn't enabled in the build but if the rumours that Jackson has changed the ending are true, then you are in for a surprise. Whether Helms Deep has just been ported from The Two Towers or enhanced for Return of the King is unknown at this time.
EA has again been granted the use of scenes from the film to be included with the game. Return of the King is currently scheduled to ship around four weeks before the films release so it will contain spoilers. If they can pull off what they did with the Two Towers again then it will be a truly cinematic experience.
The current graphics are superb and are on the level of the Two Towers which for me is one of the most impressive graphical presentations on the Playstation 2 yet. Being a closet Enya fan, I was happy to see that May it Be from the Fellowship of the Ring will form the main menu theme music. Music is somewhat limited in the current build but it does perform in a cinematic style, much like the first game.
Return of the King looks like it will continue the Two Towers impressive gameplay and graphics. Hack and Slash fans will love it, and anyone interested in the Lord of the Rings trilogy will be quite impressed by what EA is achieving with this title. Return of the King is currently scheduled to ship for all next generation consoles and PC in November 2003. We will have more information on Return of the King soon.