By now you've probably seen what will be one of the top three films in terms of scope and size of the year. So what's a Star Wars fan to do now that Lucas has finished working and is counting his millions? Play the game of course, but traditionally Star Wars games have sucked. This is hardly understandable considering Lucasarts do the games themselves, have access to all Lucas archives and Lucas even approves everything himself. Episode III will probably be the final Star Wars game of this generation, and Lucas, and Lucasarts, have gone out on a moderate high.
For those who aren't aware, Episode III completes the story of Anakin Skywalker becoming Darth Vader and his relationship with Padme. Throughout the movie and game we see Anakin slowly become entrenched in the dark side, after being tricked by a Sith character that Padme will die. Anakin, showing his true love for her, decides the dark side is the best way to stop this happening and we slowly watch him become more and more hungry with power. While the game for the most part does work side by side with the film, there are some sections unique to the game and provide a bit of backstory as well as generally lengthen what is a somewhat short game.
The game is played from a fixed camera angle and in a third person style format. At anyone time you could be controlling Anakin or Obi Wan depending on where in the movie the game is currently being played but it does offer a few surprises to those expecting a typical star wars game. First of all the game is a lot more violent than we expected. It does contain the scene where you kill the Padawans, and generally you are a lot more aggressive than in other Star Wars games. The other surprise is that in general you mainly control Anakin. We would have expected Lucasarts to go for the happier side of the story for the game but they have remained quite true to the movie in Episode III.
The fixed camera angle is a double edged sword. While it does help the game in terms of showing where to go, it makes the combat difficult at times. The combat system however is extremely well done with combinations on offer and sublime animation being used. However it doesn't stop the game becoming repetitive and this is perhaps the biggest problem with the game. Despite the limited puzzle solving, despite the translation of movie to game, despite the animation, it still is one of the most repetitive games around. One thing which does mix this up a bit is experience which allows you to buy new moves and increase force powers based on how well you perform but other than that it's one big hack and slash to save the galaxy.
The limited range of enemies doesn't help this either, neither does the fact that one hundred percent of the time you're using a lightsaber. Now this will please Star Wars purists but seriously, for a ten hour plus game to have you do the same thing over and over again is just not acceptable. To enjoy Episode III you have to really get into the movie because it's really the only impressive thing about the game. The transition between film scenes to in game engine is a pure transition.
The level design is done quit well and the scenes are recreated from the film extremely well. One disappointment is that they did not render the creation of Darth Vader in the game's engine, rather choosing to use the movie scenes. If you play well enough you unlock a level from Episode IV which combined with the authentically recreated areas from the film, does give the game some credibility even if the mechanics and combat are very repetitive. There is a lot to unlock in Episode III such as bonus levels, individual duels, movie scenes and levels for co-operative and 1vs1 multiplayer action.
Visually the game is a mixed bag. The Characters and animation are very well done but overall it does feel like a PS2 enhanced port rather than an Xbox game. There is a sort of grainy feel to the whole game which doesn't look well done at all but in general there is not much to complain about in the visuals department. Voice acting was done by the cast of the movie so, as expected, is extremely well done as is the cinematic score by John Williams; it's probably the highlight of the game.
Star Wars Episode III could have been better, a lot better, but the developers have worked on the game well and used the movie and its features to the best that it was ever going to be used. The repetitive nature harms the game quite a bit and as such it can only be recommended to Star Wars fans or a rental for the casual fans.