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01/07/2003. Contributed by Phil Jones

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All eye candy, cut scenes and little substance, just a slash ‘em up with the characters from LOTRs. In some respects you would be right, this is basically a game involving fighting. No puzzles, no exploration to be seen anywhere but what it does have is quality.

It starts out following the storyline from both films/books. Opening with the battle where Sauron loses his hand and the ring, you progress through the game playing out every fight scene. Before each level, you are greeted with either FMV from the film(s) or a cut scene using the games graphic engine or a combination of both.

Initially, the first few levels are played with the appropriate character (Aragorn, Legolas or Gimli) but later you get to choose which character you want to use. There are 16 levels to fight your way through and sometimes the choice of character is important.

There is a healthy learning curve and time and perseverance are rewarded. Not only with progression through the game but as you fight you are rewarded with experience points (and what do points make?) prizes that's what.

If you take time to learn combos you can earn more experience points you can purchase new moves, increased health, better weapons and ammunition. Also, it raises your characters' level, opening up new goodies.

This helps to raise it from just mere button bashing for the beginner - OK this will work but toward the last few levels it'll make it very difficult to progress.

The last few levels, especially, are beautifully rendered with whole multitudes of orcs, trolls and the like streaming onto the level. The combat system is easy to pick up and enables you to easily fight the hordes of enemies coming your way.

You also have the choice of a long-range weapon (either a bow or axe depending on whom you play) which is good for taking out enemies at longer range, especially if they are carrying explosives. Helm's Deep is faithfully recreated and the indecent fighting is replicated from the film (just that you’re doing the hacking and slashing, parry, dodge, thrust etc).

Where it is a bit of a letdown is the length of the game. To be frank, it's short. There is replay value in that you can play most of the levels with one of the three characters again. This also has the effect of opening up bonus footage such as interviews, artwork and the like. All the voices are provided by the original actors, which certainly adds to the feel of the game. As do the faithfully reproduced graphics, backgrounds and story.

This is certainly a better game than ‘Fellowship Of The Rings’ and captures the feel of Jackson's movies perfectly. If you're a fan, it's definitely one to add to your collection and it's a very enjoyable game to boot.

Phil Jones

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