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LOTR: The Two Towers Preview (PS2, GBA)
game: LOTR: The Two Towers
posted by: Monica Hafer
publisher: Electronic Arts
developer: Stormfront Studios
date posted: 09:10 AM Tue Jun 11th, 2002
last revision: 01:07 PM Sat Oct 29th, 2005

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\"One ring to rule them all...\"

There are no monopolies when it comes to The Lord of the Rings franchise. Rights to the books and to the New Line Cinema titles were divvied up among different developers and publishers, with the cinema tie-in rights from The Two Towers landing squarely in the more than capable lap of EA games. And thank goodness...as a loyal, nay, zealous fan of LOTR, I was overjoyed to see such an amazing translation to the console gaming world. By popular acclaim of the GF! staff, this game was one of the must-see titles of E3.

Two Towers is a third person action/adventure game that features the playable characters of Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli (Gandolf and Frodo are added in the GBA version). There is an emphasis on tactical sword-fighting, but you might also imagine that archery and ax-wielding are featured prominently as well. In its basic form, it plays a lot like Dynasty Warriors 3, only much, much cooler with far more complicated, detailed environments. The game has sixteen levels and includes five boss monsters from the first two movies (the cave troll and Saruman among them). Film clips from both the Fellowship and The Two Towers are melded seamlessly into the animations and the graphics are absolutely phenomenal. There are ten environments taken from the movies, including the Mines of Moria and Helm\'s Deep (which was the playable demo at E3). The academy award winning musical score from Fellowship provides the backdrop for this stunning, middle-earth adventure.

To give you some idea of the magnitude of this game, I\'m going to bring you back with me to the moment that I slipped the headphones over my ears and picked up the controller at the EA booth at E3. Imagine a giant Uruk-Hai behind you (on display behind glass, but breathing down your neck, nonetheless) and in front of you, darkness. You can hear rain and wind, and soon, the darkness lifts enough to begin to illuminate...orcs... miles and miles of orcs. You are standing with Legolas and Gimli at Helm\'s Deep, and the orcs are shaking their spears and scimitars and howling for blood-yours. It is almost imperceptible when the cinema shots become animations from the game, but soon you see the orcs scaling the walls and you are thrust into the body of Aragorn. You must fight your way through the melee to the side of Legolas before the catapults of fire descend on you and break apart the walls upon which you stand.

After the absolute coolness of the experience has let up enough for you to breath normally (ie; after you have played this section, oh, ten or fifteen times in a row) the analytical part of you finally gets a chance to take over. This Two Towers does a great job of keeping tons of detail in the chaos of melee, and the graphics don\'t suffer a bit. There are quite a few different attack combinations to use with your sword, and cooler still is the ability to shoot flaming arrows at orcs along the parapets. The only bit of consternation came with the fixed perspective on one section of the stairs leading to the top of the walls, when the exiting stairwell was off screen and I couldn\'t see visually which way to go. However, this game handles that issue the best of almost any game I have seen to-date, and for a third person battle scene such as this, the perspective choice really can\'t be argued.

Although I\'m usually not one for spoilers, I\'ve read all the books front to back more times than I can count and I\'m not really worried about the fact that we\'ll see footage from The Two Towers film before the movie will be released (Dec. 2002). For most people this is, in fact, a bonus for the game. And the footage is exciting, boys and girls. I drooled just looking at it. I played the competitor\'s version of Fellowship (where the game play reminded me of Drakan), which was really good, but not so monumentally amazing as Towers. And EA is already planning future titles to be released on multiple platforms in 2003 and 2004. I guess they\'re just as sure of the success of this title as I am. And I don\'t think it\'s just because they\'re counting on all the Tolkien geeks like me to be their demographic. If the final product is half as cool as the playable demo, The Two Towers will be a must play for everyone. Mark it on your calendar and start counting off the days. This will be one of the great ones.

Monica Hafer (06/11/2002)