The final episode in George Lucas' series of prequels in the Star Wars legacy may still be a few weeks away from hitting theaters, but the game version of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is now available in stores for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Believe it or not, with the sole exception of last month's Lego Star Wars, Revenge of the Sith is the first serious action adventure game based on one of the new Star Wars movies since 1999's utterly atrocious Phantom Menace for the PlayStation and PC. Thankfully, Revenge of the Sith seems to be a markedly better game, but we have to admit that after having spent a few hours with our retail copy of it, we're still a bit disappointed.
So as to avoid any screams of "Spoilers!" from diehard fans, we'll pretty much avoid any descriptions of the storyline through the first six levels, which is where we're at currently. We will say, however, that the game provides an awful lot of the storyline (through scenes taken directly from the film that bookend each stage), especially for a game that's out before its film inspiration. Throughout the early portions of the game, you'll play as both Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker. Both characters are modeled after the real-life actors that portray them--Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen, respectively--though neither actor voices his character. Instead, we're treated to a pair of dullard soundalikes that could have used at least a few commands of "Faster! More intense!" from whomever was directing the recording session. It would be OK, except the twosome are constantly quipping back and forth with each other using the same dreadful lines over and over again, like "Here comes more scrap metal!" and "You want some of this?". It's especially bad since the scenes from the film obviously feature the real actors. Consequently, the comparisons are like night and day.
The action contained within the early portions of the game rarely transcends rather simplistic hack-and-slash battles against armies of droids. Both characters control the same, with a few different lightsaber attack buttons, as well as a few different Force powers, like the ability to pick up enemies or objects or push them away, in addition to the ability to heal yourself. The combat feels fluid enough, but the game seems remarkably easy. Droids die super quickly, and the tougher droids you encounter later rarely require more than a bit of Force power to defeat. In the few instances where we engaged in some serious combat against an opponent who could actually inflict some damage, we found it altogether too easy to just hold down the block button, wait for him to finish attacking, and then slash him to death (in a lather-rinse-repeat fashion). The one shining beacon throughout all this was the one boss battle we encountered against a certain Count Dooku. Again, we won't give away any details, but the battle featured a nicely multitiered progression that we actually found reasonably challenging, so it just generally felt a lot better than any of the previous combat we'd experienced.
At the very least, Revenge of the Sith does look nice. Most of our time has been spent running through the corridors of a large capital ship, but the environments have been nicely detailed up to this point, and the character models are similarly well rendered. They look a little less impressive up close during the few in-engine cutscenes we've encountered, but overall, they're pretty good. Our one serious beef with the game's visuals thus far has involved the camera. It's basically your standard cinematic camera, but periodically it has a bad habit of zooming away from the enemies that are actually shooting at you. Granted, you can pretty much just hold down the block button and walk toward them without taking much damage at all, but it's still irritating.
Though we're only through six of the game's 16 levels, we've managed to get that far at a fairly brisk pace, leading us to believe that unless the game's remaining levels take significantly longer than the ones we've gone through thus far, this is probably going to be a pretty short game. Admittedly, we haven't tried the multiplayer duels or two-player co-op mode yet, so there's still stuff for us to see. Unfortunately, our first impression of the game is not a particularly positive one, so we'd recommend you wait for our full review of the game this Monday before committing to a purchase.