Does well to reflect the experience, and challenge, the characters were supposed to have faced during the movie.

User Rating: 7 | The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King PS2
Lord of Rings: Return of the King sets up adlib versions of keys battle scenes witnessed in the movie for you to fight through, with a 3rd person perspective of the action; and fight is definitely the word.

After a brief introductory level, you're left with 3 paths to choose from, although eventually you will have to take all of them.

In Path of the Wizard you play as Gandalf the White Wizard. The Path of the Hobbit has you play as Sam the hobbit (until the final level of the game in which you play as Frodo), and the 3rd is the Path of the King comprised where you can choose to play as Aragorn, Legolas or Gimli. Although you have the option to choose which character to play as when you start the level with the last set you can not change on the fly mid-level. Once the game is completed, your roster of who you can play as in each level opens up, and you can unlock new characters after you've completed the game.

Each set of heroes have standard attack moves and combos that closely resemble each other. Where they differ the most in battle is with their special abilities. Those that follow the Path of the King can increase their attack power, Hobbits can turn invisible, and Gandalf has the coolest talent with his blue sphere of power that essentially turns him into a juggernaut of sorts. All special abilities have a limited time to which they will be active, and then you'll have to wait a certain amount of time before you can use them again.

Along the way you'll gain experience, and your characters will level-up, allowing you to upgrade your attacks and acquire new combos for both yourself, and your fellowship that fight alongside you (if applicable). Your choice of new attacks are decent, but not so vast that you'll find yourself unsure of which ones you should spend your points on, and which ones to leave behind until later.

You'll want to use all of your abilities as best you can, since there is a lot of challenging action to face along the way. It's not the battles themselves that are overly hard, it's when they add in the occasional time constraint of some kind. I hate time limits in games such as this. They push some stages to the level of frustration for me. When I try to push through and hurry, I tend to take more damage, and when I'm methodical to my attack I run out of time. It can take a while to learn what it takes to balance both in these parts of the game.

The amount of adversaries that are sent your way can also invoke an overwhelming feeling, especially in the last couple of levels. There's times where there's so many foes on the screen that they'll surround you to a degree where you can not see yourself anymore. This can make it irritating when you're trying to get your bearings. The bad guys are not the only threat to your field of view. I found myself in a couple situations where the sheer amount of falling debris and particle effects will also obscure your hero.

In addition to all of this, the camera is also not always the most helpful, as it can hide attacking enemies or a path you need to take off screen. Luckily this is only an occasional barrier, as most of the time the camera work is satisfactory.

It's too bad that the visuals can play such a negative role from time to time, as the world looks very good. There's lots of detail in the environments and characters (despite the fact I don't think I ever saw their mouths move when they talked), and the explosions in particular are well crafted. The sound is also top notch from the effects to the music to the voice acting.

Cut scenes are taken directly from the film. There are also mini-cut scenes that take place in the middle of the levels, and these can be annoying at time. The reason being is that it seems like the enemies don't stop moving while the cut scene is taking place. So although they won't attack you during the brief cut away, they may converge on your position so that when you given back control you're all of the sudden face to face with one or more foes ready to attack that weren't there before.

The final level also deserves some mention as I think it was pulled off very well. It offered a new, but welcome, challenge with a slight tweak to the approach in game-play.

Looking back, it definitely has it's enjoyable parts, and a lot to offer. Despite a couple of levels that nearly broke me, and some aggravating moments, the action can be fun, and the combos feel great to pull off.

A challenging hack'n'slash title that does well to reflect all the action from the movie, with a decent replay value, if you found it fun enough to want to play again.

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