There are unlockables enough to make this game last for a long time

User Rating: 9.5 | The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King XBOX
The lord of the rings: The two towers was an awesome-looking, fun and great sounding hack-and-slash game which featured characters from the movie and also had the original voice actors. The next game in the series, The return of the king, features more of the same but everything is better. Or is it?

The game starts off with a bombastic cinematic of the battle at Helm's deep and you seamlessly get thrown into the action, playing as the wizard Gandalf. This level, and all levels following it, look perfect and it really IS like playing the movie. The backgrounds and characters look awesome and after you've been amazed by the number of characters on the screen at the same time, things happening all around you and the realistic and perfect animation, you get greeted by the familiar "stage-select" main screen. It looks a little different from the former game since you now undertake three different quests (Sam and Frodo's trip to mount doom, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli's battles and also Gandalf's journey through the movie) all consisting of a couple of separate levels. After you select your mission you get a scene from the movie which transforms into a cut-scene animation and then it's up to you. The HUD is clear and when there's something for you to do something is usually displayed in the top right corner, like how many orcs there are left to kill or how much time you have until the witchmaster catches Frodo. I cannot stress enough how good everything looks. The massive battle-scenes look bombastic and stuff explodes all around you as you cut down orcs, uruk-hais, goblins and trolls. The more "calm" levels like Shelob's caverns and parts of the land of the dead just radiates beauty and atmosphere. After you finish a level you come to the points screen, where you get a rating (fair, good, excellent or perfect) with the accompanied bonus, and finally the level up screen which looks much like the screen in the two towers game. There are tons of unlockable stills such as production art and pictures from the movie-set. The only thing I can think of in terms of "not perfect" is that most of the movie clips are from the two towers but taken out of context. I guess this has to do with the game being released before the actual movie and not wanting to release too much real footage. The other thing is that sometimes the close-ups of the characters' faces don't look like their real counterparts, but these are minor things that don't affect the graphics that much.

The frenetic hack-and-slash gameplay would have gotten very tedious had it not been for the encouraging presentation of the game. The purchasing of combos, larger health-bar, more powerful projectiles and special abilities are very cool and it keeps the interest up throughout the game. Some of the combos are difficult to pull off and you'll probably end up using "Orc hewer" a lot even though it's one of the first combos you can buy (and one of the cheapest) it's easy to perform and powerful. A cool addition to this game is the special abilities you can trigger by squeezing the both triggers at once. Gandalf's special ability is a force field that protects from damage AND damages enemies that come in contact with it. Sam's ability is using his cape to become invisible and Aragorn gets in a state of rage that makes it faster to get into Perfect mode (Where your kills count as perfect) and a slight damage bonus. Little nuances like this make this game a joy to play through and there's a co-op mode. Yes! You can fight your way through most of the games levels as a duo which is a very welcome addition. The variety of levels and scenery and objectives make this game this game more varied than the Two towers game.

The classical score from the movie is of course present accompanied by very realistic sound-effects and very good voice acting. I played the game through a surround system and I was totally blown away by the powerful explosions, realistic grunts, spot-on bowstring-sounds, perfect sword clashes and the screams for help by the townspeople. Together with the graphics, the sound of this game creates a near perfect movie tie-in game with a world that's very much alive. Nothing more to say. Apart from some parts of the voice acting, this game has perfect audio, it's as easy as that.

There are unlockables enough to make this game last for a long time; characters, cheats, concept art, DVD-style extras like interviews and production photos. After you've finished the game you unlock all the levels to all the characters, which is a cool thing. The one player campaign is longer than the Two towers' and there's also the addition of the co-op mode which make this game last longer than the previous game. The replay value is high, but it's only as high as you feel immersed in the gameplay; if you're a die-hard Lord of the rings fan or if you love hack n' slash games you'll play this game forever.

It's just a very good video game, period. If you're into action games with a focus on hack n' slash and /or like Tolkien or fantasy in general, this'll be your favorite game.