Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone




EA's game based on Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers for the PS2 brings the film experience home with an action-packed experience that is both intense and exciting. While the movies had a rich back-story, the game focuses on the battles, providing for plenty of swordplay and action. Devoted fans of the series will probably be upset at this watered-down trip to Middle Earth but are the intense action sequences good enough to make up for this? Join us as we look at The Two Towers and discover why this is one of the best film-to-game translations to date.

The Two Towers is an excellent adaptation of the films and brings their rich atmosphere and intricate design to the interactive realm perfectly. This game is based on the films that were hugely successful in bringing Tolkein's magical world of Middle Earth to the screen and a lot of effort has gone into replicating the look and feel of the films. However, the gameplay hasn't been neglected and the game offers some intense and challenging gaming. This makes the experience as unforgettable as the films were. You shouldn't be fooled by the title, because The Two Towers encompasses events from both films, not just the second one, which helps give it an even more epic feel. The Two Towers allows players to take the role of three main characters from the film, plus a hidden character available later on, though we won't ruin which one it is. These are: Aragorn the human warrior and future king, Legolas the elf and the dwarf warrior Gimli. In addition, other members of the Fellowship including Frodo and Gandalf make appearances through the game. You can choose to play through any mission as each character and can switch whenever you feel like it. The game closely mirrors the plot of the films and many sequences such as Balin's Tomb and the swamps are recreated flawlessly. The battles rage on and players will see plenty of action on the way to the epic battle at Helm's Deep that is the climax of both the game and the first two movies.

The mechanics of the game are relatively straightforward, allowing you to get right in the action. You have two basic types of weapons to use in your battles: swords and ranged weapons. The characters can use their swords to perform either a standard Speed attack or a devastating Fierce Attack that will shatter their shields. Your character can also use a ranged weapon, such as a bow and arrows that you can use to attack enemies from a distance. Once an enemy is dazed, you can use a your killing move to finish them off quickly. In addition to these standard attacks, you can kick enemies back or rush them to knock them down. More advanced players will learn to chain these attacks to form devastating combos that will wipe your enemies out quickly. Additionally, you can collect power-ups to replenish your energy; these icons are usually available when you kill an enemy. This is especially useful when facing a large horde where you're inevitably going to take some damage.

Performing these combos increases your power-bar quickly plus gives you a better ranking at the end of each level, so you should definitely use them more frequently than standard attacks. You can also use the sword to parry an enemy's attacks to deflect their blows and escape their attacks by jumping back. The Two Towers allows your character to gain new abilities as you progress and gain experience. You can purchase upgrades and new weapons between rounds depending on their success in battle. Your initial weapons are decent but can be upgraded to more powerful ones with enhanced abilities. You can also enhance the player's skill using the same method, which allows you to cut through enemies like butter. Each time you kill a foe, you gain health on your character's Skill Meter. Each time you kill an enemy, you are given a ranking ranging from good to perfect. Once the Skill Meter is filled, your attack power is enhanced and you earn twice the experience points for each kill. This only lasts for a limited time so you need to take advantage while you can.

You'll spend a lot of time battling the armies of Orcs, who swarm on the fellowship any chance they get. While the initial waves of Orcs are easy to battle, once you progress through the game, you face more difficult enemies including the Urak Hai that are much harder to kill. The Uraks are more powerful and dangerous Orcs. Additionally, you'll encounter large cave-trolls and the beast-like Wargs who must be defeated in order to protect a caravan of fleeing villagers under assault. There are also battles with bosses that punctuate each level including an intense battle with Larg, who the leader of the Urak Hai and is more powerful than himself. Eventually, you'll cross into Helm's Deep and face an army of Orcs and an end-battle with the dark wizard Saruman himself. These constant threats give The Two Towers a lot of urgency and passion, keeping you motivated throughout your arduous quest.

The Two Towers controls are excellent and intuitive, allowing players to move around with quite a bit of dexterity. Players can use either the face buttons or the D-Pad to control the sword. While both configurations are good, we found the standard button to more comfortable and intuitive. Using the buttons makes performing combos much easier because their functions are more clearly defined. Attacking with the arrows was slightly more difficult because you have to hold down the left shift key and fire, leaving you vulnerable to enemies at close range. The lack of an auto-target makes aiming more difficult than it should be to hit opponents. Switching between the arrows and swords was a little awkward and made attacking groups of foes harder than it could have been. This is a very minor complaint and most players should be able to learn these mechanics quickly. The attacking controls are implemented effectively and are easy to use, allowing players to battle foes effectively. Performing the combos was easier than it sounds and the system works well. Even though The Two Towers doesn't allow you to change the camera angles, using fixed views isn't a bad thing. The default angles let you see most of the action clearly allowing you to focus on the action without worrying about the camera.

Like the film, this is an impressive-looking experience that transports players directly into the battle for Middle Earth. The Two Tower's visuals and presentation are quite impressive in most aspects, and the engine pushes the PS2's rendering power to its limits. Helping this approach along are the numerous cut-scenes taken from the film that drive the storyline effectively. The Two Towers recreates the look and feel of the film down to its camera angles and shot composition. While the game can't match the visual splendor seen in the films, it does a decent job in recreating the cinematic experience. While this approach can seem unimaginative, this approach makes the transitions from the film clips much less jarring than it could have been. All the areas from the movie are faithfully recreated in exacting detail and the graphic engine allows for some outstanding lighting and water effects. Richly detailed texture mapping and detailed modeling further brings this magical world to life.

The main characters look remarkably like their film-counterparts with excellent facial animation and movements giving them a life like appearance that's astonishing. Likewise, the Orcs and other enemies look awesome, giving you a real sense of their menace and danger. The Two Towers' most intense sequence is the epic battle of Helm's Deep. This is especially impressive and evocative, capturing the apocalyptic tension that made that sequence so memorable. The film soundtrack is used to create quite a dramatic effect, and is as epic and brilliant, underlining the action sequences perfectly. It's audio is further enhanced by the voices of the characters, which are performed by the same actors who did the movies, further adding to the cinematic feel. All told, this is a highly polished title that's more elaborate than most film to game translations to date and makes the Two Towers an aesthetic tour de force on the PS2. As an added bonus, the game features an impressive array of DVD-style extras including concept art, interviews, behind-the-scenes footage and film clips. Many of these require you to play through the game multiple times with different characters, which definitely adds to your motivation.

Taking it's inspiration from the film also benefits the game's flow immensely. It's frenetic pace and unstoppable momentum leaves you little room to breathe, sucking you into an epic struggle against massive armies that seems almost overpowering at certain points. The game is a non-stop melee of fights and battles that never seems to let-up. This approach makes for a great action title, but much of the exposition and elaborate back-story that made the novels so enduring has been discarded in the process. This doesn't hurt the game itself, since it makes no pretense of being something it isn't but many players expecting to see the entire story will nevertheless be disappointed. This actually works for the game because, in fact, the omissions give the game a strong focus that doesn't disappoint with its elaborate recreations of the most exciting scenes.

The Two Towers defies expectations of what a movie game should be and its far more elaborate than many cross-over titles to date. The graphics are sharp and crisp and the game does an impressive job in recreating the feel of the films. That it does this without losing sight of the gameplay is all the more impressive. Its excellent controls are tight and intuitive, allowing you to play unhindered by the interface. The masses of enemies make the game more an endurance test than a skills challenge, but the changing locales and briskly moving plot keep you from becoming bored. While some of the boss battles are excessively difficult, the gameplay never seems impossible. Even though The Two Towers eschews some of the more nuanced plot points and background of the films and novels, this is a solid action game. Fans of the films looking to relive the exciting battles should definitely check it out, and gamers who are only casual fans of the story will probably enjoy it almost as much.

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