PS2 REVIEW: STAR WARS EPISODE 3: REVENGE OF THE SITH

In a somewhat unprecedented move - at least for the Star Wars franchise - Revenge of the Sith was released a couple of weeks ahead of the blockbuster Summer movie. Fans have been waiting a few years for this story to be wrapped up, in fact, some of them have been anxiously awating perhaps since 1977. We know that SW fanatics hate their spoilers and some of them are even refusing to play the game so it doesn't ruin the movie experience. That's almost how I feel except that I'm afraid the movie will ruin my movie experience, but that's just me being jaded and cynical. I loathed the last two Star Wars movies. As Simon would say "Absolute drivel." I will see the last installment, but only out of some almost unforgotten pact I made with an 11 year old boy back in 77 to "see this whole thing through." I also made that same kid a deal which would see me bedding the once beautiful Princess Leah Organa, but now that she's pushing 60 and looks like a bag lady, though my chances are much better, I think I'll pass on that one, kid. Any chance we can change that to Padme' Amidala? No? Okay, I'll even settle for Yoda. He's less wrinkly.

As I didn't receive an advance copy of Star Wars Episode III from Lucas Arts, I assumed that perhaps the game wasn't that good. I'm happy to report that it's not a bad game at all, but it can be quite frustrating on anything but the easy difficulty as often times you'll be surrounded by mountains of enemies and your force powers always seem a little shy of getting the job done until you're much further in the game.

At its core Revenge of the Sith is reminiscent of the previous LOTR games by Electronic Arts. Cutscenes fast forward the plot and the gameplay lets you trudge through it. The story obviously follows the events of Episode III (and fleshes them out) which as we all know involves Anakin's acceptance of the dark side.Oh I should mention, I'll keep this review as spoiler free as possible. Anakin becomes Darth Vader! R2D2 has a 70 year old midget inside of him! Natalie Portman is hot! Hayden Christensen can't act! Oops. Sorry guys. I promise I'll try harder.

Once you fire up your system, you'll tackle the aforementioned hordes with Anakin and Obi Wan. As you fight along side an AI controlled partner, you'll switch back and forth between characters (preset) earning experience points which you can use to enhance either your force abilities or fighting combos up to 3 different levels depending on your fighting style. As I said, be prepared for a fight. While the first few levels are a cakewalk (and an extremely linear cakewalk at that) you'll eventually reach a boss battle with Lord Dooku who will kick your ass so hard repeatedly, if given the choice between playing the battle again or making out with Jar Jar Binks, you'd be locking lips with that dreadlocked CG creation before you could say "Xenosexual". From that point on it doesn't get any easier or much different. You'll arrive at the inevitable boss battles against characters you might not have been expecting to fight. But that's all I'll say. The levels are linear, meaning there is one way in, one way out, which felt a tad limiting, but understandable considering we are playing the movie. It would have been nice to have had a little more freedom. There's nothing that says taking some artistic license is against the law. For the videogame medium, it should be encouraged.

The game controls quite well, but there is a learning curve involved that might take some quite awhile to become completely accustomed to, especially when attempting to pull off special moves. While it might be one's first instinct to rush out into battle and slice and dice, executing fancy backward flips and other sabre throws, let me just say that you won't get far without the block button, which also acts as a lock on. The only problem with the lock on feature is that it has a predilection of locking on anything that can be interacted with; and it's not limited to enemies. Often times in the heat of battle you will find yourself locked onto an object rather than your adversary which leaves you completely wide open for attack - and attack they will. Trying to quick release the lock to face the enemy sometimes ends with you locking onto a closer object, which again leaves you unprotected. The block feature (mapped to the L1 button) can also be used to in conjuction with the R analog stick to deflect blows and projectile attacks. The execution is quite good, although timing is of the essence; it's not a catch all and won't stop everything, which adds a touch of realism.

Visually the game is a robust picnic of cool battle animations, jumps and fighting combos which should easily please SW fans. The characters look good and the levels are crammed with lighting effects and other details. While not particularly earthshattering, the entire visual presence of the game is more than wholly adequate. Various scenes from the movie have been incorporated (well, duh!) and since I'm on spoiler alert (and haven't seen the movie) I can only surmise that Lucas Arts would have instructed the developers to make it as close to the film as possible. I sure wasn't expecting that boss battle with General Grievous in McDonalds, but that's product placement for you.

Along the course of the game you will unlock bonus battles which allow you to play as other characters in various scenes from the past movies (again, no spoilers). While these are certainly a welcome addition, consider them bonus material and not exactly completely fleshed out levels. Once they're over there really isn't any reason to tackle them again. Lucas Arts also included a coop mode (one player/AI or two player) which isn't quite as exciting as it sounds as you can't play through the entire game with a partner, only 4 select levels. The multplayer duel mode is a two player fighting contest which can be played alone or with a player 2. Initially the entertainment value seems quite high, but it soon becomes painfully apparent that the cool levels you are fighting in are lined with the same invisible walls present in the rest of the game. While the environments display a decent amount of destruction, once you play through all of the characters a few times the attraction will wear off. More characters to choose from would have been welcome, but you'll find that the selection does allow for a couple of fantasy battles....

Purveyors of the Clone Wars animated series will recognize the majority of voice talent in the game, most notably Mat Lucas as Anakin and James Arnold Taylor as Obi Wan. It's too bad that for a project of this magnitude Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen couldn't have reprised their roles, but at least the voice talent has been connected to the source material in the past. John Williams orchestral soundtrack is present and accounted for with extra musical flourishes provided by Mark Griskey.

Your satisfaction with this product will be in direct proportion to your love of the source material. It's a pretty straightforward attempt at letting you play out some of the events from the movie(s) and you have to treat it as such. It's not nearly as ambitious as Pandemic's Star Wars Battlefront or BioWare's KOTOR series, but it manages to provide the player with force powers and light sabers and does an admirable job at entertaining one or two players for a few hours. If you're a casual SW fan, I'd suggest a few nights rental. If you need to own everything SW, then there probably wasn't any reason to read this far down the page. The single player game is low on replay value, but you'll gain some extra mileage out of the coop and duel modes at the very least. Just how much extra play value depends on if you have a bumper sticker on your car that says "My other vehcile is an Imperial Tie Fighter".

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System: PS2, GC, X, PC
Dev: Lucas Arts
Pub: Lucas Arts
Release: Apr 2005
Players: 1 - 2
Review By Vaughn
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
3.5
GRAPHICS
4.0
CONTROL
3.5
MUSIC/FX
4.5
VALUE
3.0