STAFF REVIEW of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (Xbox)

Tuesday, May 31, 2005.
by Huckleberry

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith Box art The Revenge of the Sith...

Well, they can have theirs, but when they\'re done, I\'m having a little of my own. See, there are a lot of people that nearly faint from joy at the first hint of anything Star Wars. I am not one of those people. I hoped Jawa the Duck was going to eat Mark Hamill. I wanted that first little Anakin actor to be killed 30 seconds into Episorry 1, and then there\'s that Jar Jar Blonks thing. I never hated the idea of Star Wars...just the poor re-creation of that imagined world on the big screen.

I was content to go without ever feeling attached to the whole franchise. I often wondered how many video games could possibly come out of one far, far away galaxy. Then, I played Kotor and Kotor II and realized this whole Jedi thing could be pretty !&%$@#* fun. So, my interests were piqued when Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith came onto my radar. I\'d get to help turn Anakin into Darth Vader!

The idea of the game, like KOTOR, brought me the chance to be what we all secretly be not just a Jedi, but the best of the best. The chance to be great, to throw robots with a wave, to move people with our minds. And that was all well and good. But then I started to play the game. In reality, there\'s nothing to do but re-enact the movie from beginning to end. No different courses of action (unless dying while fighting Count Dooku the first two times is altering the outcome), just a plotted (and plodded) course requiring you only to mash buttons. What started with guarded optimism ended in vocal displeasure. I wanted my 8 hours back!

In a word this game is...unspectacular...or mediocre. Okay, so that\'s two words. It looks beautiful, there are great powers to be had, and you can create long strings of acrobatic moves twirling light sabers like Wyatt Earp spun his guns. But then you\'re restricted to one camera point of view, which is often odd and does not lend itself to fighting the enemies that are attacking you. Your flurry of moves is directly related to how quickly you advance in your use of the Force and in advanced fighting techniques, but it\'s usually hard to tell exactly what combination you just pulled off. It\'s not easy to feel like an all-powerful Jedi when you\'re not sure what you just did to survive the battle.

There simply was nothing compelling about this game. I\'m a hook sort of gamer. I get into a game and don\'t want to let it go. I play it every available minute I have. Since my available minutes are limited, there\'s a lot of games competing for those precious minutes. Revenge of the Sith never got me going. Perhaps seeing the movie the day before had a lot to do with that. In truth, I probably would have enjoyed playing the game more than I enjoyed the movie. The sense of suspense might have added a lot to it. But the combination of knowing every outcome and finding the gameplay to be closer to button mashing than strategic really exposed this as another piece of uninspiring clutter that sells because it has the Star Wars name attached to it.

There\'s nothing difficult about the gameplay. Attacks are assigned to the X, Y, and B buttons, and there are combinations of these three buttons, along with the left joystick, that will cause special attacks. Not uncommon at all. Tony Hawk, SSX Tricky et. al.; there are dozens of games that use the button combination to extend the range of the player. However, when you do a combo in Tony Hawk, it tells you the move you just made. Same in Tricky. Your fingers start to connect with your brain, and you know when and how to do any of the myriad of combos available. And, at least in the case of Tricky, you get a practice area to work on your skills. A place to see how different combinations work together...or don\'t. Not in Revenge of the Sith. There were very few times I knew that the combo I was trying to do was the one that actually happened.

On occasion an extra enemy would pop on screen in line with the one already there. This would alter the results of the combination, although usually for the better. Still, it was all very nebulous.

It may seem that I\'m over-emphasizing the lack of clarity involved in the combo system. However, your ability to grow in your combat and Force skills is directly tied to it. For every kill, you\'re rated in how \"well\" you did the job. A simple hack and slash (which is what this game is overall) will get your a Fair ranking, with improved killing techniques offering Good, Impressive, and Masterful ratings. Each kill gives you points for growing your abilities. 1x for Fair up through 4x for Masterful. Masterful is the goal here, but because of this overall lack of knowledge (not from lack of trying to learn) it was nearly impossible to maximize the number of points scored on a level.

I have three simple suggestions for Ubisoft on this one.

First, provide an area to practice. One might take the head to head battle system as teh opportunity for that. However, the game acts differently fighting one enemy vs. four.

Second, display the combo name when it\'s performed, ala Tony Hawk or Tricky. It doesn\'t have to be prominently displayed in the middle of the screen. Just stick it off to the side a bit where we can see it pe, make it easier to get to the list of \ combos. To have to pause, and go deep into the menu system to to remember the button order of so many combos is extremely tedious (as if tedious itself were not enough). I got to the point where I had to write down all of mine and look over to remember which was which.

My only other significant problem with this game was the fixed camera angle. Sure, when I was playing side scrollers, I knew I was going to get one point of view. But this is the golden age of video games. If Worms can come in a 3D, fully rotational world, why can\'t I get a couple of different views in this game? There were so many times I was getting fired on from off-screen in three different directions and couldn\'t rotate to see them...I had to run to them. The only trouble was, I didn\'t really want to be running back in that particular direction. It felt cumbersome, sloppy, and so 5 years ago to be limited like this.

Party and Enemy A.I. left a little to be desired. In the Count Dooku battle, there was a spot where he had been beating the hell out of me, and then suddenly turned and ran to the edge of the battle area...and kept running against the edge of it. This allowed me to restore my HP and FP, which were well down at the time.

There was no fault to be had in this game with the visual designs. I wasn\'t too thrilled by the inclusion of actual film footage prior to every level, but it was pretty sweet how they moved from film to animation so smoothly and seamlessly. The film\'s environments were captured fairly accurately.

In general, however, there were no ground-breaking graphical technological leaps here, which seems a little weird, considering the effort given to making sure the films employ the most amazing graphical efforts available. Maybe Ubisoft could sub out a little work to Industrial Light and Magic???

The sound was lots and LOTS of John Williams. I suppose if you\'re a SW fan(boy) this alone could make the game worth buying. I could have used a little better variation in the music.

The battle sounds were similar to the game graphics. They sounded good, but once you\'ve heard one blaster rifle, you\'ve heard them all. It all sounds nice on the surround sound system, and the louder the better.

There is one moment musically that they need to incorporate more in the Star Wars games. When the opening theme switches to that dark, ominous sounding music...that\'s the damm coolest thing John Williams ever did.

To make a game that follow the points of a film beat for beat be compelling, there should be something extraordinary in the gameplay. This was a different skin on the well documented animal Hackinous Slashinum. The only reason I could find for a person to finish this game would be if it was their first exposure to the Revenge of the Sith story. With the numbers the film grossed so far, I\'d say the odds are in line with Rosie O\'Donnell driving past a donut shop without stopping...

Overall: 4.6 / 10
Gameplay: 4.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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