Of course, this all changes when it comes to the big set pieces, the Jedi duels. Now, this might be an embarrassing admission of my own feeble skills with a light sabre, but I walked into my first duel – Count Dooku – expecting the cakewalk that the game had served up so far. Instead, the venerable Count opened up a can of whup-ass and proceeded to treat me to a sample. Over, and over, and over, again. I had similar issues with later boss battles. Again, this might just be my own uselessness, but the whole thing smacks of a game where something horrible has happened in the playtesting.
At the heart of the problem is the whole combat system. Great fighting games are all about speed and tactical flexibility. If I launch an attack, I want time to change tack if it’s not successful, or if being attacked, I need a chance to launch a counter before I’m wiped out. The combos in Revenge of the Sith look great, but they effectively put you into a pre-programmed pattern, leaving you vulnerable if the move takes too long or if your opponent dodges at the point of initiation. After a while, you work this out, find out that Count Dooku doesn’t like it if repeatedly attacked with one or two particular combos, and send him back where the Sith don’t shine, but this isn’t duelling – it’s scissor, paper, stone.
And it’s all made worse by the telling lack of variety. Sure, you play Anakin in some levels and Obi-Wan in others, but the only major difference is the force powers at your disposal. Too many levels are indistinguishable from the last, and when you get to a new area it’s disappointing to find that you’ll be doing much the same thing as you did in the last one. There’s no sense of skills learnt and then applied to new situations, just an obligation to soldier on until the level’s finished. That’s never a good thing.
Star Wars-obsessives will want Revenge of the Sith for the cut-scenes, but this is the game equivalent of the sticker book or the poster magazine – a fun souvenir, but that’s all. There is potential for a great game in Jedi combat, as we’ve glimpsed occasionally in the Jedi Knight games on PC, but this isn’t it. With two Lord of the Rings games, EA took a similar combat-based tack but added enough strategy to make things interesting, and at least these games felt imbued with something of the spirit of the films. With Revenge of the Sith, LucasArts has just produced a dull Star Wars game with an empty centre. Go and see the film, by all means, but do you really have to buy this unlovable game?
An empty and unsatisfying exercise in Jedi combat, where the fight choreography seems to have taken precedence over playability. Enjoy the cut-scenes if you must, but this isn’t what you call a proper game.