- Review Price: £30.00
”’Platforms:”’ PS2 & Xbox – PS2 Version Reviewed.
It’s not surprising that a Star Wars movie can sell out regardless of the quality of the film: most of us knew that The Phantom Menace wasn’t much cop from the first time we saw it, but it never stopped us going back to check. By the time you read this, we’ll all know whether Revenge of the Sith is the prequel we’ve all been waiting for, but whether it is or it isn’t, it’s a guaranteed hit. We all love the original trilogy so much, that George Lucas could release another six sequels of Phantom Menace quality and we’d still all be queuing up for tickets.
What’s more surprising is that games based on the prequel movies can still top the charts. Surely nobody could have played such mediocre or patchy efforts as Jedi Power Battles, Demolition, Obi-Wan, or Super Bombad Racing and think that a new game based on Revenge of the Sith would be a classic. However, judging by its chart position over the last three weeks, that’s exactly what seems to have happened.
Now some of you may sensibly have waited to buy Revenge of the Sith, perhaps because you don’t want the third film spoilt beforehand by a game that closely follows the plot and includes clips from the movie as cut-scenes. Good, there’s still hope for you yet, because while Revenge of the Sith isn’t the worst Star Wars game by any means, it simply doesn’t deserve any more success.
In the interest of balance and fairness I ought to report what’s good about the game. Well, graphically it’s pretty good for a PS2 game – Xbox owners might be slightly disappointed, but Anakin and Obi-Wan are recognisable from their movie counterparts, the animation is mostly excellent, and the levels have the Star Wars look and feel down pat. In fact, if you’re just watching someone else play Revenge of the Sith, it might look like a really exciting game. It is old-school, being more or less a 3D variant on the old Double Dragon brawler with added Jedi-skills and more spectacular light sabre moves, but the combat looks great – no question.
The audio is also quite respectable. Of course, the John Williams score adds more than its share of atmosphere, and the clash of light sabres and the sound of blaster fire can’t fail to bring back all the right feelings. With the volume turned up, it all sounds just as exciting as it looks.
The problem is the one thing that isn’t so exciting: the gameplay. As already mentioned, Revenge of the Sith is primarily combat driven, each level being essentially a rush from point to point while fighting droids, Jedi, clone-troopers or whatever enemy happens to be the special of the day. There is a certain level of sophistication to the action, with skills and Jedi powers that can be enhanced through points earned at the end of each level, and a vast array of combos that can be learnt and deployed, but you can get by pretty well using the old button-mashing approach. Revenge of the Sith mixes things up occasionally with switches to be switched and wires to be cut – often with the aid of force powers – but this is dumb gameplay for the most part. What’s worse, it’s not actually all that challenging. I’m no fighting game genius, but I hardly ever felt threatened during the standard battling portions of the game, and that lack of challenge is a problem. With no real options to explore or experiment, it’s the sort of game where it never gives you much real satisfaction.
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.