Game Zone: The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II–The Sith Lords, Crash ‘N’ Burn

By Jae-Ha Kim and Misha Davenport
Chicago Sun-Times
December 17, 2004

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE THIRD AGE (Electronic Arts, PlayStation 2, Rated T for violence)

“Lord of the Rings” junkies undoubtedly picked up copies of the extended version DVD of “Return of the King” on Tuesday. As if 50 extra minutes of movie wasn’t enough, now’s their chance to play the latest LOTR video game. Ian McKellan (a k a Gandalf) is on hand to narrate the game, which embellishes on the Tolkien trilogy with an entertaining twist on what may have happened after the ring was destroyed. But here, the plot doesn’t revolve around Aragorn, Legolas and the hobbits, but rather a Gondorian warrior named Berethor who forms his own fellowship. The “Queer Eye” guys will be pleased to find that the fierce warrior’s “look” can change, depending on the weapons he acquires.  –Jae-Ha Kim 

STAR WARS KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC II: THE SITH LORDS (Lusa Arts, Rated T for blood and violence, Xbox)

If “Star Wars Knights of the old Republic II: The Sith Lords” (KOTOR II) were actually a “Star Wars flick, I’d be inclined to compare it to “Return of the Jedi.” While not quite as good as the original, it hasn’t sunk to the depths of –say, “The Star Wars Holiday Special.” The 45-hour role-playing game manages to hit most of the marks that fans of either RPGs or the “Star Wars” franchise will be expecting. My chief complaint is it’s just a good game –not a great one.

KOTOR II picks up five years after the events of the first game. You play as a new character of your creation, but characters and happenings from the first game are frequently eluded to, connecting both storylines. Your ship, the Ebon Hawk, is drifting through space; the majority of the crew is dead, though a few (including yourself) are critically wounded. After the ship finally docks at a mining station called Peragus, the game begins in earnest with your character emerging from a healing tank. You’re possibly the last Jedi knight alive –nearly guaranteeing you’ll spend a good portion of the game being hunted down by Sith assassins. The Sith are the Jedis’ advisories and they’re on the verge of eradicating the Jedi once and for all. Unfortunately, this plot device doesn’t really hold any tension. Anyone wondering if the Sith succeed need only be reminded that the events of KOTOR I and II take place before the events of the films.

Of course, there’s even some question at first as to whether or not you are a Jedi. You’ve either lost or forgotten how to use the Force, if you are. To make matters worse, someone has reprogrammed the mining droids with a single mission to destroy all lifeforms and you don’t have your light saber (or any weapon for that matter). Those gamers dying to get their hands on a light saber should be prepared to wade through at least ten hours of gameplay before obtaining the weapon. Heck, you spend the first hour or so of the game in just your skivvies (“Pants,” I say. “My droids for pants!”).

You soon meet up with the remaining survivors on the station. They include the mysterious Kreia –an elderly, cloaked woman who likes to talk in that annoying riddle-speak so that you immediately clue into the fact that a.) she probably knows more than she’s letting on and b.) you’ll have to suck it up and deal with her sometimes-annoying dialogue because she is your guide through the game. Can you really trust anyone who hides behind a cloak, anyway?

Before long, your group is rounded out with a colorful cast of characters human, alien and android. You’re capable of playing through the game with up to 10 party members, who you control in battle. It’s a richer, more real simulation as a result. Each of your party members has their own AI and their own goals and agendas.         Like the first game, your actions influence which side of the Force you lean towards –which in turn impacts your abilities and the gameplay. KOTOR II ups the ante even further and your actions now also impact everyone else in your group. If for instance a certain member of the party isn’t fully on your side and you head down the path of the dark side, that member might be more willing to jeopardize your missions or usurp your authority completely.

Though, it is refreshing to again see gamers held responsible for their actions in the game (unlike the ultra-violent “Grand Theft Auto” series). It’s perhaps too easy to approach the mythology of the Star Wars universe solely on Judeo-Christian terms of good versus evil. For me, the light and dark have always had greater Taoist implications. When you get down to it, there isn’t really a heck of a lot of difference between the light and dark sides of the Force. Both Jedi and Sith use their powers to manipulate people or bend their wills. Both kill in the name of their side. No one wears the morality hat in Lucas’ space opera. So, just who would the Sith be without the Jedi (and vice versa)? Nothing, that’s what. They define each other.  Good thing you have a lot of time to ponder philosophical issues like these. The game’s biggest drawback is the incredibly long load times. Several missions will require you to do a hefty amount of backtracking between areas. Still, if you’re looking for an engaging, epic role playing game, you can’t do any better than KOTOR II this holiday season. –Misha Davenport 

CRASH ‘N’ BURN (Eidos Interactive, Rated T for mild violence, PlayStation 2)

The idea is to race cars and crash your competitors out of the race. Simple idea. Simple game. Unfortunately, there’s nothing more than that. The graphics are what you’d expect from a game that was more than two years old, not a 2004 title. As for the driving — well, it’s not a real driving game like NASCAR or WRC. The cars slide through burning oil and bounce off walls or each other.         The tracks are too simple to navigate and the racing is pretty pointless. If you race in the Championship series and don’t do well in a race, you have to start over. Unfortunately, you don’t have access to many racing venues until you successfully race through the series. The weakest aspect of this game is that for so simple a game, it’s only single-player, unless you want to play online. What good is a smash ’em up, crash ’em up game if you can’t send your buddy crashing into a ball of flames? –Jae-Ha Kim


No Comments

Join the Discussion

Psssst! Your E-mail address will not be published.

Name *

E-mail *