Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Slight misunderstanding: it leaves you "seething".

You can see how it happened. Not how the film was good - I mean, nobody knows how the hell that happened - but rather how the game of the same turned out to a really bad Golden Axe 2005 nightmare where standing behind tables and chairs is sufficient to overcome Sith Lords, your incredible telekinetic lifeforce gift can only be deployed on specific markers, your mentor camply scythes through your suspension of disbelief by announcing, "My stamina's increasing!" at odd intervals, and you're completely incapable of seeing anything more than three metres left or right of you despite being able to deflect laser blasts from behind your head. This is meant to be a path to the dark side, not a bloody guided tour!

But alas, it really is. Star Wars apologists, confused at being able to do away with the word "apologist" after a few years out in the cold, may feel like shielding The Collective's "ultimate Jedi action experience" for a little while as it threatens to be some sort of engaging cross between a complex weapon-based beat-'em-up and a third-person action game, complete with a role-playing game-style experience system that improves various attributes over the course of its 17 levels. But even they would be forced to concede pretty quickly that threatening to do something is fundamentally unimpressive when the entity making the threat can't negotiate plywood furniture in order to reach his quarry despite being equipped with a laser sword.

It's all just so canned and dated in the sorts of ways that people who play lots of games find truly horrible.

The look of the combat is probably the highlight. Anakin, Obi-Wan, whoever you're controlling can whizz their lightsabers around very convincingly, deflecting blasts by blocking, and chopping the merry hell out of droids and other wrongdoers. It's easy to pick up and start cutting people into interesting shapes, but a quick reconnaissance mission into to depths of the menu system reveals pages of combination attacks - more than you'll get through in the entire game, truth be told. If you can put up with the rest of the game long enough to be able to recall these sufficiently quickly and reactively, this is infinitely more enjoyable.

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But you won't, because you soon discover various things. Namely that you can't cancel animations, which means you get stuck in elaborate combination moves you didn't want to perform all the while you're taking hit after unavoidable hit. And that your enemies will often just stand still even when you're shooting them directly in the face. And that so will your allies. And that the game's idea of a puzzle is having a forcefield with a piece of destructible machinery next to it, or any of a number of subtle variations (like a twizzly laser beam with destructible machinery next to it). And that forcefields will allow droids to stand halfway through them firing at you, but will take chunks off your health bar if you so much as go near them. Kind of unhelpful when you're using a melee weapon that requires you to "so much as go near them" regularly.

The boss fights centring on lightsaber fights ought to be mouth-watering, and initially they seem [lowers voice]... impressiiiive! Count Dooku taunts you with dialogue borrowed from the film and is capable of dicing you given half a moment's hesitation as part of elaborate exchanges with our heroes - including some tasty saberlocks. Except... he's not actually capable of dicing you, and you're not capable of doing it to him.

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The tricky thing about boss fights like this is that you have to be seen to be breaking him down bit by bit, which means landing blows. But... landing blows with a lightsaber is pretty significant, and the effect here is a grunt and a backward step. I was hardly expecting to see limbs sliced off and Christopher Lee walking around with half a face, but given that your own survival for the various stages of the fight is contingent on blocking more or less the whole time, it's odd that more effort didn't go into believably preserving the Count's and everybody else's status.

Actually it's not that odd at all, is it? Is it fair to complain about something that other games haven't bothered to do either? Well, of course it is. Laser swords.

Also, and I can't really emphasise this enough: the man cannot climb over a table. And you can throw your lightsaber. The player's guide almost writes itself!

Your passage through each level is fairly linear, the environments repetitive (if nicely detailed), the stock of enemies unrepentantly unexciting (droideka? Jump, downward strike to disable shield, mop up with triple-tap move, etc), the positioning of enemies, camerawork and all sorts decidedly unfair, the selection of interspersed cut sequences rather limp and the experience system more or less intangible.

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The few positive things you can say about this formula are that it leads with its heart (lightsabers are why we love Star Wars too), and that you may very well enjoy it if you haven't experienced the best that the third-person action genre has to offer. But when it's not the best in the genre; not even close; not even the best Star Wars Episode III game... you have to question the wisdom of chucking 30 or 40 credits at it.

Lego Star Wars - a game we continue to celebrate - decided that it was going to be gratifying first and foremost and then tailor itself structurally so that you never slipped off the narrow walkway of least resistance into Industrial Light & Magic's gratuitous lava of leg-burning frustration. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith feels like it decided to include pretty lightsaber-swinging animations first - and they are very pretty - and then tailor itself in the manner of a blind and arthritic Jabba the Hutt attempting to tap-dance whilst knitting a cardigan out of angry Trendoshans and reading the star-screen prologue backwards in Greek.

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That's not particularly fair comment, but it's a reflection of the anguish I felt playing it after a few hours, by which token it's fair to include. The sad fact is that after so many poor Star Wars games you probably don't care to see much supporting evidence to back this rather vitriolic and lazily metaphored stance, but what I have said ought to be warning enough. It is film snippets badly padded out with deceptively beguiling animations that don't save it, a pretty basic multiplayer mode, and a tactic of shoehorning in whatever it can do without much imagination. Remember the bit where Anakin and Obi-Wan encounter the battery of cannons on Grievous' ship? Well, now you can control one and sit there hitting "fire" repeatedly until bits of another ship fall off! In fact, you don't even need to do it repeatedly - just line up the cursor and hold down the button. It reminded me of Medal of Honor: Rising Sun.

Only a Sith deals in absolutes of course. So let's say that since the saber-play is occasionally exciting, and that those of you who desperately want something that reminds you of the film might be prepared to put up with this in spite of its flaws.

Me? I thought this was crap, so I guess I'm off to kill some younglings.

4 / 10

Read the Eurogamer.net review policy Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith Tom Bramwell Slight misunderstanding: it leaves you "seething". 2005-06-10T08:46:00+01:00 4 10

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