If you've been hiding under a rock or you haven't bothered with George Lucas' massive phenomena known as Star Wars then I will recap the story to this game. A young boy was once rescued from a desert planet, grew up to be a whiny brat and would turn into the most dangerous threat the Galaxy has ever known. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is based on the film of the same name, oddly enough.
You have to have lived in the Jungles of Borneo or somewhere in the deep ocean to miss that fact.
Episode III is all about the rise of Darth Vader and chronicles the young Jedi's fall from grace through 16 levels of mayhem.
Right from the start fans of the recent Lord of the Rings: Return of the King game will recognise the style of gameplay in Episode III. It is very reminiscent of that game right down to the way your characters gain powers/abilities. Anakin or Obi Wan have an experience bar that fills up as you battle your way through the levels and when you complete the mission at hand, surprise, you get a point distribution screen.
Here you can put those experience points into skills/moves and train them up, each set has up to three levels of power and it seems that the higher the level the more damage or the better the skill/move/ability becomes.
The actual game plays simply and relies upon a fixed camera to offer the best view of the action. It's done in the same way as the LotR action games, blending full motion video footage from the Episode III film in with the game's own engine, succeeding almost as well as the LotR games did in that respect.
Each of the games' 16 levels has you controlling either Anakin or Obi Wan with the CPU taking control of the character that's not under your joypad antics, allowing you to concentrate on dishing out some very Golden Axe style hurt upon the enemies. Both Obi Wan and Anakin have extensive Jedi moves and powers lists but the tricky combinations and button mashing can lead to a power or two misfiring or the wrong combination, as is the case with many fighting games.
As you might expect there are lots of combination attacks and over all the fighting system used in this game is pretty good, there are a few minor annoyances as mentioned above but most of the time the lightsabre combat is fluid and the action keeps up at a regular pace, allowing you to mash those buttons and experiment with hidden combination attacks.
Dish out the damage and take none in return and your power meter will charge, when it hits the top the character becomes faster and deadlier. Akin to the LotR games again.
There are some doors and panels that require a little lightsabre love as your characters can employ movie-like techniques to either, cut through the offending obstacle or plunge the sabre into the metal and melt it, echoing the first sight of Qui Gon doing the same thing in Episode I.
There are also a few points in the game where you can take control of a mounted gun and shoot things, these sections I found broke the game's style up too much and I would rather have seen a few more lightsabre battles or action scenes controlling the characters, than sitting in a gun and popping off shots. It just felt tacked on to me and that really did ruin the experience.
You'll also come across several places where you can interact with force moveable objects, such as large crashed spaceships and debris blocking the way. Your partner character can help you move them, a simple little gameplay element but it has the right Star Wars feel to it.
There are of course quite a few lightsabre duels as the game progresses down the story path, Anakin turns to the dark side and both he and Obi Wan go their separate ways, the story splits and you end up in control of either the Jedi Master or the new Dark Lord of the Sith. Obi Wan has the peaceful powers and can push enemies away, Anakin is gifted with force lightning and gets to fry things.
The game also gives you a chance to battle as Obi Wan versus Anakin in the final level, taking cues and key locations from the movie itself.
These lightsabre duels are quite impressive and the game has one of the best fighting systems in a Star Wars game to date. The range of moves allow for some good fluid battles and with traps, shunts and of course classic sabre-locks so you can relive those Jedi moments again and again as you struggle for dominance against the pretty tricky AI.
The single player portion of the game is not just the only thing on offer, as you play the main part you will unlock new characters, levels from the game and other bonuses. You'll be able to play 4 quite dull levels sadly, with a friend rather than being able to play cooperatively across the whole game (which is something that should have been put in). But at least there are those 4 levels, which are just ray-shielded compartments where you have to defeat a seemingly-endless horde of enemies.
There's even a simple multiplayer battle game where you can choose your combatants, location and duel away in lightsabre combat with a friend, or enemy. It uses all the moves and powers and allows you to play as the unlocked characters - Old Ben versus Darth Vader for instance or young Anakin versus Darth Vader, it's up to you.
There are also single player bonus levels to unlock, these are challenges and you can even control Yoda in one of them. Simple little additions that do increase the replay value, slightly.
There are 16 levels, most of them taken or inspired from the movie, packed with enemies and dotted with a few interactive bits that can be used to make your opponents life more difficult, especially in the lightsabre battles. Overall the design is pretty good, the levels are fun and some are a little short for my tastes - they have a good structure and most of them require you to think a little to avoid serious trouble.
Episode III has some nice graphics, they're not what anyone would call stunning but they're functional and they do the job they set out to do. The lightsabre effects are nice and the game is packed with the usual real-time lighting and special effects that make up the modern titles. They have a good level of detail on the textures and the artists have made sure the graphics do have that Star Wars feel to them.
The heroes and their opponents are all very well modelled, they have a crisp look to them and there's not a polygon out of place. There are lots of new Clone Trooper designs and some of them have been created especially for the game, those that can make a Jedi's life more difficult, armed with shields and specially designed armour/weapons. The same can be said for the Battle Droids, they now have a melee variant that's really tricky to deal with in some cases.
Every model in Episode III is given the same amount of care and attention so it's bound to appeal to fans of Star Wars.
With extensive combat moves and constant battles it would have been a real shame if this game had of been given a cruddy animation system. I can report however that everything moves and flows like it should, the lightsabre combat looks very slick and the animations involved with that are top notch - the way Anakin and Obi Wan's fighting styles differ has also been included and its easy to see the differences in game.
At times the AI is Ok, but other times it is truly dreadful. Your partner character can sometimes get stuck fighting an enemy that he can't quite get to, or they'll seem to just sit there and watch you do all the work. Not that I mind of course since its more action for me, but from an immersion point of view it's a bit of a snap back to reality when you're looking to be drawn into a game's world.
The AI in the Jedi duels isn't too bad however and most of the time it's on par with some of the better fighting games. The various opponents will use their force powers on you and they do sometimes get locked into the good old repeat, attack, use same move syndrome that plagued Street Fighter in the beginning and many other games that followed.
The game uses sound from Skywalker Sound so there are really no complaints what-so-ever. They used a lot of stock sounds so everything sounds in the game as you'd expect it to from the movie.
A lot of it is the John Williams Star Wars music that we know and love, but there are additional themes that blend in nicely, by another talented composer - again I have no complaints in this area at all.
The developers have employed a range of actors that did a lot of work on the animated Clone Wars TV series for Cartoon Network so they did a really good job on this game. You can tell its their voices but since I have seen the whole thing I didn't have a hard time putting them in the roles of the characters at all. The performances are sharp and especially from Obi Wan's actor, it is hard to tell the difference between him and the real deal at times.
Of the review: yes. Of Star Wars, highly doubtful, there will be more games and more shows - it's inevitable as the circle being complete in Episode IV. This game provides a decent chunk of fun but it's rather like the last two prequels in that it looks shiny, sounds good, plays well but leaves you wanting a lot more. It's great if you're a fan of the films and the genre, but if you're not then you might want to give it a miss unless you want to just enjoy some pretty fun action.