Reviewed: July 4, 2005
Released: May 4, 2005
The Star Wars saga has finally been wrapped up, at least as far as the movies are concerned, but Iím sure the franchise will go on for another 25 years in video games. George has created a marvelous universe that is rife with potential for those with the skill to exploit it.
There was little doubt in anyoneís mind that the final movie installment would spawn at least one licensed game. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith not only shares the same name as the film, it also borrows heavily from the film with FMV to mix up the 16 levels of saber slicing and Force flinging.
The game was originally released before the movie and had the potential to easily ruin the film experience if you played the game first. At the time of this review the movie is a distant memory, lingering in a few theaters, but by now everyone who wanted to see it has, so itís relatively "safe" to play this game, at least from a spoiler aspect.
There have been dozens of Star Wars inspired games over the years and most have been pretty average or downright lousy. Only a few have risen above the quagmire to truly shine as a videogame worthy of the movie legacy. Revenge of the Sith falls somewhere in the middle, not exactly innovating on the action genre, but rather offering a mindless slash fest for a few hours of simple gaming.
From a story aspect, the game recounts the movie from start to finish and the 16 levels will cover most of the major action sequences from the film. The only problem is that these FMV's in the game are mere snapshots of ďmomentsĒ and in no way tell the complete story. You really need to see the movie before playing the game, which makes the pre-movie release date a questionable decision.
The core of the gameplay is a mix of lightsaber battles and Force powers, but it never really achieves the same level of excellence that we enjoyed in the Jedi Knight series. The hack and slash gameplay gets rather repetitive after the first few levels and the Force powers become more of a gimmick than an accessory.
You get to play as both, ObiĖWan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, so any events from the movie that donít involve these characters are surgically removed from the game leaving more than a few plot holes. Again, see the movie first. Obi-Wan and Anakin play pretty much the same way, although there is a subtle RPG-lite element that allows you to upgrade each character as you play through the game.
Each character starts with a few basic saber attacks and these can be strung together to form a few rudimentary combos. To complement the physical we have the metaphysical, or the Force, which you can manipulate to levitate, push, or even confuse the enemy.
The first problem with the game is the control scheme. While itís easy to input the commands itís hard to get your characters to synch with what you want them to do because each button press translates to an attack or movement animation that last several seconds. If you carelessly hit a button too many times you can just sit back and watch their acrobatic demonstration.
Enemy AI is really weak. We have the ďhiveĒ mentality for most of the droids who will stand around as you slash them into scrap metal, and when they do jerk into motion they appear to be in desperate need of a good squirt of WD40.
But the biggest problem with the game is the slow level of progression. You have only a simple roster of attacks and powers when you start and those donít really grow into anything more interesting until you are more than halfway through the game. That means that for the first 2-3 hours you will be doing the same attacks and Force powers over and over again. By the time you finally get some cool new moves and combos you have already been lulled into a trance - "these aren't the Jedi powers you've been waiting for" - and donít really care.
The game is entirely too easy and repetitive. You can run around most all of the levels wildly swinging your saber and cut down 90% of the enemies. Only a few encounters require any thought and the boss battles are the only moderate challenges in the entire game. And then, once you realize all you need to do is use the previously unused counter and dodge moves you can skate through these fights as well.
The Collective, who did a remarkable job of bringing Harrison Fordís rugged visage to their Indiana Jones game, did a great job creating the main characters for Revenge of the Sith. Both heroes look amazingly like their Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor counterparts, but then again, Iím sure both actors were body and face scanned for the film so they probably had access to those resources.
The characters are modeled and textured with excellent details and their individual animations are very fluid and lifelike but the transitional frames between many of these independent motions can be a bit rough making their movements look more like the droids they are killing than spry Jedi.
Despite their simple and linear construction, the levels are especially pretty, with lots of metallic and reflective surfaces. Special effects are plentiful with glowing and streaking colored lightsabers, transparent force fields, sparks, explosions, and animated computers and control panels. The game does support HDTV 480p for a computer-like crispness.
Some of the scenes can get really ďbusyĒ and the framerate will take a hit from time to time, but for the most part the game plays out smoothly enough. There are a few camera issues that are tied to the cinematic camera that is constantly shifting around to make the game more like a movie when it should be focusing on making the game playable.
Neither Hayden Christensen or Ewan McGregor lent their voices to the project and it shows. The entire voice cast is rather unimpressive, both on a delivery level and the fact that the script just isnít that good or diverse. You will get so tired of the banter between Anakin and Obi-Wan that you will likely want to mute the audio.
Sound effects are all fully in place, right from the digital archives of Skywalker Sound. We all know what a blaster and lightsaber sounds like by now and this game doesnít disappoint. The Dolby Digital mix is somewhat wasted on a 2D action game where nothing is really happening ďbehindĒ you, but there is no mistaking the clarity or the overwhelming low-frequency channel that drives your sub-woofer.
For the first time in all of my Star Wars review I have to say the music was disappointing. I had the movie soundtrack CD weeks before the movie and the game and already knew what to expect in the film. John Williams always uses the core Star Wars theme but manages to recreate it for each movie with subtle nuances. None of the new composition seems to have made it into Revenge of the Sith. It just seems like they reused the soundtrack from any of the previous Star Wars games.
The story mode is short and you can finish off this game in 5-8 hours. I supposed that is to be expected when you are following the truncated script of a 150-minute movie, but I would have enjoyed exploring some unseen locations and implied battles from the film.
There are a few bonus levels that allow you to play as secondary characters like Yoda and Darth Vader and a host of unlockables such as art and even an alternate take on the ending where Anakin wins. There is also a multiplayer component that allows you to play the levels cooperatively, but this only makes an already-too-easy game that much easier. There is also a duel mode where you can pick your hero and go head to head in a saber battle, but this has all been done before in Jedi Knight, and it was bigger and better.
True Star Wars fans would be better served with the entire Star Wars Trilogy as told through the creative use of LEGOís. Side by side on the shelf, the LEGO version is a much better game, both in its core gameplay and the fantastic cooperative mode.
Itís sadly ironic that while Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is arguable the best of the final three prequels, the videogame adaptation is just a lackluster attempt to cash in on the frenzy associated with the movie. Only the most diehard fans will find anything in this game to last them more than a weekend rental.