Flip over Tolkien’s trilogy and you’ll find a quote on the back. The world is divided into two, it reads. Those who’ve read the LOTR books and those who’re going to read them.
You could almost say that about the game too, given the lack of decent Xbox360 titles on our shelves this summer. What’s more than a little odd though is the style of this latest LOTR release. Instead of the usual third person action/ adventure tripe that we’ve come to expect from movie tie-ins, this is a much more hardcore real time strategy title.
Console gamers generally turn their noses up at anything slightly beardy, so can this work?
In terms of visuals, Battle for Middle Earth firmly shows that the Xbox360 is more than capable of matching a few thousand pounds worth of hardcore PC hardware. This port of the PC original stands toe to toe with its cousin, and packs as mean a punch as its fellow hobbit bashing chum.
Each character on the field of battle is not only lavishly detailed, but moves without any hint of unrealistic bends or contortions of the body. Things can get more than a little hectic when the screen is crammed full of individual characters, and the action can start to slow down to a judder, but it’s a rare occurrence.
But when the action really gets pumping, the minus points of using a control pad for this particular brand of gaming becomes all too clear. It’s simply not as easy to pick and click on tiny little characters in the centre of the screen – something which the mouse is very much adept at achieving.
A minor point again as it’s a relatively rare event. But it’s there and is just as frustrating as waiting for a bus for ages only for three to all come at once.
Despite these minor foibles, this is hardcore real time strategy action done well on a home console. It looks good, it plays even better and even the multiplayer options will have you tucking into its juicy meat for weeks on end.
For Xbox360 owners, an unexpected treat.