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    Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth 2 for Microsoft Xbox 360

    Being a huge fan of real-time strategy games like Command and Conquer, as well as an enormous fan of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, it was inevitable that I would play Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth 2. Even though RTS games have a bad reputation on consoles, I decided to pick it up for the Xbox360 and check it out for myself.

    The story behind Battle for Middle Earth 2 tries to fill in the gaps left in Tolkien's books; it is the story of what happens elsewhere in Middle Earth in the years leading up to the War of the Ring and continuing into the Fellowship's quest. Throughout the game, you play from the perspective of Men, Elves, Dwarves, and even the agent's of Sauron and Saruman. The story never corrects anything that Tolkien wrote, and tries hard not to contradict him at all. The tale flows easily from one battle to the next, and manages to stay fresh and keep you going to the next gruelling skirmish. For a complete story that is part of a much larger narrative, the game gets a respectable 7.5.

    The controls for this game were not originally intended for a console. No matter how hard a developer works on a RTS game, they just can't beat the range of motion and precision of the mouse for a computer. However, Battle for Middle Earth 2 pulled it off very well. It wasn't perfect, but managed to handle the complicated tasks associated with an RTS very well. Using the trigger buttons in conjunction with the A button, you can do anything from select every unit on your screen, to accessing abilities of buildings and heroes. You still have to drag the cursor around with an analog stick, but it is a small price to pay. If only the 360 supported the use of a mouse. Until then, this game will only get a 7 for nearly doing the impossible.

    Graphics are never really a problem for a game on the Xbox360, and this game is no exception. There are bloody conflicts between detailed characters duking it out on the screen. There are massive amounts of units in play, with detailed terrain features and beautiful buildings all around. The game does an amazing job of bringing Tolkien's world to life for anyone playing. You can zoom in on battles to see them more up-close, and zoom back out to take in a strategic view to plan your next move. For taking a book and movie series that I love and turning that look into a near perfect recreation for a game, Battle for Middle Earth 2 gets a nice 8.

    Sound, here is another area that this game doesn't really have to worry about. Pulling from music that sounds just like the movie, the game fills in the graphic and detailed cutscenes with the most dramatic bits of soundtrack. Of course, you can't forget the sound of cave trolls attacking large formations of armored elves. Or the sound of archers from Lothlorien firing into Giants being used by the forces of Sauron. Hundreds of weapons clashing, just as many bows firing, boulders crashing into walls, all of these elements combine into one very well made game, which deserves another strong 7.5.

    The official verdict is rather clear. The game is fun, but the PC version gives more freedom and precise control to the game. Without that hinderance, the game gets a rather easy 8. However, since this is the Xbox360 version's review, the game suffers a 7.5 for the still-not-quite-right controls. Though they are greatly improved, and I urge everyone to give it a try, not everyone will enjoy the story enough to figure out all the controls.

    Written by MT

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