Welcome to The TPS Report, home to video game blogs, mix sets and even the odd piece o' 3D art.

Broke arse student, freelance games reviewer and rambling obsessive that I am, I currently seek work in mags and web sites throughout the world. If you're in a position to make that happen - and like what you see around here - let me know. I've published work with the likes of IGN and Gaming Steve.

-Matt/Diggler

Old Entries
First time visiting? Be sure to flip through the archives. I've been writing for friggin' ever, and you never know what you might have missed.

Score Breakdown
Just what those wee numbers mean exactly.

Visit the Forum
Multi-platform gaming chit chat, along with whatever interesting news and downloads I happen to stumble across amidst the interpipes.

TPS approved custom
built gaming PCs

Future Plans For the Site
28/7/2012 22:31

Preview Time! Games to Look Out For in 2011
8/1/2011 5:54

2010's Games of Shame
6/1/2011 22:47

My Fave Games of 2010!
6/1/2011 20:12

StarCraft II Review - Dig Loveth the RTS!?
7/11/2010 12:48

10 Must-Have iPhone Games
2/6/2010 18:09

A Little Hotlink to An Article I Stuck Up On GiantBomb
21/4/2010 15:01

Aliens Vs Predator is Here! Woo! Oh, Hang On...
6/3/2010 20:58

iPhone Games!
6/3/2010 20:40

WTF? Dig's Getting Hitched!
18/2/2010 23:39

More...

If interested in discussing writing opportunities for on or offline gaming publications - either UK based or abroad - please contact me via E-Mail. Sparkling CV available on request

 

 

Lord of the Rings: The Third Age - Reviewed On Consoles
Posted by Diggler - 1/11/2004 13:25

The Third Age is the latest of EA's officially licensed Lord of the Rings movie tie-ins, this time destined for the three console big boys (and ominously, not the PC). This time we're in RPG territory, the perfect genre for a Lord of the Rings game. At least, so you'd think...

Click to enlarge
Models and animation are great. If only they could do stuff...
I'd call myself a moderate Lord of the Rings fan. I enjoyed the books, loved the films, and even grew up playing the old Hobbit text adventure game on the Amstrad CPC. I'm definitely not a diehard fan by any means though, I'm not one of those obsessees who sends Peter Jackson death threats for every line of dialogue the films omitted, and I can't ask for a hand job in Elvish or anything like that.

Never the less, I enjoy a solid good romp through Middle Earth as much as the next person, and had high hopes for this game. EA's Lord of the Rings games up 'til now have actually been pretty damn good - the last one was particularly riotous.

Early promotional material for this game hinted at a Knights of the Old Republic style experience - a third-person group based RPG with an epic cinematic storyline. What that game did for Star Wars, I hoped The Third Age would similarly do for Lord of the Rings. Sadly, I was wrong.

Now You Hit Me

Its biggest problem is the fighting system. I know I've said it before, but never the less here we are again; I just can't stand turn-based combat. It never manages to grip me, no matter how pretty the effects are and how sparkling it all looks (and believe me, The Third Age is indeed one pretty game). There's just no edge to it, no fun, no danger and no immediacy with a combat system like this. It well and truly feels like you're playing a board game (or bored game?). For a film series that can boast fabulous fight scenes to rival the best of 'em, The Third Age fails to do them any kinda justice I'm afraid.

If however, you enjoy Japanese RPGs, the type which The Third Age plagiarises, and can therefore handle such laborious fighting mechanics, feel free to disregard the above. However that's not to say The Third Age doesn't falter in other areas though.

Evil Men Hurts Us

Click to enlarge
No it's not Aragorn...honest. It's his twin brother
There are a ton of other problems, both large and small. You can't see the rest of your party while travelling for one, completely baffling as it is. Even worse, for the most part you never see enemies in the game world either. They simply pop up at pre-determined points when it's time to fight, or when you (thankfully) reach cut-scene time. What this results in, is a very empty, lonely game world. There simply isn't a single other person to be seen.

With such a horrible fighting system in place, the hope of any kind of fun hangs on the shoulders of the remaining parts of the game. Sadly, there is no social interaction of any kind though - you basically can't do anything at all other than run around (on your own) and fight in this game. There's no chatting to NPCs, no multi-choice dialogue, and no quest givers. Literally, all you do is run from fight to fight in the very limited environments until you trigger the next cinematic, which sadly, often has very little to do with the actual gameplay. To call it completely linear is also something of an understatement.

What's there of a story feels lame and very shoehorned in. The world of Middle Earth is limitless in its possibilities for an adventure game. There's so many races, places, people and avenues to explore. So why must we bring it all back to Frodo and that ring every single time? Why not take it somewhere else and give us a brand new adventure, instead of visiting the same old tired locations again and again? In The Third Age we command a group of brand new characters, ones we never saw in the films, yet we interact with the places and events of the film constantly, with supposedly it all happening "off screen". It's all very implausible, and really just a waste of an opportunity to show us something new in this incredible universe.

At the same time, the characters we control are so generic and unoriginal, and rip off their movie counterparts so much that they might as well be called The Fellowship of the Clones. We get the angry Dwarf, the proud soldier of Gondor, the hot Elven chick, and a ranger who looks so much like Aragorn that I presumed it was actually him until someone called him by his actual name. "Who the hell are they talking to?" I pondered. I'm shocked that they could get all this past Tolkien's licensing department.

Actually there is one other thing you can do in this game other than fighting; collect items. And you'll be doing a lot of that. In fact, the game is very generous in this regard - dumping thousands of treasure chests all over the place. You name it, there's a treasure chest there. Hiding in forests, at the top of snow capped mountains, down in dark dungeons - it seems the inhabitants of Middle Earth are just downright clumsy when it comes to leaving their treasure chests laying around. Through this endless looting you'll find such glorious rewards as "Slime of Orthanc" and "Broach of Armour". Come again?

My Precious

Click to enlarge
The Third Age does, admittedly, have some awesome particle usage
Now don't take this as a completely negative review, as despite all these flaws there are indeed areas worthy of praise. The sound is possibly some of the best I've ever heard in a game, nigh on perfect in fact. There's some nice voice acting and some incredibly meaty fighting sounds that pack one heck of a punch, and it's all underscored perfectly by the beautiful music of the films. The score flows and alters seamlessly depending on what's happening on screen, and it works impeccably well. Despite the occasional slip into American accents here and there, all in all it's about as flawless a sound mix as you'll ever hear in a game, and is genuinely stunning when played through Dolby 5.1.

As stated previously, it's also very pleasing to look at. Characters are well animated, the world is full of luscious details, and there are some wondrous particle effects. On the downside, the frame rate is all horribly uneven, often halving just depending on which direction you look.

Still, it's most definitely a game that shines both visually and aurally, further enhanced by the usual EA expert presentation. Ian McKellen provides voice over specifically for the game, lending it some gravitas as he talks us through the events and complex back-story. There are also heaps of cinematics too, both in-game and via external film footage. In fact there's so much of the latter, one wonders if the entire trilogy is in fact included on the disc.

Last but not least, there's something oddly addictive about The Third Age. The simple and plain truth is that for all the times I turned it off bored and depressed, it kept calling back to me a few hours later for more. Curious to say the least, when it's not actually that much fun. Perhaps I find it hard to tear myself away because of the unbridled potential, convinced that it's bound to get better if I stick with it some more.

Close But No Cigar

Never the less, I'd recommend everyone even slightly interested in this one to grab the Return of the King game instead - it's a heck of a lot more challenging, much more fun to play, and comes complete with its own co-op mode, overshadowing the horribly disappointing one in The Third Age (which might as well not even be there, it's so pap). You may argue that you want an RPG game not a hack 'n' slasher, but my friend that merely reinforces what's wrong with The Third Age; it really isn't an RPG at the end of the day. It's a mere beat 'em up, but with turn based combat.

It's all a bit of a shame, 'cos I really want to love this one. It seeps with Lord of the Rings ambience, looks just like the films, and in small minute bursts, almost seems cool. The problem is it's just so damn limited and repetitive once that novelty wears off and the grind kicks in. Also, to hammer the nails in further, it's stupidly easy to complete.

The good news is that the franchise still has some pleasing tricks up its sleeve, with the Battle For Middle Earth on the not-so-distant horizon, and Middle Earth Online coming early next year too.

But as for The Third Age? The Turd Age, more like. Now wasn't that a timeless jab of sharp wit?

(Pictures courtesy of EA Games)

Untitled Document

The Polynomial. Like playing a rave

Untitled Document

Game
Fallout 3

Enjoying a fully modded out re-visit. Wow

Film
The Road

Pretty much due to the above

Show
Breaking Bad

Already shaping up to be the best season yet

Tune
Explosions in the Sky

Easing the pain of living in a post-Friday Night Lights world

Untitled Document

Forums

The TPS Forum
Official boards for the site

RLLMUK Forum
The old Edge forums gone independent. The busiest and most interesting gaming board around, worthy of multiple visits a day

NTSC-UK Forum
Another exceptional gaming forum, featuring one of the friendliest communities on the net, and up to the minute news

NeoGAF
A more US-centric gaming board, with huge piles of traffic and even the odd famous face

Gaming Shows

The 1up Radio Network
1up.com's collection of weekly gaming podcasts, the pick of which would have to be ListenUP, full of juicy rumors and interesting banter week in, week out

Area 5
Formerly The 1up Show, since losing their jobs the old video editing team have continued doing what they do best, in an independent internet-based TV show, covering whatever upcoming games they can get their hands on, and various other bits and pieces

Fully Ramblomatic
A hysterical gaming blogger posting what he calls "zero punctuation" video reviews that have to be seen - and heard - to be believed

A Life Well Wasted
Freelance journalist Robert Ashley's internet radio show, with a far more interesting and professional demeanor than your typical podcast. Interviews, fast-paced editing and catchy tunes abound

On the Spot
The humongous gaming site known as Gamespot broadcasts a video show each week, in which upcoming games are demoed live on air, and viewers are invited to send in questions to find out more

The Hotspot
Gamespot's audio-based companion to On the Spot, in which site editors cover the week's news while simultaneously poking fun at all that is gaming

Gaming Steve
A more mature podcast, hosted by a long-time games industry professional armed with a ton of insider info and loads of interesting opinions. The Dig's been known to post articles and stories on here from time to time

Consolevania
Quick-fire internet-based TV show with console reviews and comedy sketches. Funny as hell

Major Nelson
An interesting "blogcast" hosted by a Microsoft employee, featuring stacks of exclusive behind the scenes news and interviews relating to all things Xbox 360

The Kojima Productions Report
Official podcast from the team of Hideo Kojima, creator of the much-loved Metal Gear franchise. Full of news and interviews relating to all things Metal Gear, it's probably one for die-hard fans only

Pure Pwnage
Mockumentary series on the life of a pro gamer. Episode five is possibly the funniest thing on the internet

Other Sites

Kotaku
What you could call gaming's homepage. Constantly updated news and links on the entire industry, from minute breaking headlines, to funny arse viral vids

Game Trailers
Easy to use multimedia-rich web site offering official trailers, video demos and sneak peaks at all the upcoming releases

Game Videos
Sister site to 1up.com, focusing on game trailers, video interviews and even the odd documentary

Gamespot
The Gamespot front-end, and the gaming equivalent of the Internet Movie Database. Includes detailed reviews and extensive video features on pretty much all systems and games ever made

Giant Bomb
Speaking of Gamespot, the controversial "letting go" of editor Jeff Gerstmann resulted in him starting up this new venture with fellow former writers of the site. Great podcast in particular

1up.com
Discounting the audio and video shows mentioned earlier, 1up's main site is also worth a visit in its own right. Not only bustling with quality gaming articles and extensive developers' blogs, it also doubles up as a massive friends network, ideal for meeting fellow gamers and joining like-minded communities

Live Marketplace Feed
The most up to date and reliable way to keep track of all the new Xbox Live Marketplace content, from new weapons and map packs, to movie trailers and game demos

Xbox Reloaded
360 backwards compatibility can be a minefield. This blog attempts to shed some light on the issue by playing original Xbox games for you and reporting back the results

GameFAQs
The ultimate resource for walkthroughs and cheats

Disposable Media
A wonderful (and free) E-zine, full of reviews and articles on gaming, movies, music and TV. Puts most high street mags to shame

X-Fire
A must-have for all PC gamers, X-Fire is a buddy list and communications tool that keeps constant tabs on what games both you and all your mates are playing, on or offline

Steam
A contender to the X-Fire throne that has pretty much overtaken it straight out of the gate. Valve's Steam client contains friends lists, downloadable games, Live-style achievements and plenty more to sink your teeth into

MyGamerCard.net
Convert your Xbox Live gamercard into an image, for use on forums and web sites for free. That's mine further down

Ain't it Cool News
The latest news, gossip and spy reports from the world of movies, TV and (occasionally) video games

Smodcast
Writer, director and actor Kevin Smith - he of Clerks fame - records a monthly podcast in which he and fellow pals discuss everything from trying to felate oneself, to the time his dog got covered in ejaculate. Riveting stuff

 

Matt Robinson, 2011

Please do not use anything on this site without credit
X-Fire Profile
Feel free to add me to X-Fire, Xbox Live or any of the other apps to the right
Xbox Live:
Diggler26
Wii Friend Code:
1224 7821 4721 8136
Playstation Network:
Diggler
Steam:
Diggler26
Twitter