Fellowship Of The Ring got it right just one time. I was playing as Frodo, and after two hours of Moria mine-crawling, I was stuck in a lava-filled room. In order to proceed, I was forced to climb a long stone tower. Suddenly arrows began to thunk into the stone beside me. An Orc was firing arrows at me from fifty meters away. Making it to the top of the tower, I hopped onto a narrow bridge and sprinted along it, wincing as arrows whizzed by my head. As I reached the end, I leapt off the bridge and engaged in a quick, brutal swordfight with the Orc archer that had been trying to kill me.
And that was the story of the one time I really had fun playing Fellowship Of The Ring.
Mike really hit the nail on the head when it comes to most of the game's problems. In fact, if anything, he didn't go far enough when it came to the shortcomings with the game's combat system. This game features one of the most ill-conceived targeting systems I've ever encountered. Someone thought it was a great idea to assign both weapon switching and targeting to the left trigger. This makes it impossible to switch weapons without losing a target lock, which turns combat into much more of a chore than it should be.
Worse though, is the way the gameplay has been "balanced." No matter which character is being used, the enemies' abilities are raised or lowered to provide a consistent level of difficulty. It makes sense that Frodo would have to struggle against even a single Orc, but why isn't Aragorn able to slice his way through hordes of foes, sending heads and arms flying willy-nilly?
I have to disagree with Mike when it comes to the game's graphics, though. I felt that the designers did an excellent job of crafting great-looking levels that evoked the almost travel-guide feel of Tolkien's descriptions. From the rolling hills of the Shire to the winding paths of Weathertop to the darkest corners of Moria, I always felt that I was exploring Middle Earth as it should look. Sadly, the levels themselves are criminally under-populated by enemies and items. The most egregious of these is the Tom Bombadil level, in which Frodo is required to run around huge areas for half an hour, looking for flowers, with almost nothing else to fight or find. In a six-hour game, that's just too much time to spend treading water.
Both Mike and I were very hard on this game, and not without good reason. The game's myriad of problems seems to stem from a rushed schedule, and a narrow vision of what the game could accomplish. The game did, however, allow me to lose myself inside it for at least one moment, so while it isn't doesn't deserve a free pass, at least it's earned a little bit of consideration.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the Xbox version of the game.