SHIRE DELIGHT; Nothing too precious in hobbit-bashing LORD OF THE RINGS: BATTLE FOR MIDDLE EARTH 2 **** XBOX 360.
I liked the hobbits in the LOTR trilogy, despite their misty-eyed tendencies. But after three long, long films, I'd be happy if I never saw their Shire again. Which explains why I so enjoyed playing BFMEII's evil campaign so much.
Using texts from beyond the LOTR trilogy, EA take fans into unfamiliar territory.
The trilogy occurred mainly in the south of Middle-Earth but Sauron's war was also waged in the north. The single players' campaigns - you can play as good and evil - dip into this other war, fought mostly by elves and dwarves against goblins and trolls.
Play the good campaign and you'll get that wistful, fluffy feeling you got watching the trilogy. But, frankly, the hobbit-bashing evil campaign is more fun.
It has a richer variety of characters, too, including the Goblin King and Shelob.
Where EA have really succeeded is in the conversion from a PC-based RTS to a console version.
On the 360 the controls work well - almost, but not quite as well as the mouse-and-keyboard version.
They're based on the 360 controller's triggers, with few reasons to touch face buttons. By pulling and holding a trigger, a HUD appears, through which you can command book marking and access builders, heroes and the powers menu.
The on-field command system allows control of single units, full army or unit types.
Despite the lack of the fine micro-management of the PC version, BFMEII is an impressive console conversion.