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Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb

 
Box Cover

Developer: The Collective
Publisher: LucasArts

Release date:
February 25, 2003 (Xbox) March 26, 2003 (PC), June 26, 2003 (PS3), December 2003 (Mac)

Produced by: Jim Tso
Original Music by: Clint Bajakian
Package illustration by: Drew Struzan
Lead Designer: Brad Santos
Lead Programmer: Robert Mobbs
Senior Environment Artist: Bob Donatucci
Senior Level Designer: Nick Parde
Senior Character Scripter: Fred Corchero
Lead Artist: Brian Horton
Senior Animator: Paul Lee
Level Designer: David Kelvin

Voices by:
David Esch ... Indiana Jones
Vivian Wu ... Mei Ying
Keone Young ... Marshall Kai/Shi-Huang-Ti
Nick Jameson ... Von Beck/Ivory Hunters

Technical Info:
Platforms: PC Windows, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Macintosh OS X

Genre: 3D Action/Adventure game

Mode(s): Single-player

Engine: Slayer

 

In the wake of the smash hit, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, LucasArts immediately put another Indy game into development that would rival its predecessor in action and excitement. After waiting and waiting, LucasArts finally delivered the game to this writer’s doorstep for review. With a rented Xbox, an Indy hat for inspiration, and a soda, the adventure began. Four days later, the adventure ended. Thoughts on the new digital Indy experience were collected during a post-gaming whip cracking session. The final assessment? Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb is a mixed bag.

From the first few screenshots offered by LucasArts, two things were evident. This was the coolest looking Indy game yet, bar none and it was a definite format sequel to Infernal Machine. The major criticism of Infernal Machine had been its close adherence to the Tomb Raider format and its lack of Indiana Jones style action and urgency. Indy never could get into a fistfight because even though his fists were options, the Commies’ rifles would make mincemeat of him. The use of the whip as a combat weapon presented similar problems. Indy was dependent on his firearms, like Lara Croft. Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb promised to change all that, and it has.

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The fistfights and combat finally mirrors the Indy films.
 
 

Story and Gameplay

The story begins in 1935, just prior to the events of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. This writer was hoping that it would be the search for the remains of Nurhachi, the urn that Indy gives to Lao Che in the opening of Temple of Doom. Alas, that is not the case. Instead, Indy is hired by the Chinese to find a lost treasure called the Heart of the Dragon before the Nazis can seize it and use its power to dominate the globe. From there, a globe-trotting adventure begins as Indy stays one step ahead of Nazis and Asian bad men to find pieces of a magic mirror which will show him the way through the Emperor’s Tomb to the Heart of the Dragon.

The format of the game is very similar to Infernal Machine, with a third person perspective and a continually rotating camera. That is where the similarities cease. The graphics of Emperor’s Tomb are jaw dropping for any Indy fan. Backgrounds and environments are wonderfully atmospheric with great level design and precise attention to detail. The levels are extensive and interesting and the puzzles are logical. As with all adventure games, there are a few frustrating moments, but nothing a moderately experienced gamer could not handle. The music is orchestral with excellent Indy cues that reference all three films. The sound effects are straight from the films as well, making it a very familiar and exciting experience to hear. Indiana has a new voice that is very close to Harrison Ford’s at times. Indiana himself is the centerpiece of these efforts. LucasArts has gone all the way to make Indy look like Indy. The character model for Indy finally has Harrison Ford’s face. All of Indy’s clothes and weapons are meticulously detailed, from the epaulets on his shirt and the seams on his jacket all the way down to the soles of his boots. The designers obviously modeled him after his appearance in Temple of Doom and the attention to detail shows.

With this excellently rendered Indy comes equally amazing action. The format is still one of Indy running through ancient tombs, pulling switches, traversing great heights, and solving puzzles. However, the action element has been stepped up and the tedium of Infernal Machine has been watered down significantly. Gone are the “large stone block” puzzles where Indy had to push a big cube once or twice a level and the gamers had to pull their hair out yelling, “Get on with it!” In Emperor’s Tomb, the tomb traps and bottomless pits are still present but, with practice and bravery, can be passed as rapidly and frantically as Indy does in the films. In Infernal Machine, Indy often traversed hazards by waiting and walking really slow, which hurt the action element of the game.

The other major aspect of the action in Emperor’s Tomb marks a first for the Indiana Jones game library. The fistfights and combat finally mirror the films. Most of the baddies in the game have guns, but if you can sneak up on them, you can grab them and wrestle the weapons from them, and then beat them senseless with a variety of nasty Indy style punches, kicks, and grabs. Indy is excellently rendered in these moments, looking just like Harrison Ford from all of his fistfights in Raiders of the Lost Ark. If one practices extensively, combination moves can be executed on the bad men. But Indy is not limited to his fists alone. The whip is finally an effective combat weapon again in an Indy game (something that has not been the case since Atari’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). Indy can use his whip to fend off multiple enemies with rapid overhead cracks and he can also rapidly disarm them of their toys. If one wants to get fancy, wrap the whip around a target’s neck and pull the poor victim into Indy’s waiting fist! There are other weapons at Indy’s disposal, from his trusty and powerful revolver (watch that ammo count though), the firearms of other baddies, machetes, swords, and even shovels! And if that wasn’t enough, Indy can grab almost anything lying around, from a chair to a broken table leg to keep enemies at bay.

For true Indy fans, the game is also an opportunity to watch for a plethora of film references, most of them from Temple of Doom, which the LucasArts designers inject liberally into the game.

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Indy vs. a swordsman, again, and getting a warm welcome.
 
 

Conclusion

While it can safely be said that Emperor’s Tomb is the best Indy game ever for action, the product is a mixed bag at times. Aesthetically, Indy moves and feels like Indy only in certain moments, specifically the fistfights. Unlike Infernal Machine, which captured the feel of Indy’s movement and raw motor skills very closely, the Indy of Emperor’s Tomb is more superhuman at times. His shoulders are as broad as the Incredible Hulk’s and while we are on the subject of super heroes, Indy often uses his whip like Spider-Man, swinging endlessly from one post to the next, never touching the ground, which betrays the feel of Indiana Jones. The Infernal Machine Indy is closer to the film Indy when it comes to the climbing, jumping, and whip swinging. Another small annoyance is the complete lack of ammunition for Indy’s revolver in the game, which is one of the most entertaining weapons to use. Most of the time however, it is empty and unused. Also, the game will wipe Indy’s inventory clean from one location to the next, sometimes from one area to the next, making it impossible to collect a significant amount of ammunition for any weapon. Another small problem with this game is the complete lack of bugs, snakes, and other creepy crawlies, which are such an integral part of the films and a fun addition to Infernal Machine. In this new game, there are none whatsoever. Also, like many other Indy games of the past, Emperor’s Tomb includes no vehicle chase sequences of any significance.

The major problem with Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb is, sadly, the same problem that plagues Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine. The story. Like Infernal Machine, the first two acts of the story are engaging and fun, capturing the spirit of Indiana Jones with the game traveling to lost cities and exotic locales. However, the writers of this adventure penned Indy into the same trap he found himself facing in Infernal Machine: Locations, items, and conflicts that appear in the third act of the plot go against everything that is established in the films as an Indiana Jones style story. In both games, this writer has learned to overlook Indy fighting monsters from time to time, as annoying as that can be. Unfortunately, what cannot be overlooked for a second time are the alarmingly poor final levels of the game, and this writer is so dismayed that mention of them must be made. For the sake of gamers who have not played either game, these mentions will be vague.

In Infernal Machine, Indy finds himself at the end of the game in a science-fiction situation with futuristic items and tools while he should really be in an adventure tale where he belongs. Emperor’s Tomb fares a little better, but not by much. While LucasArts removed the sci-fi element, they still felt the need to send Indy to an alternate dimension with yet again, special tools to complete his journey. In both cases, the spirit of Indiana Jones is dashed in these moments and is never restored. To date, the only original Indiana Jones game that preserves the Indiana Jones story atmosphere all the way to the end is Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis.

Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb is easily the best all around Indiana Jones video game ever made. While it has a few fatal flaws, it has no rival for graphics, action, and intrigue in the Indy gaming library. If you are a diehard Indy fan and can overlook the games few overt shortcomings, you will thoroughly enjoy exploring Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb. (MF)

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Streets of Hong Kong, Marshal Kai's fortress, and the alternate dimension.
 
 

Levels

Ceylon
Gates of the Lost City
The Hunter's Camp
The Paths of the Ancients
The Palace of Forgotten Kings
River of Fangs
Temple of the River Goddess
Into the Sacred Caverns
The Silent Guardians
The Idol of Kouru Watu
 
Prague
The Castle Gates
The Dungeon
The Courtyard
The Great Hall
The Library
The Astrologer's Clock, part 1
The Armory
The Astrologer's Clock, part 2
The Observatory
The Astrologer's Clock, part 3
Vega's Tower
The Ancient's Clock, part 4
The Laboratory
 
Istanbul
Istanbul Breakout
The Secret of the Mosque, part 1
The Secret of the Mosque, part 2
The Sunken Palace
The Gates of Neptune
The Fall of the Sea King
The Kraken's Lair
 
Hong Kong
The Golden Lotus, part 1
The Golden Lotus, part 2
The Streets of Hong Kong, part 1
The Streets of Hong Kong, part 2
 
Peng Lai Lagoon
The Secret of Peng Lai Lagoon, part 1
The Secret of Peng Lai Lagoon, part 2
Iron Cross
The U-Boat Base, part 1
The U-Boat Base, part 2
 
Peng Lai Mountains
The High Road to Peng Lai
The Infiltration
Terror at 2000 Feet
The Airbase
Ascent to Adventure
 
Black Dragon Fortress
The Black Dragon Fortress
Call to Battle
The Tower of Storms
The Rescue
 
Temple of Kong Tien
Descent into Darkness
The Catacombs
The Dragon's Claw
The Shadow of Kong Tien
 
The Emperor's Tomb
Tomb of the First Emperor
The Path of the Unseen Peril
The Bells of the Dead
Von Beck's Revenge
 
The Netherworld
The Pillars of the Underworld
The Heart of the Dragon
Rise of the Black Emperor

 

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