The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II - single-player hands-on

The Lord of the Rings seems tailor made to the real-time strategy genre. The franchise is brimming with diverse races, distinct settings and detailed weaponry that beg to be brought to life and put at a player's command. The Battle for Middle-earth series offers just this kind of magical experience and now console owners will get their first taste of it when the second installment hits Xbox 360 next week. We've been covering the addictive multiplayer extensively - see here and here - but how's the single-player campaign?

In short, it's a noticeable improvement over the already solid original. Starting with the story, the developers went out of their way to secure both the film and book licenses this time around… and it shows. Fan-favorite characters and places never glimpsed in the movies pop up everywhere. Are you still furious that Tom Bombadil didn't make the cut? Well, he's here, singing and boogie-ing his way across the battlefield. Can't wait for them to film The Hobbit? Locations from that novel, such as Mirkwood Forest, are covered too.

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