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Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PC) review: A simple walk into Mordor

And that's why Shadow of Mordor is so much fun. It makes the enemies so realistic and feel so important that you take pride in strategically taking them down. But just killing them is only the start. Talion can "brand" Captains and Warchiefs and have them betray their hierarchy. This allows you to design your own campaign against Sauron's army -- corrupting it from within and pitting ambitious soldiers against one another.

Making his way through Mordor, Talion will need to use a lot of stealth maneuvering to get around. However, I found that as I gradually leveled up and unlocked new perks, I had a much easier time taking on numerous enemies at once. Because he's bound to a Wraith soul, Talion can also make use of a time-slowing bow and enter Wraith mode to see enemies through walls and uncover hidden items.

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Monolith Productions

The progression of character improvement is really fair and satisfying. About halfway through my time with the game I began to realize just how powerful I was becoming, and started to gradually change my strategy from stealth to offensive. The sense of empowerment is just awesome.

Of course Talion has a collection of melee strikes in his arsenal. There's a thorough number of sword, dagger and bow attacks to master and upgrade. Combat feels very similar to the Batman: Arkham games, with a specific button for countering and dual-button hits for special moves.

There's even a familiar combo-strike counter that will activate your abilities. It's not always as refined as the Batman combat scheme, but it's nearly as fun to execute, allowing Talion to take on hordes of Orcs and Uruks at a time.

There's a lot I loved in Shadow of Mordor, but there were a few moments when I felt frustrated. Controlling Talion can be dicey at times, especially when you're trying to be as stealthy as possible. Traversing the world can make for a few forehead-slapping missteps, like when he doesn't connect on a jump to a ledge or when he gets tripped up by terrain he rightfully should have no trouble with.

I also found a few instances where camera placement became troublesome, specifically whenever I was pinned in a corner within a stronghold. Also, the game's frame rate can take a noticeable dip when a lot of characters are onscreen at once, especially if you blow them up. I also tried Shadow of Mordor out on an Origin EON17-SLX gaming laptop and was blown away at the jump in visual quality and frame rate bump. If you have the means, playing the game on a PC might net you an overall better visual and performance experience.

Luckily, the list of issues is short. Shadow of Mordor is a great-looking action game that's filled to the brim with gruesome action and slow-motion cinematics. Best of all, these elements don't detach you from a seamless gaming experience.

I was able to complete the main mission story campaign in just under 18 hours, but had only completed 51 percent of the game's total content.

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Monolith Productions

CNET Verdict: Tremendous fun, highly recommended

Even if you aren't a fan of the Tolkien universe, Shadow of Mordor is an ultra-satisfying action game filled with remarkable villains and countless memorable moments.

Shadow of Mordor borrows much of its gameplay from other established titles, but there's a steady amount of freshness peppered throughout, especially its impressive web of linked enemy combatants and the open-ended strategy you can use to take them out.

Check out GameSpot's coverage of the game

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