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Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Review By:  Jared Black

Developer:  Pandemic Studios
Publisher:  LucasArts
# of Players:  1-4
Genre:  Action
ESRB:  Teen
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  12-3-02

These days Star Wars games are seemingly everywhere, and each one has a different "hook" that almost makes it a must-own for hardcore fans of the franchise. This game's hook is that it allows fans to control a wide range of vehicles common to the franchise, whereas past games such as Rogue Leader II merely let players pilot one or two of them. Of course it also helps that the action is intense, there's plenty to do, and the storyline is competent.

The Clone Wars puts the player in the middle of, you guessed it, the Clone Wars that take place after Episode II and presumably before Episode III. Throughout the sixteen single-player missions, players will control Anakin Skywalker, Mace Windu, and Obi-Wan Kenobi as they battle to stop the Separatists from reassembling an ancient Sith weapon of mass destruction. The number of missions is pretty standard for a Star Wars game, but the action never bogs down thanks to the wide variety of objectives to accomplish, several different vehicles to use, and the quick pacing of each mission. Each mission is broken up into several different sub-objectives, and these include everything from escaping to killing everything in sight.

Controllable vehicles include the Republic Gunship, Republic Fighter Tank, speeder bike, AT-XT Assault Walker, the Jedi themselves on foot, and even a maru. Anytime a game involves using multiple types of vehicles there's always a chance of the controls becoming confusing, but that's not the case here thanks to intuitive control layout. With each vehicle the primary weapon is always used via the A button, while secondary weapons are always used with B and special abilities are handled with the Y button. L & R are always used for turning or strafing, with one exception being the Gunship where they're used for acceleration. These controls also mimic past Star Wars games, thus they're easy to adjust to for long-time fans of the franchise.

Despite the commonalties though, each vehicle feels like a whole new experience thanks to their speed and maneuverability. Speeders are incredibly quick and responsive, although they can't stand a lot of damage. On the flip side, the tanks are slow and cumbersome, but brutally effective.  When riding the maru in first person perspective, the camera even bounces along in a realistic manner mimicing the animals movement.

This is definitely a straight up action game, and as such the pace of the action far supersedes that of other Star Wars games like Rogue Leader II. From start to finish, the player is faced with a constant wave of enemies with nary a moment to breathe and regroup. Gameplay was obviously tweaked and tuned very well, as power ups always seem to come exactly when the player needs them. The result is that the player can feel free to unleash as much mayhem as possible, without worrying about running out of ammo and supplies. That's not to say that the game's easy, because it certainly isn't. Play smart and you'll probably make it out alive, but make one or two mistakes and it's curtains. The normal difficulty "Jedi Knight" is adequate without becoming too frustrating, but there's always "Padawan" or "Jedi Master" if the player feels the need to adjust it.

As great as all of this sounds (and it is), unfortunately several problems keep this from being the perfect action title. The biggest flaw is that the missions on foot are far inferior to the vehicle ones. Not only is each Jedi sloppily animated, but they also control horribly. It feels more like they're sliding on ice then executing amazingly acrobatic moves, and the camera wildly swings back and forth behind the player like it's tethered on a kite. The Force moves are also poorly executed, as the Force Push is inconsistent and the Force Throw isn't terribly impressive. And of course then there's the framerate (more on that later), which is by far the most unstable in these foot missions. On the whole though, they play a somewhat minor role in the overall game and play just well enough to make the bearable until the player can return to the better vehicle action.

A more minor flaw lies in the A.I. With so many different enemies on screen to keep track of, the enemy A.I. is predictably simplistic. That's not to say the game isn't challenging of course, and the A.I. isn't horrible enough that they do anything stupid. Unfortunately, for the player's fighting companions it often is. I had wingmen repeatedly ram their vehicles into mine, sit there and absorb punishment from the computer, and just generally act incompetent the entire time. They're still useful, but it's certainly a distraction.

Overall the graphics are acceptable, but it isn't on the level of something like Rogue Leader. Every vehicle is of course modeled accurately, with the models appearing to have been taken straight from the movies. Explosions are brilliant, and lasers streaking across the sky leave a believable trail of light and smoke. Everything is animated well enough, but not to the point where the player will utter "wow". Texturing is of a similar quality, with some high-res stuff but nothing detailed enough to stand out as magnificent. The framerate is the real problem here though, as it simply cannot keep up with the mayhem going on in the game. It struggles to stay at a solid 30fps, and often dips well below that (but never to an unplayable level) in intense sequences and fights. It does so despite several tricks being used to help keep it fast, including some pretty severe fogging in places and somewhat limited routes to take (thus minimizing what's drawn onscreen).

Sound quality is always great in a Star Wars game thanks to the large library of music and sound effects at developer's disposal, and that's the case here as well. The music score is typical Star Wars fare, with many common themes (like the Death Star theme) popping up throughout the action. Sound effects are all pulled straight out of the movies as well, so it sounds as realistic ("realistic" in a Star Wars universe sense) as any fan could want. The only average part of the sound is found in the voice acting. The voice actors do their best to imitate their movie counterparts, but their delivery is often understated and their lines drowned out by the music or battle. All of this runs in Pro Logic II, which should make for an awesome experience if you have the setup. Even on my WEGA with faux surround sound capabilities, it still sounded very realistic and intense.

Highs:

  • A nice variety of vehicles to control, including some hardcore fans have wanted to control for a long time.
  • Rocking soundtrack and realistic sound effects taken from the movies.
  • Plenty of replay value with a number of different bonuses to unlock via bonus objectives.

Lows:

  • Hit or miss graphics with some terrible framerate problems.
  • Stupid good guy A.I.

Final Verdict:

The Clone Wars is a non-stop thrill ride that does an excellent job of putting the player in the middle of an epic battle. With a nice range of vehicles to control, diverse missions, and plenty of unlockable stuff, you'll keep coming back to it long after it's been beaten.

Overall Score: 7.7

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