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by LucasArts

Over the years, I have found that there is a very easy way to determine whether or not someone will like the latest Star Wars game: If you are a fan of the movies, then you will love the games. No matter how cruddy the game hiding under the license may be, Star Wars fans will eat it up. The Clone Wars is the latest game to come out wielding the Star Wars logo and luckily enough for fans who have put up with trash like Bombad Racing and Demolition over the past couple of years, it is actually pretty darn good. Grab your lightsaber, throw on your tunic, and do anything else you need to do in order to prepare to enter a galaxy far far away once again because The Clone Wars is here.

The story in Clone Wars begins right at the end of Episode II with the battle of Geonosis and winds its way through a total of six planets and sixteen missions as you fight against the droid armies of the separatists. You control Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Mace Windu in several different types of vehicles--as well as a handful of on foot missions where you can bust out your lightsaber from time to time. The story is actually pretty good and does a nice job of filling in some of the minor details regarding the Clone Wars. You can’t actually "win" the Clone War, however, so this game feels like a vehicle for hyping up Episode III more than anything else. Clone Wars is a fun game, but it lacks the epic feel and the satisfaction of blowing up the Death Star or fighting a Star Destroyer or attacking Xizor’s Skyhook because you never get the satisfaction of dealing the final deathblow to the bad guys.

Gameplay is always the most important aspect of any game, however, and Clone Wars delivers enough fast paced shooting action to keep you busy for quite a while. Each of the sixteen missions has multiple parts and there are three bonus objectives you can complete on each level in order to unlock new multiplayer maps as well as artwork and music. The single player missions are mostly made up of "destroy everything that moves" style gameplay, but there are a few objectives that require you to protect a convoy and even a couple of chase sequences. The vehicles you get to use are all uniformly excellent and keep the game from feeling stale as you progress from mission to mission.

All of the vehicles are easy to control and fun to use. My personal favorite is the Republic Gunship (the ships the Clone Troopers flew that shot out the big green laser beams at the end of Episode II). The Gunship is a joy to fly and you get a real feeling of satisfaction when you unleash its weapons. You have the freedom to fly over the whole battlefield and it really gives you a sense of the immense scale of the Clone War. There are literally dozens of other ships and units on the ground, which lead to some of the most exciting and hectic parts of the game. Shooting down Techno Union ships or providing cover for a convoy on the ground is flat out fun. The Gunship missions are definitely the most enjoyable part of a game that is fun all the way through. Most of the time, though, you will be driving a tank equipped with lasers and missiles. In the tank missions, you will fight a boss or three, but the main objective is usually to just destroy all of the enemies in the area. You’ll also control the two-legged AT-XT (an early version of the "Chicken Walker" AT-ST from the original trilogy) in a couple of missions as well. There are also a few chase sequences that will see you atop a speeder bike and even a STAP. In a somewhat bizarre twist, you even get to ride atop an animal called a Maru that is bristling with weapons. The variety in the vehicles at your disposal goes a long way towards keeping the game fresh all the way through.

The only part of the game that isn’t so fun is the missions where you have to go out on foot. You would think that taking a Jedi through a swarm of droids would be fun, but stiff controls and a lack of available abilities make these missions tedious rather than fun. You can swing your lightsaber, throw your lightsaber, and use the force to push enemies back and/or blow them up. These sections are also extremely limited and only last for a couple of minutes each, so they are pretty easy to get through.

Clone Wars features excellent graphics that do not seem to suffer from framerate issues nearly as bad as the GameCube version. The framerate would dip here and there, but it was never so bad that it affected gameplay. To put it simply, the game is perfectly playable and some people just expected a little too much out of a project that is undeniably ambitious. The vehicles are all very detailed and sharp looking and the explosions and special effects are great. The graphics look great and it moves along fast enough, so I’m happy with it.

The sound in Clone Wars is also very well done. The voices are done by voice actors that sound enough like Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen, Sam Jackson, and Frank Oz that you get used to them after only the first couple of missions. The soundtrack for Episode 2 was simply amazing and most of the main themes from the movie made their way to Clone Wars, so the music is perfect. The sound effects are the same laser blasts and lightsaber hum that we have listened to for ages, but you can’t really fault the game for that.

Overall, Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a very enjoyable game. If you like non-stop action, huge battles, seemingly impossible odds, and vehicles with enough firepower to make Jango Fett sweat, then you’ll like Clone Wars. Finishing the game only takes a few hours, but there are dozens of bonus objectives to collect, so Clone Wars offers enough gameplay to be worth the price of admission. There is also a multiplayer mode that features several different styles of play. If you happen to dislike the prequels (and are too blind to see many of the same faults in the classic trilogy), then shame on you. If you are a Star Wars fan, Clone Wars is worth adding to your collection. At the very least, Clone Wars is worth a rental.

Eric Qualls   (01/07/2003)


Ups: Good controls; good graphics; large battles are great fun; lots of unlockable goodies; piloting the Republic Gunship is awesome.

Downs: On foot sections; the game is a bit short.

Platform: PlayStation 2