The Xbox Live
revolution is here. Players everywhere now scan the games on the shelves
at their local retailer, looking for that little icon in the upper left
corner that says "Live Online Enabled." And for good reason: online
multiplayer, content download, and scoreboards can make a great game
even better. For instance, if I have the choice of buying the stagnant,
offline, PS2 version of Splinter Cell or the Xbox version that allows
you to download all new levels, I am going Xbox all the way. Likewise,
Id rather own the Xbox version of Godzilla Destroy All Monsters Melee,
which allows you to download new cities and monsters, than the Gamecube
version which does not. And if Xbox Live can take a great game and make
it better, it can also take a rather poor game and make it downright
fun. This is the case with Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
The story of
Clone Wars takes place after Episode II. Players take on the roles of
the various Prequel Trilogy characters as they engage in the battles of
the legendary Clone Wars, and attempt to stop the Separatists from
assembling a Sith weapon of mass destruction.
follows the formula of other Star Wars shooters like Rogue Squadron and
Starfighter. There are sixteen missions in the single-player game.
Players pilot several different craft, including a Republic Fighter
Tank, a Speeder Bike, an AT-XT (a precursor to the AT-ST), a Republic
Gunship, and others. The missions take place primarily on the ground,
either putting you in land-based vehicles, or giving you ground targets
to take out from a low flight pattern. There are times when you will be
on foot as well, usually when you are making your way to a vehicle or
after you have been ejected from one. While on foot players will find
themselves engaged in limited lightsaber skirmishes.
When the game
makes good use of the Star Wars shooter formula, it is quite engaging.
One level has you piloting a Republic Gunship, taking part in a massive
ground war while simultaneously trying to prevent the Separatists from
escaping in their pods. Another has you breaking out of a makeshift
Separatist jail, helping to free a bunch of Wookies, and fleeing into
the forest on a Speeder Bike. Both of these levels do a good job of
challenging players with multiple difficult tasks while utilizing unique
and interesting vehicles.
bulk of the game is just the same "protect this convoy," "destroy that
target" style of gameplay that we have played time and time again.
Unless a game has some serious panache, this formula is pretty hard to
pull off. Clone Wars does not. First of all, the Republic Fighter Tank
is about as bland a vehicle as I have ever encountered in a video game.
And this is the vehicle in which you will spend most of your time. Not
that the Separatist vehicles are all that great. You usually find
yourself fighting varying formations of the same three enemy vehicles
over and over again. The level design is wholly unimpressive throughout
the game. More often than not you roam through canyons, waiting to see
what is around the next corner (usually some combination of the same
three vehicles, yet again). None of the missions are as insane, as
overwhelming, or as thrilling as having to take on three Star Destroyers
and seemingly endless Tie Fighters during the assault on the second
Death Star in Rogue Leader.
of graphics in Star Wars games is certainly diverse. Some games, like
Rogue Leader and Jedi Outcast, contain beautifully rendered
environments; articulate, lifelike characters; and movie quality cut
scenes. Others like Obi Wan and, unfortunately, Clone Wars are terrible.
The textures are flat, the environments drab, and the characters
lifeless. Even in the cut scenes the characters are expressionless
zombies who jerk their heads to imply that they are speaking and walk in
obviously programmed angles. This is the case for the presentation as a
whole in this game. The music is a poorly edited mix from the Episode II
soundtrack with obvious loops and cuts. The voice acting is painful at
best. I havent witnessed performances this wooden since, well, Episode
If this all
sounds disappointing, well, it is. However, I havent gotten to the
multiplayer games yet. Available in both splitscreen (up to 4 players),
system link, and online play (up to 8 players) are the following games:
Duel, Control Zone, Academy, and Conquest. Duel is all out warfare.
Players choose their vehicles and try to get the most kills within the
time limit. Control Zone is essentially King of the Hillplayers vie for
control of a designated zone for a predetermined amount of time. Academy
is a little confusing, as players cooperate to take down an onslaught of
enemies, only to turn and fight each other for munitions in special
gladiator rounds. The winner is the last one standing.
there is Conquest. In splitscreen play, Conquest is a simple game that
will provide plenty of entertainment for you and your friends. The
enhanced online version of Conquest, however, is the saving grace of
this game. Taking elements of an RTS and applying them to a vehicle
combat shooter was genius. Heres how it works: two teams assemble to do
battle. The objective is to destroy the other teams HQ. Both HQs are
protected by shield generators that must be taken out before the base
can be damaged. Players can repair their damaged HQ and shield generator
by holding a position within the HQs perimeter. On the battlefield
there are several neutral outposts. Players can take control of an
outpost by entering its control zone. Once in the players control, the
outpost will begin to build defensive turrets. Turrets automatically
defend the outpost against invaders. Once a complete set of defensive
turrets have been built, players can choose to build AI units. These
units can be given simple commands such as "attack enemy HQ," "defend
HQ," "defend outpost," et cetera, and sent out as drones. Players can
also dock with the outpost in order to use its special weapons. The
special weapons include things like guided missiles which the player can
maneuver with great precision to take out various targetsthe shield
generator, the HQ, other players, and even, if they are really good,
other incoming guided missiles. The team, head to head, and RTS elements
of Conquest accommodate a variety of strategies and gameplay styles. A
practiced team can work together to become a formidable strike force,
moving with purpose, attacking on the battlefield, controlling outposts,
barraging the enemy HQ from a distance with guided missiles and drones,
dominating the game. It can be a thing of beauty. More importantly, it
elements of the game are far from perfect, however. It is a source of
huge frustration to myself and many people that I have talked to that
the online games lag so terribly if they encounter the slightest hiccup.
One too many players, too much action on the screen at one time, or any
kind of server or connection issues can cause the game to lag so much it
becomes unplayable. This happens all too often in Duel and all too
rarely in Conquest, causing one to wonder how appropriately the game was
optimized for Xbox Live.
Star Wars: The
Clone Wars is a game marred by its uncreative use of an increasingly old
shooter formula, poor design, and lazy presentation. The single-player
game is mediocre, but fans of the genre will find some entertainment
there. The real joy of the game is in the multiplayer games, primarily
the enhanced online version of Conquest. The inclusion of a ground
level, team oriented, RTS multiplayer is unexpected for this type of
game, and brilliant. While the online elements have performance issues,
luckily Conquest has been spared most of the problems. I would highly
recommend Xbox Live subscribers rent this game and check out the
Conquest mode. Those gamers out there who, like me, look for that little
"Live" icon on their games know: all it takes is one good online
experience for a mediocre title to become one that is worth taking a
look at. The Xbox Live revolution is here.