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Star Wars: The Clone Wars Review
game: Star Wars: The Clone Wars
three star
posted by: Jeremy Kauffman
publisher: LucasArts
date posted: 09:10 AM Sun Jul 6th, 2003
last revision: 07:35 AM Fri Sep 23rd, 2005

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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, I\'d 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.

The game 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.

However, the 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.

The quality 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 haven\'t witnessed performances this wooden since, well, Episode II itself.

If this all sounds disappointing, well, it is. However, I haven\'t 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 Hill-players 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.

And then 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. Here\'s how it works: two teams assemble to do battle. The objective is to destroy the other team\'s 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 HQ\'s perimeter. On the battlefield there are several neutral outposts. Players can take control of an outpost by entering its control zone. Once in the player\'s 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 targets-the 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 is fun.

The online 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.