reviews\ May 18, 2003 at 8:00 pm

Star Wars The Clone Wars - XB - Review

Leaning against his gnarled cane and casting a troubled eye at that massive army of armored troops, Jedi Master Yoda says the words he knows means doom for all the galaxy: “Begun, the Clone Wars has.”   Once again, Lucas Arts puts us deep in a galaxy far, far away in Star Wars: The Clone Wars where it is up to you to stop the veil doings of the Separatist movement bent on controlling the galaxy.  And, if going against those foes weren’t enough, you can also go up against opponents online.  May the Force be with you, trust me, you’ll need it.


The game’s single player mode, Campaign mode, is basically the story mode.  The story takes place during the final moments of Star Wars Episode Two: Attack of the Clones.  Young Anakin Skywalker, Senator Padame and Obi-Wan Kenobi have been found guilty and are sentenced to death by the Separatists and it is up to the Jedi, along with the help of the Clone Army of the Republic, to rescue them.  Once rescued, your mission becomes a dangerous quest to destroy an ancient Sith weapon of mass destruction before it is reassembled and put to use.


The campaign missions have you attempting to accomplish a list of mission objectives such as defending a landing pad to defending a convoy filled with Jedi Knights.  Thanks to the easy-to-get-into controls, you’ll easily find yourself making full use of your vehicle’s armaments, turbo boost or strafing abilities.  This has you concentrating on the objectives (there are also a few bonus objectives that reward you with extra treats when successfully accomplished).  To mix things up a little, there are also missions that require you to step out of your vehicle and take a lightsaber to a number of Separatist battle droids or winged aliens.  You can also use different vehicles such as walkers.


As for the game’s faults, it has plenty.  One of them is most definitely the missions where you are out of your vehicle.  While it’s great that you get to control the likes of Mace Windu, the character movement is really awkward (why couldn’t they have used the Jedi Outcast controls for this?).  The enemy AI is also not as intelligent, thus completely unchallenging.  But worst of all is the fact that sometimes it’s hard to see your enemy until they’re already on you.  Still, the game allows you to change the view to a first-person view.


Online, The Clone Wars is extremely more entertaining than the AI opponent found in the single player campaign.  There are three different ways of playing a multiplayer game: using up to four controllers on a single Xbox, using the System Link cable (for up to eight players) and using the Live online service (up to eight players).  Online you can play four different multiplayer modes likes Duel (basically a deathmatch), Control Zone (basically king-of-the-hill) and Conquest (team-based action).  The game puts full use of the Xbox Communicator during co-op games (you can strategize with your team) or just talk trash when going up against everyone.  Although the game runs smoothly online, there are times when the framerate falters or the music stutters--but this doesn’t happen very often throughout the game.  This is not bad at all.    


Clone Wars is also not a bad looking game; in fact, it it’s a lot more pleasing to the eye than the PS2 or GameCube version.  The lighting, for example, just adds more personality to the great special effects.  Fire a rocket and you’ll be treated to a bright muzzle flash before your rocket soars towards its target with smoke trailing behind it.  Laser fire looks straight out of the movies and looks especially impressive in the heat of a major battle.  It’s also pretty neat to watch an enemy vehicle light up in flames after you shot it one too many times.  The only thing that does not work visually is when your character is outside his ship--characters like Mace Windu look right, but the backgrounds look less detailed.


Sound-wise, Star Wars games continue the tradition of showcasing that always-great-to-hear John Williams score with the neat sound effects.  The music is straight out of the film and is as impressive to hear throughout the game.  The sound effects are also what we’ve all come to expect and nothing is more familiar than the sound of those laser blasts.  Top that off with some great explosions and great voice acting from actors that sound a lot like their counterparts and you have a game that’s worthy of some surround sound speakers.  If you have a good sound system hooked up to your Xbox, make sure to crank that baby up while playing.


The Clone Wars is not a masterpiece or the ultimate online Star Wars adventure, but it is, by far, a better version of this action-packed game.  With a campaign mode complete with plenty of mission objectives, this game doubles its pleasure when you go up against other gamers through the Live service.  If you’re itching for some Star Wars action online, this game is fun enough to keep you busy until LucasArts releases its promising Live games set in the Star Wars universe.  


#Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 8.0
The controls are done right in The Clone Wars and the game is easy to pick up and play because of it.  You basically have the ability to strafe, turbo boost, fire two kinds of weapons (primary and secondary) but this varies depending on the vehicle.  The great controls allow gamers to concentrate on the action at hand, especially since this game has plenty of modes with multiple objectives in both Conquest mode and many of the other multiplayer online modes.


Graphics: 7.8
The improved visuals in this version are immediately noticeable and there are a lot of great special effects that add to the neat-looking backgrounds.  Much of the game takes place on the desolate planet seen in the huge battle scene at the end of Episode Two and the game pulls it off magnificently.   You’ll find yourself smiling at the sight of dozens of fighter tanks and Republic Gunships shooting it out in a blaze of laser fire and fiery explosions.  Each vehicle is also neatly rendered, although not as fully detailed as the ships in Jedi Starfighter.  Outside your ship, though, the visuals just don’t cut it.  Sure characters like Mace Windu look like they’re suppose to look, but why does the backgrounds have to suffer for it?


Sound: 8.0
No matter how many times you’ve heard the opening Star Wars theme, it still manages to hook you in immediately just as the introductory text begins to slowly scroll up on your screen.  John William’s score can be found throughout the game and it’s just great to hear especially when the action is at its most intense.  The voice acting is thankfully good and you’ll find that many of the actors sound a lot like the actual actors that played Mace Windu or Obi-Wan Kenobi.


As far as the sound effects are concerned, most of what you’ll hear has been heard before, but it’s still as great as ever.  Case in point, the laser fire that shoots from your cannons or the grinding mechanical legs of the assault walker (that will bring up memories of those AT-AT walkers from the old Star Wars movies).  At times, laser fire and explosions surround you . . . and it’s impressive enough that it’ll have you putting up the volume.


Difficulty: Hard
Like Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter, the game offers multiple mission objectives (plus some bonus ones) that are often not easy to complete.  Many times you’ll find yourself restarting an entire mission because you let your companion take too much damage or you let your allies get ambushed.  While the enemy AI isn’t the brightest bunch, their firepower is still plenty powerful enough to do so heavy damage. 


Concept: 8.0
You have to love a game that adds Xbox exclusives and while this version doesn’t pile them on, what is here are definitely welcome additions.  Aside from the optimized visuals and ultra-smooth framerate, the enhanced Conquest mode just adds more depth to the single player game.  Online, the game is a blast to play and it’s hints of upcoming downloadable contents is just the kind of news us Live subscribers love to hear. 


Multiplayer: 8.5
The Clone War’s multiplayer features is where the game really shines and, aside from the System Link goodness, the game can also be played online through the Live service.  Up to eight players can play online in various different game modes (sixteen in total) and through six different worlds.  You can play a co-op game or go for an all-out deathmatch, all of which are done perfectly.  Still, nothing beats teaming up with other players and communicating with your team via the Communicator headset so you can all come up with different strategies when going up against another team.


Overall: 7.5
The Clone Wars has definitely begun and the action is even more intense online, but the game lacks a few things that this keep it from being an instant classic.  Still, fans of the much loved Star Wars franchise will find plenty of things to love about a game that tries hard to be faithful to the intense action seen in Episode Two.  For the most part, it does a good job but it’s not enough to really be anything more than light diversion until Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic or Star Wars: Galaxies comes out.


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