While many fans were disappointed by the first Star Wars prequel, Episode I, there's little doubt that Episode II: Attack of the Clones was a vast improvement from The Phantom Menace. Now, the latest LucasArts' GameCube release Star Wars: The Clone Wars is here, and it continues the recent uptick in quality Star Wars games. The Clone Wars takes directly after the events in Episode II, which allows you to delve a little deeper into the backstory and makes it feel less derivative than it could have. This game puts players right in the center of the legendary massive battle between the Jedi Knights of the Republic and the separatists in the Federation of Independent Planets. The Federation is led by the evil Count Dooku and the Republic and your mission is to stop Count Dooku's forces from assembling a devastating weapon of mass destruction to intimidate the universe. Dooku's Federation forces have stocked their army with some powerful Spider-Droids, devastating Stingers with more than 30 types of enemies in all during 16 single player missions.
The gameplay is surprisingly simple, mixing elements of the most popular SW titles of the past few years. Clone Wars allows you to pilot five distinct vehicles including Republic Gunships, Speeder Bikes, Fighter Tanks, Cannons and AT-XT walkers. In addition, you can jump on a Maru's back and use the mounted gun to attack the Federation. Each of these has a slightly different control scheme and unique weapons, though there's enough common in these controls in these to make jumping from one to another simple. However, you won't be able to take out Dooku completely from the air and will need to battle his forces by running around on the planets' surface. The action switches to a behind the character mode. At this point, you are in direct control one of the Jedi Knights - Mace Windu, Obi-Wan Kenobi, or Anakin Skywalker. During these ground missions, your light-saber is your most important weapon here, and you can use it to slice through enemies at close range, or throw it at more distant foes. These sequences are really cool and add to the variety in the game. Clone Wars is a mission-based vehicular shooter with a good mix of mission-types and objectives. Though this might seem to make for a disjointed experience, it's all tied together seamlessly in elaborate cinema scenes. Clone War's structure takes on several different forms, some simply involve clearing out the enemies on a level, while later missions are more complex, requiring you to escort fleeing troops or defend your bases. This is all pretty simple in approach and execution so most players should have little trouble figuring out what to do next.
Your vehicles are equipped with standard weapons, secondary weapons and fire with a single button press. Each ship also has special abilities, such as cloaking, special bombs, speed boosts, enhanced blasters and more. Power-ups are scattered around each level and can increase health, give you limited invisibility or, enhance your firepower. In addition to your own ship, you also command your squad by using the D-pad. There are 4 basic commands: retreat, attack, fire, and defend that you can use in support of your mission. Most of these commands are simple to understand, it's mostly a matter of knowing how to deploy your squad. One you've gotten the basics down, each episode in Clone Wars has a primary objectives that need to be completed in order to advance to the next level, failing these means you need to start over from the beginning. While completing secondary objectives, such as destroying all the ships on a level or not losing any refugees, unlocks secret levels, bonus movies and other extras, you are not required to beat these in order to advance. Clone Wars' controls and interface is about as good as any in any other Star Wars game. The onscreen HUD and map is clearly defined, making it easy to understand where you are in relation to enemies. Most ships move swiftly to your commands and the arcade-style controls are intuitive, and work well with the Gamecube's controller. In addition to Campaign mode, Clone Wars also features several multiplayer modes. There are four different multiplayer games available. These modes take place in split-screen, you can play either as ships or as the Jedi themselves with up to four players such as the Duel mode, you battle it out for supremacy with up to four vehicles.
Graphically, the game does an excellent job of transporting you to the Star Wars universe. As you'd expect, there are excellent production values evident throughout the game. There are many cinematic cut-scenes which help to immerse you in the storyline, but at heart it's a fast action game. While they go by fast, there is a good level of detail evident in most objects with some really cool designs evident in the druid armies. The animation of the droids and clone armies is excellent, and the wide-screen perspective gives you an excellent sense of the wars' epic scope. While most of the action takes place on the desert planet Genosis, which is a dusty, red-hued world, there are some levels that take place in an icy planet to keep things feeling fresh. Clone Wars does a good job of putting you right in the center of an epic battle, and with so many objects, there are moments when it matches the intensity of the film. Unfortunately, there's also a lot of slowdown evident in some areas, especially when there are a lot of enemies onscreen which hurts the overall experience somewhat. The classic John Williams soundtrack returns, and his stirring themes give you an excellent sense of the epic task at hand. Even though the original actors' voices aren't included in Clone Wars, stand-ins are used and do an effective job in replicating these characters. Overall, this is an and takes advantage of the Gamecube's abilities
Players expecting a sim-game like Starfighter are going to be surprised to learn that this game is an action packed free-for-all, giving it more appeal to shooter fans. In fact, The Clone Wars is most in tune with the simple blasting fun of Rogue Leader, with straightforward controls and a simple interface that allows the player to concentrate on the action The missions are fairly straightforward, with obvious objectives that need to be completed, though some missions are divided into several parts. These aren't too long, and the game is not overly difficult. Most players should be able to beat it in a long-weekend at worst. The biggest challenge comes when you go to play at later difficulty levels. Here the game becomes exponentially harder and trying to complete all the sub-quest and secondary objectives. The extra rewards you get for this are cool which means the game's replay value is strong, though playing through the main Campaign mode should offer enough excitement for most gamers. Overall, like the movie it's based on, Clone Wars emphasizes intense action and fast gameplay. This is an excellent game, especially if you like space shooters and don't want a lot of thinking to get in the way. There are several types of missions and while the vehicle based levels are stronger, the Jedi missions make a nice change of pace. The Clone Wars offers a good balance in levels, some are very easy and simple, while others are much harder to complete, for a slightly harder than average level of difficulty. The multiplayer modes are fun, and further extend the game's replay value. While some may find it too simple for their tastes, the verdict here is that this title delivers enough frenetic fun for Star Wars fans to highly recommend a purchase.
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