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Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Xbox)
Publisher:  LucasArts Developer:  Pandemic Studios
Genre:  Action Release Date:  04/22/2003
ESRB:  Teen More Info on this Game
By Zach Meston | April 25, 2003
LucasArts brings its fast-paced vehicular shooter to the Xbox with robust Live support.
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Pros Cons
Solid multiplayer and Live support; instant-gratification gameplay. Too simplistic in execution; brief solo campaign; hardcore-centric storyline.

Released late last year for the PS2 and GCN, Star Wars: The Clone Wars has been ported to the Xbox with the significant addition of Xbox Live support, and the same relentlessly mediocre shoot-'em-up action. Unfortunately, LucasArts wasn't also able to address a couple of lingering technical issues that held back the earlier versions from greatness -- issues that are slightly more glaring on the Xbox's killer hardware.

While the screenshots may project the illusion of action/strategy gameplay, be not fooled; The Clone Wars is a straight-up, third-person, vehicular shooter in which you take the controls of five different vehicles, including a hovertank, gunship, speeder bike, and scout walker. (There are also brief action segments in which you run around on foot -- blessedly brief -- as we shall discuss later.) Each vehicle is armed with lasers, missiles, and a special ability, and each one has a fundamentally different feel to its controls and movement. The variety is more than welcome, although the ever-changing control schemes and physics models take some adjustment on the player's part.

The one-player mode of The Clone Wars features 16 missions across six worlds, with three degrees of difficulty, and each mission often becomes a series of missions as the frantic action unfolds. And "frantic" is the key word, as there's always something to blast into pieces; at the higher levels, there are usually massive firefights raging in the background as you participate in a massive firefight in the foreground. At its best, The Clone Wars resembles a futuristic version of DOOM or Serious Sam, with enemies coming at you from all directions, and sending you into a "zone" of shooting and strafing. (Many of the vehicles can strafe, a somewhat incongruous feature that's acceptable because it improves the gameplay.) Unfortunately, even with 16 missions, the campaign is a short one, and most players should only require a day or two to get through it. You can somewhat address this situation by playing at a higher difficulty level, although there's no additional incentive (such as unlockables) for doing so. Replay incentive is also offered by several bonus objectives in each mission, such as completing the mission within a certain time limit or finding a certain number of hidden objects.

The lowlight of The Clone Wars is the occasional sequence in which your Jedi-avatar is on foot, marred by character animation so unfortunate that I laughed out loud the first time I saw it in "motion." Yoda's CG fight sequence at the end of Episode II: Attack of the Clones is stunningly realistic by comparison. What's worse, most of your enemies are easily ignored or easily dispatched with your rapidly recharging Force-push power, which acts like an old-school smart bomb. I'm surprised that LucasArts didn't attempt to improve the on-foot segments during the conversion process to the Xbox, or simply remove them from the game entirely; they're literally that embarrassing.


Four-player action!
The Clone Wars offers both four-player, single-Xbox split-screen, and eight-player Xbox Live options, with four game types: duel (deathmatch), control zone (a "king of the hill" mode in which you have to stay within a small circular area longer than anyone else), conquest (destroy the other team's well-fortified base), and academy (team up with other players to survive endless assault waves of CPU-controlled enemies). You can also download a healthy number of additional multiplayer levels via Live. While both offline and online multiplayer works very well -- Live has long since proven to be worth every penny of its subscription fee -- the straightforward duel option unsurprisingly stands up best to repeated play.

Rather than being directly based upon Episode II, the one-player campaign mode of The Clone Wars mostly takes place in the time-space between Episodes II and III, drawing many of its characters and scenarios from the novels and comic books that make up the "Expanded Universe" of Star Wars. Although you can safely ignore the plot while playing through the game, the missions would probably be more compelling if they were based on events and in locations with which most gamers were familiar, as opposed to drawing upon mythology that only the hardest of hardcore fans are familiar with -- a minor complaint, however.

The Clone Wars takes place after the events of Episode II.
The Clone Wars's audio mix uses large snatches of John Williams's gorgeous Episode II score, a host of sound effects begged, borrowed, and stolen from the Skywalker Ranch library, and sound-similar voice actors that turn in solid performances, but can't quite fool the player into thinking he's hearing Samuel L. Jackson, et al. You'd think that LucasArts, of all the game companies in the biz, would recognize the importance of synergy between games and movies, or at least have the cash to hire the real actors, but alas. (Heck, the only Star Wars game I recall with genuine voices is the 1983 Atari coin-op.)

The Clone Wars isn't quite up to the spectacular standards of LucasArts' Rogue Leader and Starfighter shoot-'em-up franchises, but it supplies plenty of Star Wars-themed shooting action, and the Live support considerably boosts the replay value, more than making up for the brevity of the one-player campaign.


Game Information

Reviewer System Specifications
Xbox, Memory Card, Standard Controller, Xbox Live.