No matter what you thought about Attack of the Clones, George Lucas and his CG crew put some of their best work into the last forty-five minutes of the movie. The epic ground battle between Republican and Separatist troops was nothing short of breathtaking. While other Star Wars titles based on Attack of the Clones dance around this final segment, Star Wars: The Clone Wars is the only one that deals with the ground battle head on. Developed by Pandemic Studios, it's a vehicular combat game that is as successful a Star Wars game as it is an action game.
Clone Wars deviates very little from other LucasArts titles. The main chunk of the game is set upon six different backdrops with a campaign that runs its course in over a dozen missions. What separates Clone Wars from its brethren is the setting. This game is not ashamed about putting up a huge number of ground units on both sides of the battlefield; allied and enemy. Furthermore, the action is more intense in this game. The pacing has become more frenetic as you mow through the Separatist legions.
This isn't a war game or a tank simulation though. This is still an arcade action game at heart so you can expect to kill dozens of enemies before being slain yourself. Moreover, the controls differ very little from one vehicle to another. The speedbike and Republic tank are fairly similar except the bike is able to get around quicker. There's nothing wrong with this at all because it's fun, appealing and ultimately, very well executed.
In terms of level design, the missions themselves are noticeably more involving than the ones in earlier games. Wrapped around a heavy story, practically no mission carries out as planned and there are numerous twists and additional objectives introduced in each outing. A bevy of bonus objectives are included too. As customary with other recent Star Wars titles, successful completion of these bonus objectives will help you unlock special features in the game.
The only hiccups in the campaign are the on foot sequences. Because of how the story is structured, you'll have to take on the role of Anakin, Mace Windu and Obi-wan. Some task you to take Mace Windu on foot to hack down droids during a retreat. Excuse my Anakin Jedi arrogance but that's just an absurd misallocation of Jedi manpower. There are also some lightsaber battles involved, none of which approaches the complexity of the lackluster Obi-Wan or the recently released Jedi
Outcast. Let's just say the lightsabers are simply sideshows to the main event because this is where the game falters most. It becomes painfully clear, with play, that the game is simply incapable of handling the out of vehicle sequences. Thankfully, there aren't too many of these sequences during the course of the campaign and the multiplayer is filled with vehicle rather than infantry action.
The multiplayer is something that deserves special recognition. I bet no one expected Pandemic to put so much time into the multiplayer portion of the game. Besides the usual deathmatch and CTF settings, there's a Conquest mode that is a simplified version of what we find in games like Battlefield 1942. It's based on capture and hold, so you and your friends will have to fight over points (co-operatively too). These points then give you the currency for additional AI units and you can direct these friendly units to aid you (Attack, Break, Defend, Regroup orders). This is the piece de resistance of the entire game and it was a mode that I enjoyed playing immensely. It's high time for developers to recognize deathmatch isn't the only or most entertaining multiplayer mode out there.
Unfortunately, the PlayStation 2 version has none of the online Internet options promised by its Xbox cousin. If multiplayer is what you're after, the PlayStation 2 copy of Clone Wars may not be that desirable.
Clone Wars is supported by a decent graphics engine. There may not be hundreds of vehicles on the screen at once but there's a fair bit of action going on and to be honest, I was looking for framerate hiccups.
The little infantry troops running around really add to the game's immersion, even if they're nothing more than cannon fodder but they're implemented at the expense of speed, especially considering the
PlayStation 2, which has had the longest hardware shelf life in comparison to the GameCube and Xbox.
It's amazing to see titles from LucasArts maturing to such a state. You may think the formula is getting stale but critics never complained about the sound effects and music (save for one or two bad apples) for
Star Wars games before. Now, they can't really complain about the visuals either because every game is featuring graphics that are soundly appealing across the board. Clone Wars is no exception. The audio experience you'll get with Clone Wars is a testament to what LucasArts consistently produces.
In spite of the technical prowess, solid gameplay and exciting multiplayer, Clone Wars finds itself in the unenviable position of being compared to high caliber Star Wars titles like the Gamecube's Rogue Leader or the N64's Shadows of the Empire. This is not a perfect game. Nor, even with the focus on vehicular combat, is it a groundbreaking title in the Star Wars pantheon. The box art will try to convince you'll fight amongst thousands and thousands of troops. It's more like dozens and dozens of soldiers. However, that isn't to say Pandemic didn't achieve what they set out to achieve.
There is a scene in Attack of the Clones that particularly stirred me.
It's when one of the enemy dropships is shot down bringing on a cloud of smoke. George Lucas then takes us down to the very front lines, as the dust begins obscuring everything; friend and foe alike. But the soldiers simply continue firing. That scene reflected a zeitgeist that wasn't found in Phantom Menace and Pandemic basically crafts an entire game inspired from that one battle. The result is a highly satisfying game. Despite being trapped in the same old LucasArts formula, the change of pace fighting in vehicles turns what could have been a ho-hum game into a thrilling homage to the film's end sequence.