Star Wars-branded violence that puts a smile on your face
Another day, another Star Wars title, because who doesn't like Star Wars? True, these games would have been vastly improved if they were based off of the original trilogy, but a good game-film adaptation can break free of the limits imposed upon it by the source material and become something good in its own right. Now I personally think that the prequel films were actually passable, and the quality generally went up later on, but it's undeniable that most of the games based on them outranked the movies without much trouble. One need only look at the bombastic pair of Starfighter games or the refreshingly brainless Bounty Hunter to see that goodness can come from mediocrity.
On the subject of Starfighter, eons ago in my first ever review I called it a more than decent space shooter which you should all run out and buy immediately. I can only assume you all did just that, and you probably liked it if you enjoy the genre. Well I think I've found a contender.
For whatever inexplicable reason, Clone Wars is almost worthless on GameCube but fetches a considerable price on PS2. I make a point with multi-platform releases to go for the PS2 version of things (DualShock 2 pwns your mother) unless there is a considerably superior or cheaper version elsewhere. I needed something to actually do with my Wii other than Metroid Prime anyway.
Gameplay can be summarised as a combination of ground and air vehicle combat (is this my third vehicle combat game review in a row?) against endless hordes of mean old droids and the occasional alien. Sadly no actual space levels turn up, making this technically not a space shooter, but it's Star Wars, and therefore sci-fi enough for my liking. You get to control such fun toys as STAPS, AATs, bland tank things, a Republic Gunship, AT-XTs, a weird lizard thing and even Mace Windu by himself a few times. They all have various boomers and bangers, plus a special ability unique to each, such as temporary invincibility. Such variety is refreshing, although it should be noted that each mission forces you to use a particular vehicle, rather than giving you a choice.
While in Starfighter you're limited to forward, back, turn and spin, modes of transport that utilise the ground are mysteriously more manoeuvrable. This is demonstrated by the ability to strafe, something that was sorely lacking in the space-based adventures. It allows for Motorsiege-style stand-offs, where adversaries circle each other stupidly until someone's hull blows. Complicated? No. Fun despite itself? Yes.
I'm still not entirely used to the (admittedly quite nice indeed) GameCube controller, but it must be said that Clone Wars handles with no real problems at all: it's responsive and functional. Plus I like how the big tanks feel slow and cumbersome while the wee things are lightweight and nippy. And it's the standard scenario where smaller things are usually weaker but harder to hit while the more massive things can lay waste to cities but crawl along the ground like slugs. It's nothing new, but a tried-and-tested formula is as good as any.
Blowing crap up is considerably fun, which is fairly crucial since you spend all your time doing just that. A logical tactic is to use your trusty blasters on the smaller blighters and save your missiles for the less little 'uns, although frequent ammo pickups mean that management is not hugely necessary.
The Jedi sections are just about acceptable, but they follow the Resident Evil tradition of thinking that humans move much like tanks, although it must be said that NOTHING could control as badly as the old Resi games. I feel that the on-foot bits were thought up quite late on just so something could be added as a bullet point on the back of the box, and it did look cool in the trailer.
Being on the battlefield is quite the experience, with tonnes of laser-shrapnel (is there such a thing?) landing all around you. It's got a similar style to Starfighter, in that you're told to do something as an overall objective for that mission, but then loads of little things pop up unpredictably that need your attention. Once or twice you need to defend a convoy, which may be asking for scorn (being the very definition of an escort mission), but since you only need one of the transports alive to win, you start with three or four and they can chew a lot of plasma before going boom, it's kept minimally frustrating. And there is just something about gunning down the clueless onslaught of droids headed for the convoy that amuses me.
Speaking of amusing me, anyone who read my original Starfighter review should remember that I was almost freakishly fond of crippling ships flying above the ground so that they would fall spinning to their inevitable demise. Well Clone Wars usurps this by letting you do the exact same thing, only this time large dropships carrying tanks can be caused to sink pitifully towards the solid rock below. And it happens a lot, so I was very happy indeed. That feature alone makes this game worth recommending, I say.
Clone Wars is not a colossal game, but its sheer variety and occasional epic boss fights keep it consistently entertaining. You travel from the final battle of Episode II to unknown reaches of space, and end up fighting ghosts (seriously) and preventing universal apocalypse once again, often accompanied by a bad Obi-Wan impersonator. Ah, joy.
In my usual disjointed and non-flowing way, I'm trying to recommend you a fine and dandy game available at low-low prices. It's short, but very enjoyable for the most part and very challenging if you adjust the difficulty accordingly, leaving something for completists to memorise. Unless you're hell-bent on getting the PS2 version, I'd recommend the far cheaper GameCube edition.
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