Star Wars The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes
If George Lucas’ goal with Clone Wars is to either kill off Star Wars or create content that makes Jar Jar Binks seem somewhat respectable, he’s doing a *** fine job. Whenever I hear Ahsoka Tano call Anakin Skywalker “Skyguy,” I can feel midi-chlorians dying and my love of the Force slipping away.
It can be argued that the Clone Wars series targets a younger demographic. If that’s the case, what did I grow up watching? The Star Wars I knew appealed to all ages – that was part of its magic. Clone Wars feels more like G.I. Joe meets Clueless. This isn’t my Star Wars. Not even close.
If you watch the computer-animated series and find yourself cringing at the tween-ish nicknames and weird flirtatious banter between characters, avoid playing this game, as it revels in these moments. Nearly every character and droid in the Clone Wars lexicon has a pet name, and the characters go well out of their way to make sure you remember each and every one. Battle droids are called “tinnies,” while super battle droids and other machines are “clankers.” Ahsoka Tano is “Snips.” Clone trooper recruits are “soft shells.” The list goes on and on.
Oddly, the nicknames, which stab you in the face so frequently early on, don’t seem so potent in the later stages of the game. It’s not that they’ve been toned down at all, but that other, more stressing annoyances take center stage. While the game offers a generous number of playable Jedi, they all control the same and none of them have a good handle on the Force. Lightsaber strikes are crudely implemented with one-button combos. Changing direction mid-combo is difficult, making lightsaber play an ungraceful mess. Force push ends up being “the move” since it can destroy 10 droids in one blow, and also because the saber throw is worthless. The Jedi can also mount almost every enemy and use their weapons against their own kind. To ensure players remember this, most battles include roadblocks that can only be destroyed by a droid controlled by a Jedi. These sequences transition from interesting diversions to abused mechanics in the stretch of a few levels, and remain constant every step of the way in this surprisingly lengthy (10-hour plus) game.
As dictated by the plot’s arc, players also get the chance to control a handful of different clone troopers. Like the Jedi, these “hard shells” all control identically and horribly. While a cover mechanic is introduced, I found it best to run and gun, as there is no penalty for death, and ducking just means you’re spending more time in these poorly executed battles. Targeting is spotty to the point that over half of my shots missed, even when I thought I was locked in on a target. Thermal detonators are surprisingly powerful, but again, targeting is an issue.
Both the Jedi and clone gameplay fall victim to horrible camera tracking. In some areas, you have to blindly fire off screen to hit a target. In others, negotiating a jump is all guesswork. Is that ledge in foreground or background? The sticky jump mechanic doesn’t help, either.
The entire game features drop-in/out cooperative play. Heed my words carefully: If you are going to play this game, make sure you do so with a friend at your side. The computer-controlled partner AI is beyond bad. Whether you find yourself in a platforming sequence or a lightsaber battle, your teammate sits idly for a few seconds to figure out what he or she is supposed to be doing. This often leads to them getting killed, or more often phasing to a checkpoint you just reached.
If you’re hoping this game falls into the “I’ll suffer playing it for a good story” category, I have even worse news for you. The plot introduces a likable villain named Kul Teska (created by LucasArts for the game), yet doesn’t take any of the characters in interesting directions. It ends up being a story of good trying to stop evil and nothing more.
Even if your child runs around the house, yelling, “I love Snips!” this title’s frustrating gameplay will be a hard sell. If you have such a child in your household, I would do everything in my power to ensure they never catch wind of this game. Moreover, I would correct the “I love Snips” error through Clockwork Orange-like viewings of the original trilogy.