Last year's Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones met with mixed reactions, probably because the different aspects of the film didn't always seem to fit well together. On the one hand, the romantic overtures the young Anakin Skywalker directed at the beautiful Senator Amidala were pretty awkward. But then again, Episode II featured some undeniably impressive battle sequences and truly state-of-the-art special effects. The climactic battle between the Galactic Republic's clone army and the separatist movement's legions of droids stood out as perhaps the most exciting sequence from the film. Thankfully, Star Wars: The Clone Wars seeks only to re-create these sorts of intensely action-packed scenarios. The game's been out for the PS2 and GameCube for months now, and while the new Xbox version is mostly identical, it has a key addition: online play. In the game, you get to play as several of Episode II's main characters and commandeer a number of different vehicles in a varied single-player campaign that provides plenty of shooting fun while it lasts. A number of Xbox Live-compatible multiplayer modes for up to eight players (or four players on a split-screen) round out a good, solid Star Wars game that should appeal to anyone who'd care to relive Episode II's large-scale action scenes.
You'll get to play as Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Mace Windu over the course of The Clone Wars...
The Clone Wars actually takes place after the events of Episode II, which ended with the eruption of an all-out war between the Galactic Republic and the separatists. In the game, you'll play as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, and Mace Windu in an effort to help the Republic thwart its adversary. In so doing, you'll uncover a nefarious separatist plot to unleash a devastating weapon against the Republic, which, of course, you'll have to stop. Though the game contains a few on-foot action sequences, most of the time, Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Mace will be fighting from within the heavily armored confines of a number of different vehicles, including a hovertank, a gunship, and a walker. You'll also get to ride on a speederbike, one of those floating STAP things that some of the droids used in Episode I and Episode II, a tough four-legged creature called a maru, and more. All these vehicles--and even the on-foot sequences--make use of roughly the same control scheme, though you do get a pretty good feel for the differences of each vehicle at your disposal, mostly due to their unique special weapons.
Regardless of the conveyance at your disposal, you'll be up against lots and lots of enemy droids in every level, and they make for great cannon fodder, just like in the films. The game's 16-mission campaign isn't very long, but it does take you to a number of different Star Wars worlds, from the dusty Geonosis seen in Episode II to Kashyyyk, the woodsy home of the Wookiees, and almost all the missions are fairly different from one another. That's not to say the missions are totally surprising. Some are all-out battles against lots of enemies, some are desperate races away from or to certain points, some require you to defend convoys or installations for certain periods of time, and some are rescue missions.
..and you'll get to pilot everything from a speederbike to a heavy walker.
Actually, many of the missions have multiple objectives that must be completed before the mission is completed. Failure (or death) will force you to restart a mission, and some of the later missions can be a good challenge at the default difficulty setting. Time really is of the essence, and you'll need to dodge, aim, and shoot precisely in order to succeed. You'll also need to keep a sharp eye out for power-ups to replenish your armor and special weapons. Since you're in an all-out war, you'll be comforted to know that you won't be alone in most of the missions, as oftentimes you'll have a friend or two helping gun your enemies down. Later in the campaign, you'll be able to issue simple orders such as "attack" and "regroup" by using the controller's directional pad.
Of further note, each level in the game also contains three bonus objectives that are purely optional. Completing them can unlock hidden extras in the game, such as new multiplayer maps. The bonus objectives range from things like completing the level in a short period of time or finding secret areas to rescuing hostages or not letting any vehicle in a convoy you're defending get destroyed. Some can be very tough, since the missions themselves are no cakewalk, so they help give the single-player game some replay value.
The action itself is enjoyable enough to make you want to play through a mission more than once. Most vehicles can deftly maneuver at high speeds while blazing away with those ubiquitous blasters and delivering some heavy damage with a limited supply of missiles or other secondary weapons. The physics for the vehicles aren't very realistic, and the action mostly involves circling around opponents to dodge their attacks while keeping them in your sights, so this isn't what you'd call an exacting simulation of the combat vehicles of the Star Wars universe. At any rate, of all the available vehicles, the flying gunship is probably the most satisfying. Unaffected by gravity and bristling with weapons, this thing is practically a flying fortress, vulnerable mostly to collision damage and not much else. The hovertank, the game's most commonly used vehicle, can be quite fun, too, since it's very nimble, but not at the expense of armor or firepower. Developer Pandemic Studios has a long history with hovertank games, dating back to 1999's Battlezone II, so these action scenes were crafted by some of the most experienced hovertank-game makers in the business.