Hey, do you remember when you actually cared about Star Wars? Remember how magical the original trilogy was, and how you got all giddy when you heard that the prequels were going to finally become reality? Remember how disappointed you were in those films and how it slowly dawned on you at about the midway point of the second film that you were witnessing the death of cinema? Recall the rage you felt when you found out that, in addition to those three terrible movies, there was also going to be a computer-animated film and a TV series to boot? Go ahead and channel that white-hot hatred now because a new game has been released based on the sub-par television show based on the awful Episode II movie, and it stinks.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes is the latest cash-in on a franchise aimed at kids too young to remember what Star Wars was like in the '80s. This adventure features Anakin Skywalker (before he began sporting the cape and robo-helmet), his padawan Ahsoka Tano, Obi-Wan and about half of the clone trooper army. The story's paper-thin plot starts off with Jabba the Hutt tipping off the good guys about some Separatist activity going on in a local star system and the Jedi all taking flight to bash a few droid heads. Since this is a video game, though, things quickly grow complicated and the story takes several convoluted twists and turns that ultimately end up with the heroes saving yet another galaxy from yet another doomsday weapon. In case you missed it, this is your cue to yawn and roll your eyes condescendingly.
Gameplay is divided into Jedi levels and clone trooper levels, and neither is worth much of your time. Jedi stages feature a combination of combat and platforming, and both are executed so heinously that you'll wonder if the Force is punishing you for playing this game. All the Jedi masters can do is jump, swing their lightsaber, and use a simple Force push to stun and defeat foes. For ancient warriors trained to their mental and physical peak, they sure don't know how to do much. The other main component of combat is "droid-jacking," which is nowhere near as interesting or as dirty as it sounds. By double-jumping on top of most droids, players can temporarily take control of them and turn the baddies' weapons against them. This mechanic also plays a major role in puzzle-solving, as some areas are only made accessible once you use a droid's special talents to open the way. While this sounds like a decent mechanic, it grows stale incredibly quickly, and after a few levels, you'll likely give up on it entirely in favor of simply hacking and slashing your way through the stages.
While the combat is bad, the platforming is even worse, with some of the sloppiest controls and poorest execution I have seen in a long time. The game tries to implement a sort of "sticky jump" where you can hop from one location to another and land perfectly without the need of any special controls. It's a fine system when it works, but far too often, it doesn't. If characters don't jump from exactly the right spot at exactly the right time and exactly the right angle, then you go falling to your death and are sent back to the last checkpoint to try again. The whole thing is infuriating and saps any enjoyment one might have found in exploring the game's stages. As bad as regular jumps are, wall jumps are even worse, as they're plagued by awful camera angles and a mechanic that seems to work less than half the time. Getting through some of the game's trickier jumping levels takes the patience of a saint, and my congratulations if you manage to finish the game without swearing loudly on more than one occasion.
Jedi stages take up more than half the game, but the remaining stages put you in the shoes of the clone troopers sent out in support of the various Jedi masters. These levels play like a sort of shooting gallery, and they're more fun than the Jedi stages if only because there's a lot less jumping involved. Players use the Wiimote to point at targets on-screen and simply press the B button to blast them to bits. You can also track down special armaments — such as thermal detonators, rocket launchers and miniguns — to help dispatch the tougher foes. These stages tend to be significantly more action-packed than the Jedi levels, and gamers who enjoy carnage on a larger scale will likely find these stages to be at least mildly entertaining.
Unfortunately, the fun is tempered by still more poor mechanics, a good concept lost once more to lackluster execution. First off, since players still control an on-screen character with the Nunchuk, sight lines affect your aim and ability to take out enemies. Even though your targeting reticle might be right over an enemy droid's noggin, you may find yourself unable to shoot the bugger because your character is positioned behind a box or some other obscuring bit of scenery. Also, the roll-and-cover mechanics are shoddily implemented, and the extra waggle the game makes you include in order to bypass locks is tacked-on and not at all helpful to the overall experience. The clone trooper levels may be more fun than the Jedi stages, but the bar had been set pretty low.
What really hurts both gameplay modes is the fact that there is absolutely no difference between the characters, so every stage feels exactly like the one before it. Why can't Mace Windu be a more powerful fighter while Anakin is quicker and more agile? What if one clone soldier specialized in heavy weapons while another provided demolitions or sniping capabilities? Implementing concepts like this could have created a tag-team mechanic seen in other games where players could switch between on-screen party members to complete objectives, thus giving each playable figure a bit more personality. As is, though, there is absolutely nothing to differentiate one character from another, and at no point during the adventure are you given a reason to care about any of these soldiers.
Sadly, Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes for the Wii is just the latest disgrace in the rapidly diminishing "Star Wars" franchise. The gameplay is a mess from start to finish, and the muddy visuals and terrible writing don't help things a bit. Furthermore, the game breaks itself by allowing players to access a cheat menu and use in-game points to purchase exploits, such as one-hit kills and invulnerability, during the very first playthrough. Forget any sense of challenge; simply pony up 200,000 points and you're invincible, which throws any form of strategy right out the window. Maybe George Lucas is trying to make Siths of us all because games like this lead to anger, and as we all know, anger leads to the Dark Side. Don't succumb to evil and stay far away from this game.
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