Everyone knows about the Star Wars franchise's decline in quality that started with "The Phantom Menace," mostly because nerds never stop whining about it. "The Clone Wars" TV series was also slammed by critics and seen as a shameless cash-in, so naturally people would expect the game to be as well, and they'd be right. Given that Star Wars The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes is $50 and geared toward kids, it should be cut some slack, but the constantly frustrating gameplay is just too painful to forgive.
The story line falls in place with the primetime show, following the exploits of Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and other Jedi as they battle the separatist armies during galactic civil war. The plot is what one would expect from a children's show, which is fine, but it would have been nice to see more actual footage from the series. There are a scant few clips, and that's about it.
What will be immediately apparent to anyone who plays this game is its striking resemblance to another Star Wars title aimed at kids, LEGO Star Wars. The game supports up to two players who can hack away at droids and collect points to earn silly little unlockables, like the ability to make enemies dance. With the static camera and unlimited lives, the game feels exactly like the popular LEGO titles. I guess LucasArts just wants to go with what works.
The combat is divided between playing through some levels as Jedi Knights and others as Clone Troopers. As a Jedi, players can unleash lightsaber attacks as well as a Force blast to knock away enemies. The fighting is really simple, as there are no combos, just the two basic attacks. Another large component of the gameplay is hopping onto droids and hijacking them, which allows players to fight the bad guys with their own tin-can troopers.
There are only a few types of puzzles, and they don't evolve throughout the entire campaign. Most of them entail hijacking a droid and using their laser cannon to destroy an obstacle. It actually feels more like manual labor than a puzzle.
While the combat in the Jedi sections can be enjoyable at times thanks to a few moves like lightsaber throws and sliding under enemies, the Clone Trooper missions are a total bore. There's nothing here that makes Star Wars fun, and I'm not sure why it was included. The Clone Trooper is equipped with a blaster rifle and grenades, and all that's required is to lean down on the firing button and don't stop.
There are about five boss battles in the campaign, but sadly, most of them involve fighting the same guy, Kul Teska. Even worse, he can be beaten the same way in every encounter. Thanks to this and the meager amount of combat upgrades, Republic Heroes is about as plain as Tatooine. Since this is a children's game, plain doesn't necessarily mean bad, and if that were Republic Heroes' worst problem, then I'd say it's an average title.
Unfortunately, that's not the case. The real issue lies with the controls, which are some of the worst platforming mechanics I've ever seen. It's almost impossible to control the direction of a jump, so much that I absolutely dreaded hopping around ledges and clearing chasms, which, sadly, take up a rather large portion of the game. Even with the unlimited lives, it's still a pain because of how easy it is to screw up a jump.
Bad directional problems also occur when using Force push or firing a blaster, and it can be almost impossible to aim a shot. There's simply no way a kid would have the patience to deal with these controls. I'm a grown man and I almost had a tantrum, so what chance does a 10-year-old have?
As mentioned earlier, it is possible to bring in another player for some jump-in cooperative play, but the mode doesn't go online. It's pretty hard to imagine why any game in this day and age would not have a multiplayer mode that could go on Xbox Live, but here we are.
Since "The Clone Wars" TV show is in CG and has a cartoonish look, the game didn't need spectacular visuals, but what we got was still very subpar. The campaign stretches across a good variety of locations, like the icy mountains of Alzoc III and inside a space station that's being torn apart by separatist forces, but none of these places look very interesting. All of the environments are terribly bland, and the character models are rather unattractive, to the point of possibly passing for a last-gen game. There's also no real visual cue to let players know which character they are on-screen, and when the camera pulls way back during a crowded fight, it can be difficult to tell who is who.
Nearly all of the voice actors from the TV series are present in the game, which is always nice to see in a licensed game of any kind. The actors who portray major characters, such as Obi-Wan or Count Dooku, are surprisingly spot-on and sound a lot like the original movie cast.
A few years ago at a trade show, I was speaking with a representative of a publisher. When I told him that I reviewed games, he immediately asked if I was fair to kids' games. I guess they were concerned about adult reviewers bashing games meant for a younger audience. I agree that it's important to be fair to children's games, but I also want to be fair to the kids. Recommending Republic Heroes wouldn't be fair because it's simply a bad game, even for children. For parents who are looking to get their little Star Wars fan a present, steer clear of this one.Score: 5.0/10
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