Despite the fact that there’s an army of Star Wars fans out there who are capable of growing hair on their faces, Star Wars The Clone Wars, the animated series that’s heavy on super cute androids and digital caricatures of Yoda and co, is firmly aimed at boys aged six to 12. This is the reality of Star Wars. It’s not designed for old fuddy duddies like you and me. It’s designed for our sons and nephews. That much should have been clear the second Jar Jar Binks tripped up Liam Neeson on Naboo.
But that doesn’t excuse how bad Star Wars The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels, last year’s Wii-exclusive tie-in, turned out. It was bare bones, a boring one-on-one fighting game with tear-your-hair-out controls. It didn’t matter what kind of Star Wars fan you were - for young or old the game was a bitter disappointment.
Still, somewhat predictably, it sold well enough to justify a sequel, Star Wars The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes, due out this September. This time, though, insists LucasArts associate producer Vince Kudirka, the game will be good. At Activision’s pre-E3 London event he told us why.
“The big thing we wanted to change this year was to do a story game that pays off the show the best,” he explains. “Fighting games, I mean it was good fun, it was great and I think it did a great job of bringing in all the different characters, but with this one you can have a plot that’s based in the world of the show. We go to different locations that are featured in the show. We have some other characters. Cad Bane (mysterious bounty hunter) is a new character that showed up at the end of season one, he’s featured prominently in our game. That I think is a big difference and a big strength of our game.”
In fact, it’s a completely different game. For a start it’s being released on every platform under the sun, not just the Wii. It’s not a one-on-one Dragonball Z-style fighter, either, but a full-on action game in the vein of Marvel Ultimate Alliance, that can be played co-operatively with up to two-players. And it’s got a brand new storyline, too, penned by a show writer and designed to bridge the gap between seasons one and two of the animated series. Already it’s clear this is something of a back to the drawing board effort.
You play as one of eight major Jedi from the series, Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mace Windu, Kit Fisto etc, or one of eight different Clone Troopers, including Clone Captain Rex. The Jedi gameplay is, as you’d imagine, full of lightsaber combat and simple combos. There’s an area of effect stun, there’s a Force Blast (which can be charged up and used to push enemies and environmental objects) and, providing depth, moves like Force Push can be integrated into lightsaber combos.
The big new feature for this game is what LucasArts calls “droids as toys”. You can jump onto any enemy in the game, take it over and use its abilities. Anakin can, for example, leap on top of a droid, thrust his lightsaber down into its head and then steer it as if driving a mechanised ape, firing its lasers at anything and everything. One droid can be used to lay down mines. Another, called a Destroyer (like a rolling ball with a shield), can be jumped on and rode. We might not have seen that kind of madness in the films, but it’s a damn sight more exciting than waving your wand and muttering “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for”.