Where Episode II ends, your battle begins...

Star Wars: the Clone Wars was developed by Pandemic and published by Lucasarts. The game was released in the US for the GameCube on October 29, 2002 and the PlayStation 2 on December 12, 2002. (An Xbox version was released on April 22, 2003, and has Xbox Live support for multiplayer.) The box cover has "Star Wars: the Clone Wars" in familiar script, above a Republic dropship and a platoon of Clone Troopers, all on a primarily orange desert landscape. As of this noding, the Clone Wars is on store shelves for all three systems.

Take Twisted Metal, add in a whole lot of Star Wars geekdom and a little bit of laughably bad voice acting, toss in a plot seemingly written by Kevin J. Anderson. And, curiously, it's far more than the sum of its parts.

The game begins, as the tagline above would imply, with the climactic battle on Geonosis from the end of Attack of the Clones. (Specifically, with the off-screen preparations for said battle, but let's not quibble.) The game then planethops, taking you (playing the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mace Windu, or Anakin Skywalker, depending on the mission) through the war against the Separatists, viewed from the front lines.

Apparently, Jedi spend a lot of time escorting various heavily-armed-yet-curiously-incompetant troop columns all over the freaking galaxy, as most of the objectives (given at the beginning of each mission) are "Make sure whatever (less-thrilling-than-the-developers-think) Republic vehicle(s) don't get blown to Kingdom Come." Given the general lack of variety in missions, how much fun you will have with any given mission is directly related to which vehicle you are piloting, as you have no choice in what vehicle to pilot in any given mission.

Most fun are the Republic gunship missions. Some are escort missions, some are "ferry these troops to these flashing checkpoints", but the sheer variety of the gunship's arsenal and the variety of enemies makes these missions a (sadly rare) treat. One hopes that the next Rogue Squadron sequel/clone includes the gunships, weaponry intact.

Next up are the fighter tank and AT-XT missions, the bread and butter of the game. The fighter tank handles like a light tank on roller skates, while the AT-XT handles like a World War II tank with intractable oxen in place of the treads. The balance of speed vs. firepower would be really interesting, if you ever had a choice as to which vehicle you could pilot. Again, most of the missions are escort or defense missions.

Odd man...er...thing out is the Maru, used on Kashyyyk. It's an inexplicably durable biped, with twin bowcasters and a "Seismic Pulse Emitter". The quality of these missions make up for the incredible lameness of piloting a kangaroo.

You'll soon learn to dread the missions on foot. Apparently, Jedi training ruins such things as "fine motor control", and the bland enemies and totally at-random blaster deflection don't make these missions much more fun. Pathetically enough, you'll die most often at the hands of self-destructing spider 'droids. Lame.

Least fun of all are the speeder bike and STAP missions. It's like playing the worst racing game ever made. The possible coolness of dodging in between debris/trees is totally annihilated by the boringness of the levels and pop-up. Worse, if you even nick something, you'll probably fall behind too far to be able to finish the level.

Luckily, the multiplayer really redeems this title. The simple head-to-head ("Duel") and king-of-the-hill ("Control Zone") modes would be plenty, but Pandemic added in two multiplayer modes better than the rest of the game combined.

"Jedi Academy" takes Clone Wars and turns it into an old-style arcade shooter. Whether on foot or in a vehicle of your choice (depending on the stage), enemies just attack in successive waves, with power-ups popping up after certain waves. This mode is surprisingly addictive, and can be played on your own or competitively.

The real gem of the game is the "Conquest" mode, a strange mix of CTF and RTS. Players are divided into two teams (Republic and Separatist, of course), with bases (which can be destroyed by enemy fire, ending the game) at opposite ends of the stage. Arranged in between these bases are outposts. If a player sits in the circle surrounding one of these outposts, the outpost will start building defense turrets, and then vehicles. The game centers around controlling these outposts and directing (with simple orders - "Attack, Defend, Hold") the vehicles that they build, making for an entertaining and uniquely strategic game.

Why might you want to play this game? Star Wars geeks and Twisted Metal/Vigilante 8/etc. fans will eat it up, and the multiplayer is worth a trial rental for anyone with a couple of friends.

Why might you not? The single-player ranges from mildly entertaining to abysmal, and stays the latter for most of the time. Not only that, but the voice acting and cut scenes will make you cringe.

Sources: GameFAQs, the game itself

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