Taking a fine-tooth comb to the Star Wars franchise, LucasArts once again emerges with a new tale from The Clone Wars. Republic Heroes is an action-adventure based on the popular animated series for kids, and it’s also proof positive that even the great power of The Force can eventually begin to wane.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes will have players take on the role of various Jedi, including, of course, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker. In addition to wielding a lightsaber and commanding The Force, you’ll also play missions as one the myriad clones of the empire. The story isn’t hard to follow, since it all boils down to a simple division of factions. The Separatists are the bad guys, you need to destroy something in order to allow your troops to move forward, and The Force is, presumably, with you.
Republic Heroes plays with a mission-based progression, though there’s no hub. You simply play a level, switch up characters, and move on to the next mission. The levels are fairly bite-sized, making it an easy game to pick up and play (and just as easily put down), and you can play through the entire adventure cooperatively with a friend or family member.
The formula is pretty predictable: Play a couple of Jedi missions, switch over to the clone perspective, rinse and repeat. The heavy focus, therefore, is on playing as a Jedi – which is unfortunate, really – and controls are mapped mostly to button presses, with optional waggle for slashing with your lightsaber. When we say “optional,” we mean it’s always on. So, if you happen to jostle your Wii Remote when attempting to execute some other action, your Jedi will whip out their lightsaber and attack. It can and likely will create all sorts of problems for players throughout the duration of the game.
Jedi can also jump and double jump, use The Force (with the Z button), and throw their lightsaber short distances. When the controls work, the action feels fine. However, there are so many moments throughout this game where your character simply will not respond to your command inputs. For instance, the very first boss in the game requires you to hammer the Z-trigger in order to hold down the leg of your enemy with The Force, but pressing the Z button will often cause your character to bring their lightsaber to bear instead.
Combat is mildly amusing is short stints, though it’s completely button-mashy. You can double jump onto some enemies and gain control over them and their abilities, but it’s mostly a pointless affair, since it’s such an unwieldy mechanic with very little payoff. Waylaying hordes of enemies with your lightsaber is much more effective, and it’s a guilty pleasure hearing the sounds of your saber emanating from the Wii Remote.
You’ll be required to use The Force to trigger various elements within levels, but here, too, the mechanic is very hard to master. Character movement is clumsy, making it difficult to aim your Force power properly. Navigating environments isn’t much better, with poor collision detection and 3D perspectives that will often force you to repeat the same jumps over and over. The level design is haphazard, and the objectives are contrived errands that corral players along dull corridors. Some of the environments look interesting, but the platforming is either too forgiving or a complete mess.
Oddly enough, taking on the role of one of the clones is actually a fair amount of fun, though it, too, is not without its share of problems. Character movement is basically the same, but you’ll be armed with a blaster, which you aim with the Wii Remote. You can take cover behind crates and such by gesturing downward with the Nunchuk – it doesn’t feel great, but it gets the job done. Clones can also toss grenades by pinpointing an area with the Wii Remote and pressing the Z button.
Aside from having to use the Nunchuk to take cover, the mechanics and controls for playing as a clone feel really good. Unfortunately, the camera is pulled back to an almost isometric view, yet aiming your weapon stays within a true 3D perspective. What happens when these two elements collide is that your gun will slope downward, and rather than shooting your enemy, oftentimes you’ll end up shooting a crate or some other object obstructing your top-down view.
Had LucasArts completely stripped out the Jedi missions, put the camera behind the back of your clone, and discarded all the extraneous gimmicks, Republic Heroes could probably be a pretty darn fun game – Battlefront, anyone? In the end, however, young Star Wars fans are getting the shaft. The gameplay is completely derivative, sometimes broken, and usually dull.
Adding insult to injury, the presentation is a slapped-together collection of cheap set pieces and level design. The Clone Wars should be a great candidate to make a strong visual impression on Wii, since it’s based on a cartoony take on the Star Wars universe. Instead, character models are ugly and low res, and they animate laboriously under a constantly chugging framerate. Environments do a decent job of conveying the Star Wars feel, but bland texture work makes for a mere cookie-cutter presentation.
The music fares okay, but it feels somewhat lifeless up against the experience fans are used to when sitting down to watch one of Lucas’ epic masterpieces. There are a few themes that come off as fresh, though, and the fidelity is decent enough. The voice work is competent, but if you weren’t sick of hearing Obi Wan yell the name “Cody” before, you will be after playing through this unoriginal and uninspiring addition to the Star Wars canon.
For some of us, Star Wars never grows old, in spite of the constant barrage of media and merchandise the Lucas empire has been throwing at fans for almost 30 years. But I sense a disturbance in The Force. The padiwans are getting one poorly conceived adventure after another, and at this point, it’s really hard to convince anyone that LucasArts isn’t merely going through the motions each time they set out to make another new game. Republic Heroes for Wii shouldn’t be scrapped altogether, though. The clone missions have some promising elements that could likely be fine-tuned into something really entertaining. Until that time, however, fans of Star Wars should probably stick with playing one of the LEGO games.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.9 Graphics
The visuals get the job done in terms of offering a Star Wars presentation, but the framerate is consistently choppy and character models are poorly rendered. 2.5 Control
Whacking drones with your lightsaber is good fun in short bouts, but the platforming is a mess and controls are generally unresponsive. There’s a spark, though, to playing as one of the clones, but it needs a bit of fine-tuning. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The soundtrack sits fine alongside the overall presentation, though it does little to stand out. The voice work might prove entertaining for new Star Wars fans, yet it will likely grate the nerves of most other players. 2.5
The obligatory checklist of unlockables is present here, but it’s not enough to really sweeten the pot. The gameplay feels like it was phoned in to the programmers by the creative team, and the overall execution is really sloppy.
2.5 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.