Following hot on the heels of the release of Episode II, LucasArts has announced its latest game based on the movie franchise for the GameCube and PlayStation 2. The game, called Star Wars: The Clone Wars, is being developed by Pandemic Studios--best known for Dark Reign 2 and the recently released Army Men RTS--and it will focus on mission-based vehicular combat with a liberal dose of strategy.
The game's story focuses on the recently introduced Count Dooku, a rogue Jedi leading a separatist movement that threatens the stability of the Galactic Republic. Following the events seen in the film, Dooku sets out to recover the components of an ancient Sith weapon that will give his forces the upper hand in the escalating war. Once Dooku's intentions are discovered by the Jedi order, they head out to stop him before he recovers the weapon. You'll assume the role of Anakin, Obi Wan, and Mace Windu over the course of the game and have opportunity to pilot ships and other modes of transportation in 16 mission-based levels. The story will send you to six worlds that are a mix of familiar locations from the film such as Geonosis and original locations such as Raxes Prime; a moon orbiting Kashykk (Chewbacca's 'hood, for the uninformed); Rhen Var; Thule; and an asteroid orbiting Thule.
In terms of gameplay, Clone Wars' structure is fairly straightforward. Each level is broken up into segments that will have specific missions you'll have to accomplish in order to move on. Your tasks will include everything from engaging enemy forces, destroying specific targets, escorting friendly craft, and racing against time to avoid an explosion. During the course of the game, friendly forces in need of a hand will call in additional mission objectives. Given the title's emphasis on combat and action, the bulk of your time in the game will be spent behind the controls of a vehicle. However, there will also be a few brief segments that find you battling through enemy forces on foot as you attempt to reach your vehicle.
In terms of vehicles, you will pilot six different craft that are a mix of familiar and original vehicles, as well race about on foot and on the back of an alien creature. Over the course of the game, you'll be given the virtual keys to a Republic gunship, an assault walker, a speeder bike, a fighter tank, a STAAP, and an AAT. Each vehicle will have unique handling and its own complement of weapons. While all vehicles will have primary and secondary weapons, they will also have special abilities unique to them. For example, the assault walker can rotate its turrets while moving, the fighter tanks can quickly strafe from side to side, and the gunship can hover and adjust its flight speed. During segments where you control a lone Jedi on foot, you'll have access to a basic set of force powers and combat moves that will prove invaluable as you wade through waves of enemies. You'll be able to use force push, as well as throw your lightsaber and control its flight path to maximize damage to your enemies. Also, like all good Jedi, you'll be able to use your lightsaber to deflect blaster fire. Finally, you'll have the opportunity to ride a maru, an alien creature that looks like a distant and ugly relative of the tauntauns seen in The Empire Strikes Back.
Aside from the single-player game, Clone Wars will offer a multiplayer component that will feature deathmatch, king of the hill, conquest, and Jedi academy modes. Deathmatch and king of the hill are exactly what you'd expect--multiplayer brawls for superiority. Players will just choose their vehicles, select from one of more than 16 multiplayer maps, and get to blasting. Conquest challenges players to take control of outposts that will begin to produce laser turrets that will fire at your enemy and AI vehicles that will also move to demolish your foe. Jedi academy is a cooperative multiplayer mode that is essentially a survival mode that challenges you to stay alive as the game throws wave after wave of enemies at you. At the moment, the GameCube version of the game will support up to four players in the multiplayer mode, while the PlayStation 2 may only support two players, although the number has not been finalized.
Graphically, the game goes for an ambitious representation of the hectic and crowded combat situations seen in the film. Pandemic's engine cranks out a solid assortment of eye candy. The game's first level, which closely follows the climactic fight at the end of the movie, throws an impressive amount of ground troops and vehicles onscreen. You'll find a good amount of variety in the environments that run the gamut from forbidding valleys and plains to lush forests and moonlike craters. Weather effects such as rain will be on hand to add ambient touches to the locales. The vehicles themselves are nicely detailed and feature smooth animation that is quite distinctive. The human characters feature solid detail as well. At present, the GameCube game's frame rate fluctuates a bit but still manages to stay around its target of 30 frames per second, in spite of some insanely crowded and hectic fights. Technophiles will also be pleased to see that the GameCube game will support progressive scan for those with fully loaded home entertainment centers. We were unable to get a look at the PlayStation 2 version.
The sound in the game will maintain the high standards of LucasArts' Star Wars games. The game's soundtrack will feature John Williams' classic pieces, as well tunes from the Attack of the Clones soundtrack. The sound effects are especially sharp, thanks to Skywalker Sound's involvement and liberal usage of the Star Wars sound libraries. While the GameCube version will support Dolby Pro Logic II, the final details of the PlayStation 2 version's sound have not been set.
So far, Clone Wars is looking to offer a nice chunk of Star Wars-centric gaming. Pandemic's development background offers a new approach that looks promising. Clone Wars is currently slated to ship this fall for the PlayStation 2 and GameCube. Look for more on the game from the E3 show floor later this month.