Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Republic Heroes
A New Dope.
Republic Heroes is the very worst sort of licensed videogame: functionally inadequate, creatively redundant and artistically bankrupt. Marketed to parents as a safe Christmas option and aimed at children in the hope of drawing them into a 30-year-old IP in order to secure the next decade's worth of dead-eyed spin-offs, there are few thrills to be found amongst its dim stars and weary wars. In contrast to its joyous LEGO-based cousin, Republic Heroes is persuasive evidence that many videogames have no ambition beyond mere product, existing merely to expand a brand without enriching it, to widen a mythology without deepening it. It's cynical, tiring and sells our children short of what they should expect from a publisher with as much experience and expertise as LucasArts and its associated developers.
Based on the anime-through-a-Nickelodeon-lens series of the same name, Republic Hero's story and visuals are at least consistent with those of its inspiration. Divided into a sizeable three-act campaign, missions are generally no longer than 10 minutes apiece, dividing play between characters such as Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka Tano and Obi-Wan Kenobi to provide multiple perspectives on the unfolding drama. As fan service to Clone Wars aficionados there are numerous references to plot points from the cartoon series and all of the characters share their sound-a-like TV voice actors, ensuring that the premise at least is not without some niche merit.
In mechanical terms, the structure is little more than a device to allow play to switch between the lightsabre-wielding Jedi and the gun-toting clone troopers, the two main character types found in the game. This helps to keep the basic combat from feeling more immediately repetitive than it is. When playing as a Jedi-style character, you wield a lightsabre and enjoy a Force 'push' move to stun or shunt enemies around environments, off ledges and so on. Character animations lack basic fluidity, thereby defying the encouragement of a score multiplier to attempt stringing together combos. The result is a stilted flow of combat that lacks either the smooth acrobatics of The Force Unleashed or the solid workmanlike unfussiness of the LEGO Star Wars titles.
One of the game's core features during combat is the ability to jump atop enemy droids and impale them with your lightsabre in order to temporarily ride them around, making use of their abilities. This works reasonably well for droids with lasers, but less so when applied to those with more ambitious powers, such as laying mines or spinning at high speed into obstacles. The over-reliance on puzzles that simply require you to jack a droid, use its ability once to open a door and then move on soon becomes tiresome. More enjoyable is when play shifts to a clone trooper character and the game shifts to a twin-stick, Geometry Wars shooter style. A secondary grenade move allows you to angle explosions into pockets of enemies, before mopping up the remainder with your blaster, but again there's a fuzziness to the aiming that niggles and dulls what little excitement might otherwise have been.
The platforming controls are particularly weak. The developer's implemented a system to aid jumps so that as you aim your character towards a platform you're automatically pulled onto a sure-footing, in a similar way to how Halo gently tugs your reticule towards enemies during firefights.