The Force is Strong...
Lego games are great fun; they're usually packed with tiny homage's and Easter-eggs that run the gamut of the show or movie they're based on. The cream of the crop though, for me, has always been the Lego Star Wars series. So when I heard that Clone Wars (Lego Star Wars III) was coming, based on the hit CGI series...I couldn't wait...
What you have here, in my opinion is the best Lego Star Wars game to date and the best Lego game so far.
It follows (tongue in cheek) the plot of the TV series fairly well, with some nice twists and turns based on the show and some hidden extras that are worth exploring every inch of the game to discover.
If you're familiar with the Lego games, you can jump right in. If you're not, the tutorial level set on Genosis gives you a good sample of the various things that you'll be expected to do to progress to the end of the level's goal. What really sets this one apart from its peers is that Traveller's Tales have taken their old formula and given it a shake up, adding some new gameplay mechanics and elements into the game then putting them together nearly seamlessly.
To begin with, there's the new hub which is a full rendition of a Republic command ship, the iconic wedge-shaped (almost Star Destroyer) vessel. This is packed with hidden secrets and places to explore, unlocked when you have collected enough Gold Bricks from the various story mode missions on offer. The game's story mode will probably take you around 10-12 hours to complete and then there are hidden missions and special battles that will add even more value to the replay. You can also unlock characters by walking up to them and buying them with the studs you've collected.
Collecting the mini-kits, red bricks, gold bricks and bonuses provides hours of fun.
There's also another hub which is focussed on the Dark Side, you will need to explore to find it...
Story mode missions are split into chapters, based on a particular sequence from the show and they are longer than previous Lego games. This is down to the mix of gameplay styles and the unique (to the Lego games) tagging system that lets you switch to another group of characters elsewhere in the level. Sometimes your core group of say, Anakin, Padme, Obi Wan and R2 are split from the main by an in-game event.
The two groups must work together to try and solve their own set of puzzles, of which the game packs in a nice amount of environmental and power based variants, as well as some specific force-based puzzles that require you to manipulate objects and combine them to make a statue or put panels back in a particular door. Anakin and Padme may well be stuck on the wrong side of a corridor that needs Obi Wan and R2 to shut down the electrical field for, before they can progress and so on.
Or Anakin may be flying a support role in a fighter outside in a big space battle, blowing bits off the Separatist Cruiser whilst his Lego pals sabotage it inside.
These elements are combined to excellent effect in the game's various levels, and they break up the play nicely. They also make some fun 2-player cooperative moments as the dynamic split-screen works really well. You are still building Lego objects, getting past locked doors and doing everything you've done in the previous Lego games...only in this one you're doing it much smoother and with more variety.
Then of course there are space battles, these are epic affairs that allow you to fly a variety of Lego ships in conflict against the enemy. However it's not all shooting the bad guys, there's a good amount of on-foot action to be had since many of them feature landing pads where you must park the ship and solve a particular puzzle before you can do something else. These activities range from activating a torpedo dispenser so you can shoot the key points of a battleship, to cutting power to its shields so your allies can wade in and finish it off for example.
You can freely land at these pads during a battle and explore, many of them contain things for characters to do in Free Play (unlocked once you finish that story mission) and can unlock bonuses, extra characters and of course mini-kits.
The space battles are great fun and they capture the feel of the show perfectly.
Another new feature to the series is the ground battles, these are an RTS-lite style of play where you build and defend a variety of bases against Separatist assault. Usually whilst trying to achieve a key goal in story mode at least, such as blowing up a shielded power generator or capturing an enemy general after you whittle down his defences. These bases are bought with Lego studs collected on the battlefield by destroying enemy buildings, units and vehicles.
It's a simple and effective way of adding more spice to the gameplay, it also fits in nicely with Star Wars and shows that TT aren't above taking risks in the Lego games core play innovation wise. You can build up to 3 things on one base and you have a limited amount of construction options until you capture more bases from the enemy, once you do that your build options increase and you can build more advanced structures.
The game does a good job of teaching you how to play by example; it isn't long before you work it out, it isn't frustrating at all and various age-ranges should be able to enjoy the play.
It isn't just Jedi that have a role in the Clone Wars of course; there are a variety of Clone Troopers and their associated skills. Such as the Heavy, that can fire rockets, or the Clone Gunner who has a rapid fire gun to use to destroy certain Lego objects in the game's levels. Gold objects require rapid fire and silver require explosives.
You can tag to any character quickly in your group, using their powers to solve a puzzle. The Clone Commander has a radio that he can use to order groups of Clone Troopers with. You simply press the B button next to the group that you are allowed to order (shown by a red radio wave icon over their heads) and they'll form up. You can then target enemies and other objects for destruction.
This works really well in the Assault battles of the game.
Combat has been refined and it feels more cinematic now, there are several close up moves and Jedi look fantastic in motion.
The TT Lego engine was looking a bit dated, but not now...this iteration has a nice level of detail and uses semi-realistic backgrounds along with Lego objects to provide the various environments. The colours are bright, the palette is superb and the textures are excellent. It captures the feel of Lego and the show perfectly. What really stand out are the new lighting effects, especially when you are exploring a dark cave in one of the missions. The Clone Troopers have helmet lights and they shine out with a muzzy beam that looks great in the dark.
These kinds of lighting effects are usually seen in FPS and other genre games; it's nice to see the Lego games stepping up their graphical appeal.
There is a great sense of character to the Lego characters, especially many of the Clones that have specific idle animations and are too damn cute for words. The combat animations are excellent this time around, the feel of the sabre battles is superb and there are even sequences where you rapidly tap X when you get a lock between blades, Duel of the Fates style. It all adds up to a really great moving game.
The cut-scenes of course are full of tongue-in-cheek humour and help to drive the story on, using visual gags to replace a lot of the dialogue and exposition.
As usual the AI is really only there to give life to the characters that follow you, the player controlled character being the hero is really the only one that can kill the bad guys. Yet the AI isn't bad, it'll follow you and use the various powers to effect if it requires two or more characters to do something. There's not much of that in this game though, so TT have learned that not all of us can play with a friend on the couch and solve the puzzles together. Enemy AI is pretty decent too and the various boss battles are fun.
There's some low level physics here, some objects roll and have mass/weight. Nothing really fancy, it doesn't need to be.
Having a huge sound library to draw from is a bonus, everything is here that you'd expect from the hum of a lightsabre to the zap of a blaster.
Lots of iconic Star Wars music from the show and so forth, it's good stuff.
There's no script per-se, but the voice actors are there doing their jobs with the Lego-speech regardless. From the various noises they make, they're having just as much fun as they did working on the shows.
Split-screen is available, no online play sadly. There's co-op local and something called Arcade Mode, where you can battle against a second player. The game is top notch fun with a friend and highly recommended especially in story mode, where you can join forces in space battles, on the ground and on foot. Good stuff!
The dynamic camera lets you split up from your buddy and prevents the ledge issue from previous games, where one player would fall off and die because the other pulled them too close to a ledge by accident (or design).
Take that, Clanker!
This is the best Lego game to date, the best Lego Star Wars game and superb fun. If you're into the Lego series and this series specifically, get the game - it won't let you down.