- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Here’s a look at some hardware and software that’s available: Star Wars: Clone Wars, from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment for DVD-enabled computers and home entertainment centers, $19.99, and Star Wars: Republic Commando, from LucasArts for Xbox, rated T: content suitable for ages 13 and older, $49.99.

Fans eagerly awaiting the final cinematic chapter of George Lucas’ ode to the Skywalker clan will find some comfort in a pair of multimedia presentations bridging the gap between the most recent film and “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,” arriving in May.

First, new to DVD is the magnificent 20-episode run of director Genndy Tartakovsky’s animated coverage of the battle between the Republic and Separatist forces. The awesome presentation seamlessly puts together all of the three-minute segments, which originally ran on the Cartoon Network over the past two years, while offering them in a pristine THX digitally mastered sound-and-video format.

Within the minisaga, viewers saw Jedi knights such as Ki Adi Mundi, Kit Fisto, Yoda, Mace Windu and, of course, Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi in extended combat sequences. The explosive battles pitted the Jedi against Count Dooku’s metallic minions, the Sith-loving bounty hunter named Asajj Ventress and General Grievous, a cybernetic commander to be seen in “Revenge of the Sith.”

Additionally, a nice selection of bonuses is crammed onto the sole disc, including an optional director’s commentary from Mr. Tartakovsky, a seven-minute backgrounder on the decision to animate the Clone Wars, plenty of concept art and storyboards, along with a playable level of the Xbox video game Star Wars: Republic Commando.

The Clone Wars cartoon also introduced a new level of Clone Troopers to the Star Wars universe, far superior soldiers and tacticians than their biogenetically created brethren. Becoming a part of their lives via the gaming simulation on the DVD should tantalize fans into dropping the cash and plunging into the full version of the visual maelstrom.

In Republic Commando, which plays like a watered-down version of Halo or Rainbow Six, a single player in a first-person perspective tackles three massive campaigns over 14 levels as Delta 38, the leader of a trio of elite troopers. The troopers are sent on missions to undermine the battle plans of the evil Separatists while terminating hostile species and droids who get in the way.

Commanding fellow troops could not be easier. The player targets an important object, which then gives off a holographic blue hue, and he clicks a button to direct a specialist to handle the situation. Of course, Delta 38 gets to see plenty of his own action as he wields numerous weapons and can recover plenty of upgrades and munitions to make taking out super battle droids, advanced dwarf spider droids and the toughest of the reptilian Trandoshan mercenaries manageable.

Quick deaths do not occur on the squad — health-restoring stations are located at too many strategic places throughout the game. In a clever addition, if Delta 38 goes down after being hit, players see a pseudo-psychedelic, dizzying world of glowing reds until a fellow mate can administer a shot of healing bacta fluid.

The team eventually travels from the arid planet of Geonosis to a massive tech-loaded Separatist Core spaceship to the Wookiee world of Kashyyk while assassinating, sabotaging and extracting their way to no glory — remember that these are the grunt warriors of the Republic, who have been created to fight and die on command.

As a lover of the Star Wars mythos, I enjoyed being privy to parts of the Kamino Cloning Facility where the troopers are birthed and trained, seeing the home of Chewbacca and fighting General Grievous’ bodyguards. I really appreciated that actor Temuera Morrison, who portrayed Jango Fett in the movies, voiced Delta 38 because his character’s DNA was chosen as the genetic base for Republic’s Clone army.

The high artificial intelligence of the squad, abundance of bacta to heal and simple control schemes make the game a perfect choice for devoted Star Wars fans who occasionally enjoy console-driven entertainment.

Those cursing the brevity of the title will be mildly satisfied with the game’s modes devoted to multiplayer action, ranging from a four-player split screen to a 16-player Xbox Live broadband melee.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail ([email protected] times.com).

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