E3: Get a preview of Star Wars The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes

SCI FI Wire took a look at Star Wars The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes, LucasArts' upcoming third-person action game based on the Cartoon Network TV series, at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles on Tuesday and discovered a new story in the same style as the show.

Everything from the characters to the animation style and art assets to the scriptwriters and voice actors is replicated in the game. (LucasArts worked directly with Lucasfilm Animation, which shares the same facility in San Francisco.)

The game's story bridges the gap between seasons one and two of the television show. The story introduces a new enemy who has got his hands on a super-weapon capable of destroying an entire solar system. It's your job to get it back and save the galaxy. Since this is based on the series, it's obviously targeted at a younger audience. We didn't get to play, but we did get a demo.

There are two distinct styles of gameplay here: Jedi combat and Clone combat. The Jedi mission we saw begins on a space station called Juma-9, which is an old asteroid facility that, during the Clone Wars, was changed into a communications outpost.

You have a choice of eight Jedi heroes. Some are familiar, such as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, and some are new to fans of the movies but were introduced in the show. Jedi mode focuses on hand-to-hand combat, with lightsaber and Force attacks. You can affect objects with your attacks as well. All attacks are accomplished with one button, making it simple to get the hang of. There are, of course, collectibles in the game. The blue orbs around the environment allow you to unlock secrets such as different costumes and maps.

The gameplay really does look exactly like the series, especially the super-acrobatic movements. We saw a scene in which Obi-Wan attacks a group of droids (the annoying ones that continually say "roger roger") and destroys an attack droid to open a bridge to the next room. I asked whether you could fall off, and I was told that, to ensure that the game is accessible to all ages, things like that don't happen. It seems pretty straightforward and, actually, a lot of fun.

A new feature is something called "droid-jacking," which allows you to jump on the back of a droid and use him against his peers.

The Clone combat begins on a previously unseen planet that will figure prominently in the new season of the show. You have a choice of 10 clones, six we've seen and four we haven't. The gameplay here is ranged and focuses more on finding and utilizing weapons such as blasters, mini-guns, thermal detonators and rocket launchers. You even get to use a jet pack to help you move around.

The developers stressed the cross-generational appeal of Star Wars and explained that this is meant to be a game the whole family can play together. The Clone Wars supports both single-player and two-person multiplayer modes. Another trend we've been seeing this year is the ability to drop in and out of multiplayer mode without stopping and restarting the game. There are always multiple characters playing at one time, single-player mode pairing you with AI bots. Another feature of the game is the "instant challenge," basically optional, timed mini-games that can be played against the AI or other players.

We saw the Xbox 360 version, but the game is also on the way for the PlayStation 3, the PSP, the Wii, the DS, the PC and, in North America, the PS2. We were told the Wiimote is fully integrated into the Wii version, but, ultimately, gameplay is the same. Star Wars The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes will be released in September. No word on whether we'll see Ziro the Hutt.

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