Reviewed: April 30, 2005
Released: March 1, 2005
As the Star Wars franchise nears its theatrical conclusion in just a few short weeks it is comforting to know that the legacy will live on (and on and on) in video games. After all, George has created an entire universe that can, in no way, be fully explored in a mere six movies.
Star Wars: Republic Commando takes the franchise on a unique ride, this time putting you in the body armor and helmet of a clone warrior, a squad leader no less, and drops you right into the fracas on Geonosis that we witnessed in Episode II. You’ll get to fight your way through 15 intense levels leading right up to events in Episode III. Don’t worry, there aren’t any movies spoilers in the game, but there are a few “teasers” like the giant Wookie warriors and the formidable guards of General Grievous.
Obviously, being a clone bred for battle we have little backstory to contend with. We merely follow orders as they come through our comlink. There is little emotion and at times it might seem hard to identify with the lead characters. Ultimately, your driving force throughout the game is survival and the survival of your team, not because you care about them, but because you need them to finish the missions.
Republic Commando is a squad-based game, much like the Rainbow Six games, only perhaps not as tactical as the Clancy series. You are the leader of Delta Squad, the best of the best, and hopefully you can maintain that fine tradition once you take charge. Your elite group has not only been bred for battle, they have been designed to work as a cohesive unit, each with skills that complement the rest of the team. This is where the gameplay of Republic Command really shines.
Delta Squad is comprised of Boss (that’s you), Fixer, a hacker and all-around computer expert, Scorch, the explosives expert, and Sev, the silent and deadly sniper that can deliver a bullet from another zip code. Each of these men come into play through the use of stunning A.I. and one of the most intuitive squad command systems implemented to date.
Control is good and thankfully the PC and Xbox versions were independently developed so there are no porting issues here, but oddly enough this is one of the few FPS games that actually plays better on the console. I never thought I would say that. The game features all the traditional mouse and keyboard FPS controls we are used to along with a context-sensitive command system whereby you point at certain area indicated by a holographic images of a teammate and order your men to “assume the position”. Need to hack a panel? Point at the terminal and Fixer will get to work. Want to breech a door? Point at the door and the entire team will flank it and force entry in true commando style.
When you aren’t issuing orders the team performs admirably using reactive A.I. that has them adapting to the situation as it chances. They will take cover and engage the enemy pretty much on their own. This means you seldom have to baby-sit them, and the only real interaction required of you is for key gaming moments as indicated by those holographic trigger points.
Your squad will follow your lead, keeping the pace changing up weapons, even throw a grenade or two. They will heal when needed although you may want to force them to a Bacta station, as they tend to wait until the last minute. If you go down they will actually clear the room of enemies before coming to your aid. It’s truly a remarkable A.I. and command system.
In addition to the holographic interaction points you can issue supplemental orders and control the overall disposition of your squad. This is the same premise as the command cross that has been used in just about every Star Wars game in the past decade whereby you can posture your men with commands like “Form Up”, “Search and Destroy”, and “Secure Area”.
There are a few vehicles you can operate in Republic Command but none of them come close to the fun you will have in the six unique turrets. You can either operate these powerful weapons yourself or order your team to assume control. Then you can have some real fun.
The game has a great balance to it. All of the weapons serve a valid function and are definitely more useful against certain enemy types. The difficulty is tweaked for squad combat and tactics so running in lone wolf (which is actually hard to do given the A.I.) is foolhardy.
There are three campaigns that span 15 missions and 8 unique settings. The game is full of scripted events to keep things exciting, at least the first time you play. It can get a bit predictable on future replays, but no more so than Doom 3, Half-Life 2, or any of those other epic titles that rely on scripted game advancement.
The cutscenes appear to be a processed version of game graphics. They aren’t as stunning as pre-rendered movies and they aren’t as crisp as the actual gameplay. Perhaps it’s just weird seeing the game graphics from a viewpoint other than my visor. The movies are all shot with great cinematic flair and movie-style camera angles and cuts.
The level design is outstanding, both indoors and out. The opening battle sequence on Geonosis is crazy-intense with drones swooping down and attacking while giant combat robots stomp across the desert laying waste to anything in their path. Once you go inside the game turns into something that looks a bit like Halo only a lot more diverse and all with an underlying Star Wars theme.
Republic Command makes the most out of the latest video card technology with stunning texture work, detailed character design and animation, and plenty of flash gunfire, explosions, smoke, shimmering force fields, and just about anything else we have seen (and a few things we haven’t) in the Star Wars universe. There is a bit of blood in the game but it's all alien-green.
The visual interface is outstanding, and your HUD overlay is easily explained with your helmet visor that keeps updated information around the borders and overlays holographic interaction points and team location data in real time. Your various vision modes allow you to see in a variety of unique ways, not unlike Sam Fisher, and there is a cool electronic windshield wiper that clears the blood splatter from your visor.
I did enjoy the unique system of indicating where I could order my men. Whether I was hacking a computer, throwing a grenade, or assuming a sniper position, a blue shimmering holograph indicated the ideal placement and once I ordered my man there it turned green so I knew my order would be carried out and I could move on to other matters.
The voice acting is really good but also a bit “off” if you have a keen ear and some common sense. All of the clone warriors are…well, clones, born, raised, and trained in the same facility, so it stands to reason they would all sound alike. While I can accept the fact that these soldiers will developer their own personalities over time to fit with their chosen specialty, I have to question different accents and voices, at least from a logical standpoint.
From a gaming perspective, it would have been really boring to have one guy do all the voices for the entire army, especially given the nature and quantity of voice chatter and humorous banter that is going on throughout the game. This really helps to liven up the experience and immerse you in the team aspect of Republic Commando.
The music is pure gold and borrows heavily from the John Williams themes from the movies along with some new compositions. All the music flows through the background and movie segments and during the gameplay it cues up to the events driving the action creating a tense emotional backdrop.
Sound effects are solid including all the familiar sounds from the movies including recognizable blaster fire and a few new weapons you probably haven’t heard before. You also have plenty of environmental sounds to breath life into the levels.
Republic Command offers a nice multiplayer component, but for those looking to “humanize” their squad mates, don’t look here. There is no co-op campaign play in Republic Commando. What we are left with are a few multiplayer modes that look and play like they were tacked on just because “we can’t have a game without multiplayer these days”. I say we can, but do what you must.
There is a good selection of merely average multiplayer maps that can host 2-16 commandos in all the standard variations of deathmatch, CTF, and assault modes. If you are a hard core online gamer you will undoubtedly check these modes out then just as quickly move on to something better.
Republic Commando was obviously designed as a solo experience and it does that job admirably. The only true replay value comes from wanting to replay the campaign mode and tring out different strategies and tactics. It might be reason enough to revisit the game a few months down the road after you have forgotten all those intense scripted events, but more than likely most will have moved on to the next latest and greatest title.
Star Wars: Republic Command can best be described as “Rainbow Six Meets Star Wars”. The squad-based gameplay is here but its execution has been greatly simplified making the game much more accessible to the casual gamer and probably a bit insulting to Clancy veterans.
Then again, nobody was promising anything more, and I think Republic Command offers up a unique twist on the Star Wars universe. Given the abundance of Star Wars titles already out there with more on the way, that is no small feat.
Star Wars fans will certainly rejoice in another quality title that allows them to explore a new warrior from the franchise as well as exciting new locations where you will get to meet new and familiar faces and kill them…commando style.