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Star Wars: Republic Commando

Review By:  Tim Mitchell

Developer:  LucasArts
Publisher:  LucasArts
# of Players:  1-4
Genre:  Squad-based FPS
ESRB:  Teen
Online Play:  Yes
Accessories:  Memory Unit, Xbox Live, System Link
Date Posted: 

5-2-05

This is an action game with Wookies, droids and blasters. Not terribly unusual, LucasArts pumps out all sorts of games using the Star Wars license. However, this would be an awesome game without the Wookies, droids and blasters. The gameplay, combining frantic shootouts with simple and robust squad tactics, can stand quite well on its own. The fact that it’s attached to a very popular license and utilizes it extremely well is just gravy.

The first layer of the Republic Commando experience is simply a well polished FPS, complete with melee attacks, sniping and several types of grenades, each suitable to a different situation. The enemies you’ll face are varied and dangerous, from Trandoshan mercenaries to the deadly rolling Droidekas. You’ll also tangle with the fearsome MagnaGuards several times, henchmen of Revenge of the Sith villain General Grievous. In addition to whatever enemy weapons you might pick up along the way, your arsenal consists of a blaster pistol and the mighty DC-17 rifle, which converts quickly from machine gun to sniper rifle to grenade launcher with a mere tap of the directional pad.

What really pushes Republic Commando to the next level, however, is your squad. Throughout most of the game three other clone commandos’ll accompany you; who prove to be so versatile that you’ll come to hate the times you find yourself without their support. Though your squad mates are intelligent enough to seek cover and attack enemies on their own, you can issue commands to direct their firepower. Simple commands are useful at all times, things like “form up” or, “secure this area”. The best use of their talents, however, lies in maneuver points. These are specific spots, appearing constantly throughout levels, where you can instruct a commando to perform a special action. It might be a good sniping position, or a spot where demolition charges need to be set. You need only highlight the maneuver point in your crosshairs and tap “A” to give the order. These decisions must be made quickly, in the heat of battle. It makes for a very unique and tactically rich gameplay experience. When confronted with new threats you’ll find yourself not attacking first, but quickly checking the status of your squad and directing them to carry out whatever orders will most assist you.

Republic Commando also sports one of the most unique and original interpretations of the Star Wars universe seen in a video game. Scale is skewed from what you may be used to, to reflect this galaxy as seen through the eyes of an infantry soldier. Enemies are tough looking and threatening; and the allied Wookies are enormous, angry giants, tossing around battle droids like toys. This is all presented in a very gritty and slick graphics style, with good animation and wonderful special effects. Of particular note is the “visor wiper”. The game features a HUD encased within the trooper’s visor, not unlike Metroid Prime. When your visor becomes obscured by accumulated rain, or, just as often, bug guts from a Geonosian warrior that got too close, a small beam sweeps across the screen, clearing your field of view. There are also some flying droid enemies that cause your visor to short out and get static-y when nearby, a technique probably lifted in whole and without shame from the aforementioned GameCube title.

Each of your Delta Squad commandos has a distinct voice. The in-game speech is quite good, and the witty one-liners your squad tosses out in the middle of a firefight are classic. The sound effects are pretty much on par. Like I’ve said before, if there’s one thing LucasArts knows by now, it’s how blasters are supposed to sound. The music is very distinctive; prominently featuring some original tunes with great chorus work as well as lots of classic Star Wars tunes. A music video from indie-rock group Ash is also included, performing the game’s credit theme.

Sadly, the production quality of the single player game did not carry over into multiplayer. It is, in a word, crap. Completely. I really don’t know what happened there. The pacing is poor for multiplayer matches, with characters moving too fast. You can only carry one weapon at a time, largely limiting you to whatever you happen to run across. There are a grand total of two multiplayer skins to choose from, one for each team. In short, it is a very, very basic FPS deathmatch, only without any fun added in. Don’t let it deter you, some games are really out there just for some fantastic one on one playtime, and Republic Commando serves up in that regard.

Highs:

  • Very interesting, original interpretation of the Star Wars universe presented in impressive graphics

  • Good voice work supporting some really great dialogue.

  • Easy to use squad tactics and excellent level design make for some incredible battles.

  • Switching between modes on the multi-role DC-17 rifle is very intuitive and convenient.

  • Nice mix of enemies that all require different tactics

Lows:

  • It really would be better with no multiplayer at all
  • Campaign can be a bit on the short side
  • Not much in the way of replay value, unless you can somehow stomach the online play
  • I’ll admit, I was hoping to fight Grievous, but he makes only a brief cameo to tease you.

Final Verdict: 

You walk into a room, and suddenly a large machine is dropped into the center of it, a dispenser which starts pumping out heavily armored Super Battle Droids. Quickly you task Sev with a convenient sniper position nearby, then direct Scorch to set a charge on the damned thing. With SBDs popping out right next to him, he’s not gonna last long, so you task Fixer to cover him while you slap on the grenade launching anti-armor attachment to your DC-17 and get ready to start greeting. This is the essence of Republic Commando, quick and multilevel thinking in rapidly changing tactical situations. With not much replay value to speak of, it may just be a rental for some, but it is very much a must-play for anyone who likes FPS.

Overall Score: 8.7

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