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Star Wars: Republic Commando (Windows)

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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
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Written by  :  Terrence Bosky (5234)
Written on  :  Oct 09, 2005
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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Summary

The Trenches of the Clone Wars

The Good

War! The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute. Several thousand solar systems have declared their intentions to leave the Republic. There are heroes on both sides. Evil is everywhere. And so on.

Republic Commando covers three “Clone War” campaigns leading into Episode III. Bringing squad-based combat into the Star Wars Universe, the game puts the player in charge of Delta 38, “Boss.” 38 leads three other clone Commandos on missions where finesse is required instead of legions of troopers. Fixer, Delta 40, is the team’s hacker and second-in-command. Scorch, Delta 62, is the unit’s demolitions expert and jokester. And Sev, Delta 07, is the resident badass. Together, they possess the skills needed to squash the Separatist uprising.

To some extent, Republic Commando plays like a standard first-person shooter with a really good cooperative AI. Even without issuing orders, Delta team members engage the enemy, seek cover, and use nearby Bacta tanks. Commands mapped to the function buttons set the rules of engagement, telling the squad to defend an area, search and destroy, reform on 38’s position, or to cancel the previous order.

Squad tactics come to the forefront in terms of using the environment. Delta 38 can issue orders to breach a door or to have it sliced open for silent entry. The HUD on his visor identifies good areas to snipe or toss grenades, and he can tell a Commando to use those stations. Fallen Commandos can be revived with a Bacta injection either by 38 or as a command (and Commandos will revive each other on their own, when they aren’t under fire). Delta 38 can also order teammates to man turrets or to combine their fire on a single target.

From the very beginning, Republic Commando has intense combat sequences. As soon as Delta 38 drops into the Geonosian arena he’s in the middle of a war. Clone troopers engage Battle Droids. Geonosian warriors decimate the front lines. The skies overhead are filled with Republic ships attacking Separatist forces and Republic AT-TEs march in the background.

Ready for battle, the Commandos are armed with the DC-17m blaster rifle (with optional sniper and Anti-Armor attachments) and the DC-15s recharging sidearm blaster. Commandos also carry thermal and ion detonators and Delta 38 can pick up other weaponry: Geonosian beam weapons, Wookiee bowcasters, and more. Facing waves of overwhelming enemies, they will need all they have.

Republic Commando has the obvious droid and Geonosian units, but they present more challenge than they do in the movies. Battle Droids are still the weakest units, bursting apart with a few well placed blaster bolts, but any of the higher level droids require real effort (and concentrated fire) to bring down. Even worse are the droid dispensing units which churn out droids until they are blown up with explosives. Here’s where the real teamwork kicks in: one squad member has to rig an explosive pack to the dispensing unit while the others focus their weapons on the droids attacking him.

Later levels of the game pit the player against revamped Trandoshans and Elite Droid units serving General Grievous. The Trandoshans are a far cry from Empire Strikes Back’s stiff Bossk. These reptilian slavers are fast and lethal and are just as inclined to rush Delta Squad with swords as they are to open fire with their repeaters. If the Clone Commandos resemble a stylized Clone Troopers, then the Trandoshans are stylized versions of this standard Star Wars nemesis. Also stylized are the Wookiees of Republic Commando. They tower over the clones and (sadly) are large enough to provide ample cover should they fall in battle.

After resolving matters on Geonosis, which includes taking on Super Battle Droids and Droidekias (Destroyer Droids) in a Trade Federation Core Ship, Delta Squad investigates an abandoned Republic Capital ship and leads the Wookiee revolt against slavers and Separatists on Kashyyyk. The three campaigns are composed of a series of linked missions. Typically the goal of a mission just involves proceeding to the next area, but some missions involve eliminating key members of the enemy, destroying certain obstacles, or rescuing captured allies.

Star Wars games are known for their stunning sound effects, but Republic Commando has stellar voice acting as well. Republic Commando, far and away, is the funniest Star Wars game I’ve played: lightening what could be a dark and grim setting with gallows humor. Some of the best lines come when Delta 38 dies and waits to be revived: “Maybe he’s a copy of a copy of a copy,” or “Is he from our tank?” The playful needling carries over between squad mates, creating a real sense of character.

The Bad

Compared to other squad-based shooters, Republic Commando is a little thin when it comes to tactics and can be a little too user friendly. Mentioned above, Delta 38 picks up on environmental hotspots where snipers or grenadiers can be placed. First, why can’t 38 determine where he wants snipers or grenadiers rather than waiting for this prepackaged places? Second, these hotspots appear as crosshair or grenades in the HUD and also show the ghostly form of a Commando in position there. Likewise, breaching a door brings up ghostly forms of the Commandos ready to breach the door. This wouldn’t be as annoying in the earlier, tutorial-style levels, but after breaching the fifth door, we understand what the units will do.

Republic Commando doesn’t cover much new ground. Based on its release date, it seems like it was more of an Episode III teaser. It’s short at three campaigns (and linear) and really doesn’t show us anything we haven’t seen in the movies. The Clone Wars covered a variety of planets (as we see in Episode III’s Godfather montage), but here we only get another videogame representation of Geonosis, another representation of a capital ship, and another representation of Kashyyyk (handled better in KOTOR).

Finally, a lot of effort is spent differentiating the four Commandos, but in terms of in-game use, they all seem to have the same abilities. Fixer doesn’t seem to be faster slicing a door, Scorch doesn’t seem to be faster rigging explosives, and Sev doesn’t seem more lethal than any other Commando (including 38, the player).

The Bottom Line

With no opening crawl and no Jedi to be found, Republic Commando is, defiantly, not your typical Star Wars game. While the game play is light on the tactics, it’s heavy on the action and the core mechanics work well. I hope this game is the start of a new franchise (the mobile Republic Commando: Order 66 aside), but I think Episode III washes those hopes away.