Star Wars: Republic Commando
The words “Star Wars” still remind me of the infamous Darth Vader, with lasersounds accompanied space battles en the well-known Force of which I’m trying to use the “mind control” for several years already on nice-looking young blondes. Equally set for failure as the search for midichlorians is the quest for one of these elements in Star Wars: Republic Commando. That this isn’t a problem for making a great game is proven by LucasArts with their latest shooter.
This time you get to work as a commando from the Republic in the era before these heroes became under the influence of the Dark Side. Of course, the fans will by now already realise that this game is situated during the Clone Wars of the prequels. What you may also know is that during your quest you’ll be accompanied – and helped – by three other cloned and very hard trained soldiers.
Luckily, your colleagues contain just a bit more personality than the average droideka and have their own character and specialties. One is great at sniping, the other is the whizzkid that can take on any electronic obstacle, while number three mostly occupies himself with explosions.
Simplicity is the best word to define the way you control your rugged companions. The interface is a real joy as with only one button you can assign your guys to certain positions from where they can snipe or place health stations or explosives. Just as easy is making them do certain moves, concentrate fire on one opponent or having them follow up more general guidelines (attack, defend, stick together). On top of that they’ve got an A.I. that is of a level that we hardly ever get to see with virtual team mates. They move intelligently, cover you when necessary, locate enemies, and most of all: they don’t act like chicken without a head. It all feels realistic and you’ll never be frustrated by any unlogical behaviour. The resulting way of how you enter rooms, defend positions, hack doors or blow up walls also feels real and satisfying.
The tactical part is quite alright, unfortunately this also comes with a disadvantage: the levels are very linear and all commands are dependant of the possibilities as they were created by the developers. For instance, beforehand there was determined where someone can sit down to snipe: an icon will nicely show you where that’s possible. The same goes for placing explosives, opening doors, and so on. This of course results in a feeling that you’re quite limited and makes the game become repetitive.
Of course, tactics isn’t everything. You yourself have to do some of the fighting aswell. To say it short and simple: this feels almost the same as in Halo. The same way of using weapons and grenades, the same combination of automatically recharging shield and health bar, and an almost identical feel. This isn’t a negative thing however as everything has been worked out up to the smallest details and feels very natural.
Your HUD is portrayed beautifully on the visor of your helmet through which you can easily read all informations (ammo, waypoints, team mates status). The weapons arsenal all in all isn’t renewing or impressive. You’ve got a gun with unlimited ammo and a blaster which you’ll use most of the time. The latter can later on also be used as sniper rifle and rocket launcher. Also the melee attack (with which you can knock someone out efficiently and gruesome) is back again and you’ll be able to borrow some more exotic weapons from defeated opponents. We would have loved to have been able to get our hands on somewhat more spectacular hardware but that probably would have cursed with the “realistic” setting.
As hinted before, you can replenish your health to a safe level by using Bacta Stations that are available, well… everywhere. If you would die anyway, you can order your guys to revive you, proceed with the mission, or restart from the last checkpoint. If they have the chance, they will also use defibrillators to revive other squad members and bring them back to the world of the living.
Together with the decent interface, the many similarities with Halo, the omnipresent tips an clues, and the easy to follow waypoints make that you’ll know the controls within no time. Some less optimistic souls may interprete this as “too easy” and maybe they’re right up to a certain level. Especially on the tactical level there’s too little need for cerebral activity as the game most of all tries to keep the “fun” factor high. Something in which it succeeds perfectly!
The challenge needs to be found with the opponents that you have to take on with your complete team before being able to overcome them and the sometimes limited supply of ammo. Also the bigger battles where you face an overwhelming amount of enemies and need to relay on your team’s support are challenging and without a doubt the most memorable parts of the game.
Now that we’re commenting details I can just as well tell about the other small downpoints. The singleplayer campaign is short, too short. About 10 hours which unfortunately isn’t an exception anymore these days. Because of the linearity we can’t really talk about replayability either and the unlockable extra’s (by now I’m really starting to hate these things) aren’t so great that I want to invest ten hours of my life in something that was repetitive from the start.
The multiplayer options (split screen and XBox Live) aren’t so great either. Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Assault and Capture the Flag are present for 16 players but there’s nothing we haven’t seen before in, let’s say, Halo 2 or Star Wars: Battlefront. Strangely enough there’s no co-op either and that’s extremely sad and even incomprehensible seeing that this game would be ideal to be played with four (or even 2 or 3) . The MP-modes that are present make it clear that the gameplay falls a bit short: the action quickly becomes a bit standard and even boring. When you can’t enjoy the fantastic and typical Star Wars atmosphere which is overwhelmingly present in the offline part, the game collapses like a cardhouse.
The unequalled atmosphere is portrayed on your screen mostly through three things. First of all the great graphics. The three worlds (Geonosis, a ship and Kashyyyk) you get to visit are beautifully made with nice settings, decent effects and lots of variations. Also the models of the commandos and their opponents may be seen, just like the animations that look life-like. Loving details like the window-wipers that take care of the dirt and blood on your visor after you’ve made mashed potatoes from an opponent or the noise when certain enemies are getting close to you make the whole look very firm.
Second element is the terrific sound with peaces of music that comes straight out of the prequels along with some less known tunes. The accompanying effects also seem to have come from the movies and immediately suck you into the hectic action.
Last but certainly not least are the voices of your squad. This is a real peace of work and without exaggeration one of the best I’ve ever heard on XBox. On top of that the comments are often very funny and really give you the feeling like you’re hanging around with three different characters.
Star Wars: Republic Commando is an excellently finished game, with great graphics and exemplary sound. Unfortunately despite the truly fantastic interface, the ease-of-use and strong A.I things haven’t been worked out or are challenging enough to make the total experience perfect. A true suggestion for people who love tactical shooters and the Star Wars universe but definitely not a classic in the genre. Don’t let that stop you from enjoying the ten hours of action though! I myself am already looking forward to a sequel.