Star Wars Republic Commando - Reviewied
Christopher Lavin - Co-founder
Over the last year or two LucasArts has lifted the Star Wars license out of the malaise of recent years with games
like Knights of the New Republic and Battlefront. Add one more to that list, Star Wars Republic Commando (RC).
At first blush, RC appears to be your run of the mill Unreal-engine powered First Person Shooter (FPS). However, RC is
a refreshing change from the standard FPS. RC combines squad based combat with a visor (ala Metroid) point of view.
In RC you are the lead commando in an elite four man group of clones during the Clone Wars (taking place between
Episode II and Episode III). Your team consists of Fixer the computer expert; Scorch the explosives loving commando; and Sev
the quiet sniper. Each trooper has his own personality that really shines out through com chatter between the commandos.
You never directly control the troops; instead you assign them tasks through a very simple interface. You can give
group commands, like form up, search and destroy, or hold a position or you can assign troopers particular tasks such as
hacking into a computer, or taking up a sniper position. Individual orders can only be given where the developers have placed
command points. Command points are very easy to identify, as a blue halo of a trooper will appear over the command point
letting your know exactly what action takes place at the point. You simply need to click the A button while pointing your
viewer at the command point to assign one of your troopers to the action.
One of the more interesting designer decisions is that the game isn't over until all four troopers are dead. If a
trooper falls you can revive him with a device that looks something like the shock paddles they use to jump start the heart.
If you die you can call a trooper over to revive you. All though at first I thought this was an odd idea, it works out very
well in the game, reinforcing the team aspects of this game.
The trooper AI is quite impressive. Watching your troops take up defensive positions or move through a hallway as a
group, covering each other as they go, really gives you the feel that you are amongst a real commando group and not a bunch of
drones following you around. The commandos fight well, and even take the time to heal themselves during lulls in the combat.
My only real problem with the commando AI is that the commandos will not use their special skills (especially snipping or
explosives) without you assigning them to command points.
This game was obviously designed to be easy to pick up; throughout the game you get the feel that the command
structure could have really been upgraded. For example your troopers can take up snipping and explosive positions behind
various forms of cover (boxes, debris, etc.), however only a handful of these cover positions have command points that you can
assign your troops to. There were several occasions that I really wanted to tell a trooper to take up a sniper position in a
room where there were no command points. In fairness to the developers, if you were allowed to set command points where ever
you wanted this game would have been much easier. Instead you need to analyze the area you are in and come up with a strategy
before engaging the enemy.
You can not make much head way in this game without using your commandos. You can try rushing into a battle guns
blazing but you'll quickly run out of ammo or find yourself praying one of your troopers can get out to you to revive you.
During large scale battles if you don't take the time to place your troopers and pick your targets you will be dead in
seconds. In some of the largest battles, for example a battle in the hanger of Star Destroyer against endless waves of droids,
you need to establish a defensive perimeter and then slowly move forward picking your targets wisely. This really is a
refreshing change from the standard FPS, although the level of strategy isn't incredibly deep it takes the game away from the
standard rush in and kill everything that moves feel. You need your teammates to do their share if you want to succeed. You
find yourself worrying about your team, making sure they recharge their health, even drawing fire away from them.
The game is set on three "world" maps; Genoshia (the site of the start of the Clone Wars), a deserted Star Destroyer,
and the Wookie homeworld of Kashyyyk. Each world is divided up into about five levels. Each level has a primary mission
objective and normally several extra objectives added in throughout the mission. Throughout the levels your encounter
friendly characters that help you in battle. The Wookies were especially fun to watch tear into the droid army.
The levels are very linear, I can count on one hand the number of times I really had a choice between paths. Normally
this kind of rail playing would bother me, but the game keeps your so immersed in the action that you really don't have time
to worry about the fact that you only have one way to go.
For the most part the world environments really added to the action. Fighting battle droids in an open area is very
different then battling them in a narrow hallway. The developer does a good job of mixing up the environments to keep the
action interesting. My only real complaint about the levels is that after hours of battles with ever building numbers of
enemies the game really does end with a whimper. You expect the final chapter of the game to be one massive battle, something
like the Star Wars equivalence of D-Day, instead the game slows down to a crawl with rather simple battles. Based on the way
things ended I get the feeling the developers had something else planned but ran out of time. I hope they get the chance to
remedy this in a second addition of RC.
Although there are probably no more then a dozen enemy models the developers did an excellent job of mixing up the
baddies to keep you interested. The enemy AI is far less robust then your commandos. The enemies do not work as a group, they
are content to march forward and attack. That said they still provide a challenge as a group. In fact some of the enemies
like the spider droid tank are quite difficult all by themselves; you need to work as a team to take those massive tanks down.
The enemies provide a great deal of challenge for you.
The developers took full advantage of the unreal engine the environments feel like the movies. But it is the little
touches that make this game shine. For example, your visor interacts with the world around it. If you knife an enemy up
close your visor actually gets covered with their motor oil or green blood. Thankfully your visor comes with a high tech
window wiper that takes care of the spills.
The classic Star Wars songs are used very well throughout this game, adding to the environments and making your feel
part of the movies. LucasArts even got the actor who played Jango Fett in Episode II to voice the lead trooper. I admit it
was rather odd that none of the other clones had the same accent, but that is easy to overlook. But it was really the chatter
between the troopers that brought you into the game. The troopers loved to chat back and forth even in the midst of a fire
fight. Each troopers personality come to the forefront in these conversations.
With a game like this a multiplayer co-op would seem like a perfect idea. However the developers really did not spend
much time on multiplayer. The most I can say for it, is that it is there. Multiplayer essentially boils down into your
standard FPS multiplayer with rather mediocre maps. You can tell this was added in as merely an afterthought to the superb
single player experience.
I should note that there have been many reports that the PC version of this game is incredibly buggy, having played
the Xbox version I can say that the console version of this game is far better tested. There were a few small problems, like
a trooper getting stuck on a crate, but those problems are few and far between.
Overall the single player game really is a blast to play. Hardcore gamers should be warned that this game is designed
for everyone, so don't expect a great deal of challenge on the standard levels of difficulty. The game should take the
experienced FPS player about ten hours to complete on standard difficulty.
Final Score: 7.5