One of the Most Underrated Games of All Time
Star Wars Republic Commando is unknown to so many people. And that's very sad, considering how good it is. I'm not entirely sure why it never took off. Maybe it just didn't get marketed well enough. Maybe at the time nobody was interested in playing a Star Wars game where you weren't either slicing people up with a lightsaber, or blowing things up in a spaceship. Whatever the reason, the game is shamefully underrated, and with the recent re-release on GOG.com, I figured I'd put out a review to get some more people aware of it. Is it a flawless game? Hell no. It's still a very good one though.
So, what's it all about?
In Republic Commando, you play as an elite clone soldier during the Clone Wars era of the Star Wars universe. I know, it's set in the prequels, but hey, the setting doesn't harm it too badly. Your character is called Boss, or RC-1138, and you lead Delta Squad, which is you and three other commandos you've trained with since birth. After the game finishes explaining all of this, you are immediately thrown into the battle of Geonosis. Geonosis is one of three mini campaigns the game has. That's really about it. The game doesn't really have an over-arching story. It's just you and your squad going around the galaxy and killing stuff. Not much to talk about.
The Characters and the plot
There are really just five actual people in Star Wars: Republic Commando: you, your squad, and your adviser who gives you your objectives. The three other members of your squad are Sev or delta 07, Fixer or delta 40, and scorch, or delta 62. Despite being clones of the exact same guy, all of them have distinctive personalities, which is going to probably be a bit of a head-scratcher for anyone who is not a Star Wars nerd like myself. After all, why would they have personalities if they're just fake people cloned from the same guy who have done nothing but train all their lives? The reason for their personalities is explained in the Republic Commando books that came out alongside the game, but not within the game itself. People should not have to read a book to understand the characters in your game properly. Ignoring that, the characters themselves are pretty solid, and provide some distraction from the action on screen. Sev is a total badass sniper. Fixer is an elite hacker who plays by the rules. Scorch is a demolitions expert who provides the comic relief, along with Sev. These guys aren't the most complex characters in the world, but they make you smile, and their battle chatter puts some life into the fights. Scorch was all in all my favorite character, but Sev had his moments too, including one where he was too busy doing a badass pose and forgot to start the elevator. Moments like these break up the tension of the action scenes, attach you to your squad, and help the pacing of the game a bit. The guy you play as is largely just lifeless, and is easily the weak point of the squad in terms of personality.
As I said before, the plot practically doesn't exist. Each mini campaign has it's own sort of half plot, but these aren't anything to write home about. They largely just serve to move the game along. I will say however, that the game ends on a very disappointing cliffhanger. And since it never got a sequel, that cliffhanger might never get resolved, which really sucks especially for first playthroughs.
I won't lie, the gunplay in Republic Commando is, while still good, not something that I would say to buy the game based on. The guns have no recoil on them, and while sound is okay, the lack of kick really stops it from being anything remarkable. However, the combat is still well designed for a few reasons: first, it actually pushes the player to move around. Standing around in one place and pointing and clicking on bad guys (sound familiar?) is not a great idea in Republic Commando. Why? Well, since your enemies are toughly scaled lizards and metal robots, they take a few shots to bring down. You do too of course, but as a result of their high time to kill, if they see you standing behind a chest high wall, they aren't going to just stand there and play bullet ping-pong with you, they're going to get behind you or flank you. Getting shot by all but the most basic of battle droids hurts. Geonosian Warriors, which are introduced in the first level, can kill you in a few swipes. Super Battle Droids, introduced very shortly after, will kill you in about three seconds if they get a clear line of fire on you. Luckily, this game has fairly slow-moving projectiles. Therefore, if you move around enough, it's possible to dodge your enemies shots. And so, all of this ends up really encouraging you to move around during combat. This makes the combat far more fast-paced, and really makes up for the lack of kick on the guns. This is enhanced by the decent enemy variety, which makes a lot of the big fights really interesting to play.
The other awesome feature to this game's combat is the tactics system, which is what really elevates this game to awesome territory. In combat, you have the ability to order your squad to execute "maneuvers." You can order them to snipe from somewhere, throw grenades from somewhere, jump on a turret, set a proximity mine, or lay an explosive charge. Weapon positions and places to lay traps are littered all over the place in most of the combat areas later on, which really helps to make your squad useful, although since the AI is excellent and I almost never encounter a problem with it, the squad already was useful. This element of tactics in an already good shooter makes the game much less repetitive than it would be, and when your squad destroys a formidable enemy force with almost no effort on your part due to your tactics, it feels awesome. And it's not hard to set stuff like that up, since all the orders are given with a single press of the F key. The gameplay in Republic Commando is undoubtedly the strongpoint.
Graphics and Sound
Sadly, time has not been as kind to the graphics of Republic Commando as it has been to the gameplay. Back in the day, this game actually looked pretty good. This was due to a special technology called bump mapping which Lucasarts implemented. The problem is, they had to hack the unreal 2 engine to get it working. As a result of the bump mapping being essentially a hack, modern graphics cards have trouble getting it to work. ATI graphics cards will crash unless bump mapping is on low, and the graphics will just be messed up on Nvidia graphics cards. These issues are solved by turning the bump-mapping down to low, which is a shame because maxed out this game still looks okay actually. Sadly, the issues don't end there. The game by default does not support 16:9 resolutions. There is a config edit to get it working, supposedly, but I tried it and it didn't work. And even if it does work, you then have to edit a hex file to get the FOV to an acceptable number. These graphics issues are a real shame, but sadly seem to be unresolvable, since GOG released the game with them still present.
Sound is still okay. Most of the voice acting for your squad is good, even if Sev is lovably cheesy. Scorch is actually played by Raphael Sbarge, who did voice work as Carth Onasi in Star Wars: Knights of the old Republic, and he turns in a great performance as always. The score is a mixture of John Williams' original soundtrack for the movies and a darker, original score. Sound effects are solid and star wars like.
This game is too damn short!
Really though. I played through the game again in preparation for this review, and it took me less than eight hours to beat, probably about seven or less. This does not kill the game, since it's still a great experience and it would probably outstay it's welcome if it were too long, but I'm just warning you that if you were expecting a really long campaign, you won't find it.
Why did we have multiplayer again?
Multiplayer is tacked onto Republic Commando. It is awful. It's basically just standard modes, like capture the flag and deathmatch, and it has the guns from the campaign littered around the place. There are only four modes, all of which are stock deathmatch and CTF variants, and about as many maps. Maybe if they hadn't tacked on multiplayer, the could have made the guns have some kick to them, or gotten a real plot. It just was a total waste of everybody's time to have that on there, especially since most of the weapons are not balanced for multiplayer.
Republic Commando has some flaws, especially now. There's a lot of problems with the graphics, the plot isn't there, the multiplayer sucks, and so on. But despite these problems, the game is saved by the fast-paced, tense nature of the combat and by the excellent squad tactics. All in all, Republic Commando is a flawed, but great experience. Grab a DRM free copy over at GOG, it's well worth ten bucks.
Thanks for reading GD, if you have any feedback or anything like that, feel free to leave it in the comments, It's always helpful.