What is Star Wars? Actually, I don’t even know anymore. For some it’s the allure of classic movies from the 70s and 80s, and for some — the endless prequel memes and Baby Yoda (no, I don’t care how it’s really called now) merchandise. And when it comes to games, the situation is the same: since the acquisition by Disney the franchise has been stagnant, with only a few semi-decent games being released, namely Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and Star Wars: Squadrons. And you know what, to hell with it, I kinda enjoyed both Battlefronts, flawed as they are.
Anyways, nothing really comes close to classic games released by LucasArts (RIP) during the prequel era. For me, nothing beats the good old Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy or even Bounty Hunter (yes). And Star Wars Republic Commando was one of the later titles that got quite popular among both the fans and the neutral gamers alike. It had a lot going for it: decent graphics for the time (was it the first Stat Wars game with a physics engine?), dark and gloomy atmosphere, kickass soundtrack and NO jedi. It was, in short, very neat and memorable. And now it’s available on all modern platforms including PS4, PS5 and Switch. Xbox has had it for a while already.
Is it any good? Well… I won’t lie to you, it’s dated. Very dated. The graphics aren’t as decent as I remembered them, the controls are raw by today’s standards, and the main squad based gameplay feels a bit gimmicky.
All of that means that only Star Wars fans will actually enjoy this game. Not because it’s bad, but mostly because there are so many modern shooters to occupy them. Who has the time for a half-forgotten licenced game from the 00s, right?
Well, I do. As a person used to be an ardent fan of those games and movies, I was quite hyped for a re-release, even though I knew that nothing would be changed or improved compared to the original. It’s just not how Aspyr operates.
So, anyways, let’s first discuss what’s so kickass about this game. Well, everything that has to do with the universe. The Clone Wars era was quite fascinating, with lots of cool villains and heroes fighting on both sides. And clone commandos also were quite an interesting topic, warranting a while series of dedicated books by Karen Traviss, an accomplished writer known for her novelizations of Halo games.
Who are the clones? Are they closer to actual humans or droids they’re fighting? Do they have feelings, ambitions and fears? A lot of books explored this theme, and it’s never enough. And for folks who have never read Star Wars novels, this game presented new view of clones. Even though they are soldiers bred for war, the protagonists all feel different from each other, and by the end of the game you will genuinely care about them. Quite an achievement, considering they’re all helmet-clad machines of death.
So, the atmosphere — check, it’s gorgeous. The sound — check, both the actors and the composer did an excellent job. The story is also somewhat fascinating in the old-school Star Wars kind of way. But the moment-to-moment gameplay is… okay. It doesn’t feel as punchy as before, and the controls are, as I mentioned, quite stiff and heavy. The tactical elements turned to be more rudimentary than I remembered and not essential in any way. The clones are more or less independent from each other, doing whatever it takes to help the player. They even revive you. But when you give them commands, it’s more often than not to do a singular action like hack the door or blow something up. It’s not really up to you when to make a command though — they game will prompt you to do so when needed.
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Star Wars Republic Commando is a good Star Wars game with some neat ideas and little details. After a fight your visor might become dirty, and some missions require the use of night vision, which is a very cool way to make your game more atmospheric. Even in 2021, a feature like this feels very fresh, even though the actual graphics leave much to be desired. This game definately needs either a remake or a sequel. Make it happen, Respawn.
Star Wars Republic Commando is a game about being a badass soldier in a galaxy far far away, and it succeeds in being one of the most atmospheric and memorable Star Wars titles ever. But it’s a bit dated — even more so than Killzone or Gears of War, both of which it sometimes resembles. It’s still very cool and very rewarding, but unfair checkpoints, rough textures and unwieldy gunplay make it quite an acquired taste.