Star Wars: Republic Commando for PC Review

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I’m normally skeptical of any video games based on other media like movies and television shows but I make an exception for James Bond or Star Wars games. I find many of the games in these two franchises to either be great or decent. There are, of course, a few bad apples but that also applies to any other video game franchise. I think GoldenEye not only set a standard for first-person shooters on consoles back in the day, but also created a positive outlook for future games based on movies. They don’t all have to suck. When it comes to Star Wars, the expanded universe is huge and not every game is literally based on the movies. Instead, many of them focus on original storylines, maybe side stories, and even expand on Star Wars lore. Developed and published by LucasArts, Star Wars: Republic Commando was released for Xbox in February, 2005, and PC, which is the version I played, in March of that same year. Republic Commando is a squad-based shooter set during the events of the Clone Wars. In order to run this well on Windows 10 I did have to install some mods, or fixes. The vanilla game’s mouse acceleration was way off the charts so in my search for a fix I found multiple Star Wars Republic Commando fixes. These mods fix the mouse acceleration, some graphical issues, multiplayer issues but I didn’t try the multiplayer, and I think the graphical fix adds an FOV slider. The creator even offers alternate HUD and battle droid textures which are optional. Even with these mods, the HUD was still stretched and after a little while of playing, I found and installed a Widescreen HUD Fix which easily resolved that problem.

The story is set during the Clone Wars and you play as Delta-38, leader of Delta Squad. You play through three what I’ll call campaigns, each with a major objective. At the beginning of each campaign you’re given a briefing. In the first campaign, you and your squad are sent in to assassinate a Geonosian leader. The second campaign has you and your squad investigating a derelict Republic Assault Ship. And in the final campaign, Delta Squad is sent to Kashyyyk to rescue a Wookie leader and help the Wookies fight Tandoshan slavers and mercenaries, even battle droids. The story isn’t bad for what it is. The voice acting is pretty good. Temuera Morrison voices the clone leader and does a great job and actually I enjoy the banter between squad members. They’ll make wisecracks at each other’s expense and the banter just adds a bit of humor to the game. Now the ending is very anticlimactic and the story ends rather abruptly. The campaigns are broken up into various missions, separated by loading points, and you can replay any already completed missions from the Campaign Map at the main menu. Completion of the campaigns unlocks various extras, accessible from the main menu, like concept art, featurettes, and an interview with Temuera Morrison.

Republic Commando is squad based shooter. Your squad consists of three other members – Scorch, Fixer, and Sev – all of which are identified by numbers – 62, 40, and 07, respectively. They each specialize in something, for example, Sev is an expert sniper, Fixer is proficient at computer slicing, and Scorch is a munitions expert. I don’t think I would call this a tactical game but some thinking is required, especially later in the game. Most of the time, you and your squad are always together but there are a few sections where you all split up. When together, you can command your team to get behind cover, heal themselves at medical stations, plant explosives, mount turrets, and stuff like that. You can, of course, command them to regroup and follow you, hold positions, and other basic stuff you’ve probably seen in other squad based shooters. Now the squad AI is decent, but not great. They’ll stay alive longer if you order them to get behind cover during a firefight but if you let them think for themselves they usually do a terrible job at staying out of harm’s way. If you fall in combat you can order a squad member to come and rescue you and they will rescue other fallen squad members on their own, if possible. But you can also order them to do so. They’ll even heal themselves on their own if near a medical station so that’s pretty cool. If everybody goes down, you have to restart from the latest save. Most of the game involves you running from firefight to firefight broken up by a command action like opening doors or blowing something up. There’s a lot of waiting for squad members to open doors, slice or hack something, or just plant explosives. In fact, there’s too much of this. If you’re not engaging enemies you’re ordering your squad to do something and waiting for them to finish, in which case you may need to defend them. You can always do these things yourself in which case they will need to defend you. You can heal yourself at medical stations, usually located right before and after an area of a major battle. It doesn’t take a lot of hits to drop you so staying behind cover is always a good idea.

You’re always equipped with the DC-17m Interchangeable Weapon System, abbreviated ICWS, and your secondary weapon is the DC-15S which is a blaster, or pistol if you will. You’re also equipped with a knuckle plate vibro blade for melee combat. When you first start playing the DC-17 only acts as a blaster assault rifle but you acquire the sniper and grenade launcher attachments as you progress. You may think the sniper attachment is best for long range but I found it best against heavily armored enemies in general. In fact, both the sniper and grenade launcher attachments are best against heavily armored enemies, like Super Battle Droids for example. I used these attachments a lot late in the game because the blaster assault rifle just won’t cut it. You’ll be up against numerous heavily armored, or even shielded enemies like Droidekas, and these two attachments just make life so much easier if you have ammo for them. You can aim down sights with the DC-17 and DC-15 but not with any of the other weapons found from fallen enemies or within the environments. You can acquire the Geonosian Elite Beam Weapon, Accelerated Charged Particle Array Gun which is like a shotgun, a Wookie Bowcaster, a concussion rifle, some kind of submachine gun, and even a homing rocket launcher. I should mention that you cannot store these weapons. Ammo and even grenades can be found within the environments and from fallen enemies. Thermal Grenades are like your standard frag grenades. Electro Grenades are best used against droids since the explosion can disable them. Flash Grenades disorient any non-droid enemies. And Sonic Grenades do massive damage.

There is a decent variety of enemies in Republic Commando and the heavier types just become a nuisance. The first campaign has you primarily fighting droids and Geonotians and the ones that fly and wield Elite Beam Weapons are downright annoying. They can take you and your squad mates out in a matter of seconds and they take a few shots to bring down. However, the sniper attachment is a big help. You’ll be introduced to Trandoshan Slavers and Mercenaries in the second campaign and these are my favorite enemy types. They’re these reptilian creatures and the mercenaries wear what look like jet packs of some kind. Scavenger Droids fly around, can latch onto your head, and when they take enough damage, they’ll kamikaze right into you. If one manages to sneak up on you, they can really ruin your day so taking them out quickly should be a priority. The standard battle droids are easy enough to kill and appear throughout most of the game but the Super Battle Droids are probably the most dangerous and annoying enemies. There are several areas where you need to deal with droid dispensers. These things keep spawning in enemies until they’re destroyed. You or a squad member needs to plant explosives on the dispenser to blow it up. This, of course, takes time so you have to defend whoever is planting the explosives all while dealing with other enemies surrounding you. You’ll come across multiple Super Battle Droid dispensers late in the game and it feels almost impossible to defend a squad member planting explosives on these things since he’s usually a target for the enemies, and it can take some time to bring down a Super Battle Droid. Whenever you destroy one, another usually spawns in from the dispenser. Add in regular droid dispensers and Droidekas rolling around, and you’ve got some serious late game challenges. Droidekas can be pain because they’re equipped with shields. Some of these areas just become tedious and require a lot of trial and error. At one point, I reached an area with multiple dispensers and had very little health, making it almost impossible to survive and the options your left with are to either cheat or restart the mission. Even with no dispensers, there are some areas that clearly spawn enemies endlessly forcing to you to just push through, like when you need to cross a bridge on Geonosis. There’s three difficulty modes – Easy, Medium, and Hard – and I would say the game offers a tough challenge on Medium, and I can only imagine how difficult Hard may be. Utilizing grenades in combination with different weapons is really the way to engage enemies successfully but I did myself running out of ammo quite often late in the game which does become annoying when you’re up against the multiple heavily armored enemies at once. When the only weapon you can use is the DC-15S, and your squad members are falling like flies, the combat is no longer fun, it’s just aggravating. Every now and then you’ll encounter a Spider Droid. Avoiding their attacks isn’t that difficult, it does have a weak spot you can exploit, and as long as you have enough ammo and keep your squad members behind cover, you should do fine against them. Medical Stations are normally always nearby. Finally there’s Magna Guards that have a ton of health, jump all over the place, and wield some kind of electric stick. They’re just fast moving bullet sponges. I guess you could say the Spider Droid and Magna Guard encounters act as boss battles.

The three major locations are Geonosis, the assault ship, and Kashyyyk. They each have their own unique aesthetic to make their environments stand out from the rest. You’ll traverse through canyons, factories, Super Battle Droid storage racks, a detention center, and other diverse locations. The environments, themselves, are well designed and very linear. You’re always going from point A to B and it would be very hard to get lost. There’s no collectibles or secrets to find but you’ll always be on the lookout for Medical Stations and ammo, both of which are plentiful but you can easily go through ammo in the later missions, making any found ammo a bit more valuable. There are a few scripted sequences that are pretty cool like when you have to escape the exploding ship or mount a turbo laser and use it to shoot down a separatist cruiser. A few sections in the game are dark, requiring you to activate your visor’s Low Light mode which is like night vision. Sometimes you approach an area full of proximity mines and you’ll need to crouch and disable them before proceeding. The game will also let you set traps like planting mines on explosive barrels and stuff like that but unless the game outright told me to do this, I didn’t do it often. There’s only a few instances where you know when enemies are coming for you. Enemies don’t always navigate near the mines and shooting the explosives does the job just as well. Plus, late in the game, you’re dealing with waves of enemies so even if you take out a cluster, more are usually right behind them. I did find Republic Commando to be quite an immersive game thanks to what I’ll call the visor view. Throughout the whole game you get to look through your helmet’s visor as if you are the Delta leader and I thought that was pretty cool and I’m not sure if this is included in the base game or if it’s from one of the mods, but you’ll also have full body awareness meaning you can look down and see your legs. Other than for immersion, it doesn’t really mean much but it is nice to know you’re not just floating around with a gun.

Visually, Republic Commando holds up pretty well but you can still tell it’s dated. You can see a lot of care was put into the details and because of that, it successfully captures that Star Wars look and feel. The weapon models are detailed, the textures look crisp from a distance, the lighting is decent, and the animations, even death animations are pretty cool. For example, if you blow a battle droid’s head off, its body may fire off a few shots before going down. Sometimes when you think you’ve destroyed a Super Battle Droid, it’s upper torso will still try and kill you. To help increase immersion are some cool little visual effects like allies limping when they’re injured, when you kill an enemy up close, their blood may splatter on your visor, you’ll even see droplets of rain land on your visor, and the visor will automatically clean itself. When it comes to the audio, it’s got all of the classic Star Wars sound effects. I think the weapons could sound a little louder but everything else sounds pretty good. From a technical standpoint, I encountered several issues. Like I stated earlier, the mouse acceleration in the vanilla game is just insane. With the fixes installed, I noticed if you Alt+Tab and then re-enter the game, textures will be stretched and look awful. Restarting the game solved that issue. There were a few instances where my squad members would get stuck in the environment and couldn’t move. I noticed a few hitches with the frame rate here and there but, overall, the performance was solid and smooth.

I did have fun with Republic Commando, I think it’s one of the better Star Wars games, but it has its faults. The squad stuff is cool but the AI needs work. I found the first half of the game to be more enjoyable than the second half thanks to some serious trial and error sequences that just become more frustrating than anything. But the gunplay itself is fun and satisfying and the whole experience feels very Star Wars. I think reducing the amount of bullet-sponge enemies could have gone a long way as well as reducing the amount of things you have to interact with that take time to complete. In some ways, the game consists of a lot of “defend this position” type of scenarios because while one squad member is hacking or planting an explosive, the rest have to defend him against an onslaught of enemies. The game likes to throw waves upon waves of enemies at you the further you get into the game and I feel the ammo to enemy ratio is not balanced properly which becomes more apparent in the final campaign. The game is still fun and has it’s moments, I just think needs work in certain areas.

Ultimately, I would recommend Star Wars: Republic Commando to fans of the Star Wars universe and/or first-person shooters. Keep in mind, there are better first-person shooters out there but what is here can be a lot of fun. If you can learn how master keeping you squad members safe, what grenades to use and when, and what weapons work best on what enemies, you’ll probably have an easier time getting through this. If not, you’ll have a very difficult time. You can easily end up in a situation that you can’t get out of because you have no idea what’s ahead and you’re not properly prepared. Unless it’s an obvious survival game, I really don’t like that. All in all Republic Commando is a great shooter and a worthy entry in the Star Wars expanded universe.

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