Hall Of Fame: Star Wars: Republic Commando
Welcome to the seventh entry in our Hall of Fame feature, which is a feature that comes around when it feels like it. Or rather, when divine intervention occurs and I realise I should do it. I’ll be focusing on one of the most under-appreciated gems as far as I’m concerned, and that’s Star Wars: Republic Commando, one of the best spin-off titles in the franchise’s decorated (and not so decorated) history.
That’s right. We’re bringing the nostalgia, along with history’s greatest gaming legends.
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Star Wars: Republic Commando
Star Wars: Republic Commando was released right at the beginning of March in 2005. It came during the era where Star Wars was absolutely dominant, incidentally the same year that the film Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith was to be released, and not too long after massive video game successes such as the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Battlefront and Jedi Knight titles. What remains so impressive about Republic Commando is that took a huge risk. At the time, a Star Wars game with no lightsabers and force powers sounded ludicrous to put it lightly, yet the game advertised itself as a tactical first person shooter and on it went. And it turned out better than most expected.
The game was set during events of the Clone Wars, taking place right after Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. In the game, the player took control of an elite Clone commando team of four named Delta Squad, who were all specially bred at the clone factories on Kamino and were clones of the Bounty Hunter Jango Fett. Due to their enhanced capabilities, they demonstrated more human qualities than standard order Clones, and had their own distinct personalities despite their DNA similarity. The player controlled the leader Boss, and is followed by Scorch the demolitions expert, Sev the hunter and Fixer the technical expert. The game’s story spans around about two years in the Delta Squad’s life, taking them through various dangerous missions and famous Star Wars locations, such as Kashyyyk and Geonosis. One thing I found very admirable about the game was how it managed to get you attached to characters who were essentially Clone troopers, and the story itself was easy to get invested into considering that it was a breath of fresh air for the Star Wars universe.
As a point of interest, Republic Commando actually served as the first appearance of the Delta Squad, which meant that the game creators invented these characters and this story, making it a little bit more admirable. Later, the squad was seen again in a novel called Triple Zero by Karen Traviss, as well as subsequent books in the Republic Commando series. There are five novels in total in the series.
The game was created using the Unreal Engine 2 from Epic Games. On the outside it may have looked like your typical first person shooter, but it had many elements that made it such a unique experience. Of course the most prominent of features was your squad itself, and the way you had to issue commands to them during battle. It was so simply executed, yet added so much to the game. Commands such as form up, spread out, take strategic positions, get healed up, focus fire and more really added diversity and a strong sense of power to the player, which really fit the ideal theme of being the elite commander of the group. When you fell in battle, your squad members would do their best to revive you, and if you commanded them efficiently, you could deal with any threat. The AI was surprisingly good, and commanding your squad was as easy as it was fluid and effective.
One of the best things about the game was the way it presented the Star Wars universe to you realistically, for lack of a better term. You were a bunch of foot soldiers. You had no lightsabers, force powers or giant laser cannons. When an advanced battle droid came, or a powerful enemy, you had to use every tool in your arsenal. Shock grenades, frag grenades, flanking and cover firing, all of these became vital to taking down more advanced opponents. It was especially awesome to break away the armour of advanced battle droids, and finish them off with a blade to the head, which sprayed oil over your visor only for it to be wiped away by a laser-based “windshield wiper” of sorts. They definitely made for some of the most satisfying kills in the game. Well, unless you’re sadistic like I am and decided to shoot your squad members until they all turned on you, allowing you to kill them and carry on solo. That was always entertaining for me, as they gave you quite a fight sometimes.
Effectively, it was the Delta Squad itself that presented one of the most compelling aspects of the game. The way they factored both into gameplay and story set this apart from other Star Wars games, and even other first person shooters on the market. Though it took some inspiration from Metroid Prime, Halo and Rainbow Six, its combined elements and presentation of the Star Wars universe ensured that it had enough ground to stand on to differentiate itself and be its own game. The way the squad interacted, their banter and personalities also gave players a lot to enjoy by means of the story, and personally speaking they were characterised a lot better than I thought Clone troopers could be.
A common complaint was that the single player campaign was short, clocking in at around six hours, which today is like the standard campaign length. However, it was well-paced, constantly exciting and definitely gave players a look at the great side of Star Wars. The locations you visited, the battles fought and the story experienced made it a thrill ride from beginning to end, and its tactical approach again separated it from your run-of-the-mill shooter affair. About the only other problem critics had with the game was its average multiplayer, which offered the standard Death Match, Team Death Match, Capture the Flag and Assault modes. While it was impressive that it supported 32 players on PC (16 on Xbox), it wasn’t all that enticing, and was easily outclassed by the single player offering. It’s always a bit unfortunate when development time is wasted on a tacked-on multiplayer rather than spent making an already fantastic single player experience even better. Personally, I never touched the multiplayer. But the reality is that the complaints about this game were mostly minor. It was just a great experience.
Perhaps the reason that makes Star Wars: Republic Commando so deserving of making our Hall of Fame is the fact that it’s been eight long years since its release and since I played it, yet I still think about it from time to time, and have never really forgotten it. Hell, I still have my favourite memories from the game, and I know how it ends and how it played. I didn’t even need to refresh my memory for this feature. More significantly, as a Star Wars fan myself, one who was bat shit crazy for this franchise in my younger days, when I think of the days that Star Wars was a dominant force in entertainment and pop culture, and when it even gave so much value to gaming, I always think of Republic Commando alongside games like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Battlefront and Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, which are among the best Star Wars games you can find. This is a stand-out title.
Before we conclude, as another point of interest, Republic Commando had a planned sequel that was conceptualized during its development, titled Star Wars: Imperial Commando. The game would focus on the Imperial Commando units, namely the Empire’s elite ground combat troops. It was unknown whether Delta Squad would also feature. However, the project was cancelled somewhere in 2004 after only concept art and paintings had been made. The reasons for cancellation are unknown.
That brings this Hall of Fame entry to an end. Truly, when I think of the best Star Wars titles, this game is always like a fresh memory. It’s a damn fine game, and a great argument for how licenses can actually produce genuine quality. So with that, I’d say that if ever you wanted to revisit Star Wars, or you’re feeling nostalgic or you’re looking for a gem from the past that you might have missed, give Star Wars: Republic Commando a chance. You may find yourself quite surprised by what it has to offer.