Review by vgerx2001

"Halo what?"

I have to admit, when I popped my rented disc of Republic Commando for the Xbox, I wasn't expecting much. Frankly, too many Star Wars games as of late have either disappointed(Galaxies, Rebel Strike) or underwhelmed(Battlefront), with upcoming titles being of questionable credentials(C'mon, a LEGO Star Wars?). From what I saw of RC, it didn't seem to be any more different. Adding to my doubts was the fact that I have become jaded about videogames these days, especially first-person shooters--which is exactly what this game was.

Oh, how happy I am to have been proved wrong. From beginning to end, Republic Commando blew me away with it's first-rate graphics, sound, voice-acting, design, presentation, everything. If you're among those overlooking this game just for being a "quick tie-in to the final Star Wars film", don't. It doesn't matter if you're a fan of the galaxy far far away, if you crave action and adrenaline, you are going to love this game.

Story

Set during the latter two Star Wars prequels, this game details the exploits of Delta Squad, a specialized unit of commando clonetroopers that are a notch above their brethren--including their own individual personalities(Fixer the techie, Scorch the demolitions' dude, Sev the all-around psycho, and you, their boss). The single-player campaign is divided into three large "worlds"(Geonosis, Ghost Ship and, yep, Kashyyyk), all of them divided into smaller missions.

While the story isn't the best aspect of Republic Commando, it deserves credit nonetheless for the ways it's presented in--it never feels forced. Before each "world", you and your squadmates are briefed by a clone "adviser" on the general gist of things, taking place during a semi-interactive cutscene. Between loading screens, you are presented with logs of text by Taun We, Lama Su, Walon Vau and the late Jango Fett, not to mention your own troops. Some of it is gameplay advice(Locking on while using a rocket launcher), some of it are insights into cloning/training, and a few are just goodhearted nonsense("Eat your vegetable capsules"), but all of it feels quite welcome.

Score: 7.5/10

Graphics

Wow. Just WOW.

This here is an amazing display of the Xbox's processing power. This game is drenched in grit and grime, a nice change of pace from the pretty Lost City-type environments seen in the prequel trilogy. Battle droids and clonetroopers aren't mintlike, they are rusty and battleworn. Every last polygon is amazingly detailed; I occasionally zoomed in with my sniper rifle to the foreheads of my squadmates and deep into walls, without one single instance of blockiness. Walk through a dangling droid, and it's body will move accordingly. Honestly--words just don't describe this game's visual beauty.

Warning: while blood won't be flowing like wine throughout the game, everything else will, from droid oil to Geonosian/Trandoshian goo, frequently splattering onto your visor(Similar to Metroid Prime). This game's Teen rating isn't a tame "Rogue Squadron" one--it borders into Mature territory at times. Little kids who adore the Ewoks and Jar Jar Binks should definitely avoid this one.

Score: 9.5/10

Sound/Music

The music, obviously consisting of John Williams' legendary score, is not exactly groundbreaking anymore but is nonetheless well-done. When you enter a room full of enemies, the music will dramatically increase, and when the last of them is taken care of, there will be a final cue followed by silence--and other similar small but neat details. The only oddity here is a rock song(!) with actual lyrics that plays during the end credits, which will definitely spark the ire of fans who think that Star Wars music should remain 100% orchestral.

The sound, however, is ASTOUNDING. The in-game voiceovers, most of it coming from your fellow troops, are the best I've heard in any videogame bar none. I mean it, there are simply no words to properly describe it's awesomeness. The voice acting is something that you'll actually want to hear(Despite not being forced) instead of mute--some of the words spoken are actually better than the dialogue from any of the actual movies. The gunfire, explosions, roars and hums are incredible, as well as the occasional quiet, eerie moments. Star Wars has always been a delight to the ears, but the sounds of Republic Commando are among the proud few to actually rival the movies.

Scores: 8/10 for the music, a big 10/10 for the sound

Controls

(Note: This judges the default control scheme, which can be changed through either four preset layouts or through manual remapping--a nice touch)

Again, there isn't much in the way of revolution, but remains competent and rock-solid. All the console FPS conventions(R to fire, secondary analog stick to move camera, press down the primary analog stick to dodge and so son) are in, though jumping is made somewhat awkward as it's assigned to the Y button. However, this won't really be a problem as you won't be doing much platforming in the game. Efficient and responsive, as it ought to be.

The squad-based gameplay may seem daunting at first, but it's really quite simple: aim your crosshairs at a certain point of interest and press A to assign your teammate to it--if it's a demolition point, he will insert explosives to blow it up; if it's a computer terminal, he will slice it and so on. Unfortunately, you cannot specifically choose which troop to do which thing, but in the thick of nonstop action, you probably won't even care.

Score: 9/10

Gameplay

Before playing Republic Commando, I seriously doubted that I would ever again be able to enjoy any single-player FPS that didn't have the words "Half" and "Life" in them. The last high-profile Xbox FPS I've played before this was Halo 2--which I found to be the biggest piece of overhype since Y2K. If that was what the gaming world considered to be a benchmark, then frankly, I had little hope for the future.

I was wrong. Oh so horribly wrong.

In many respects, Republic Commando is the anti-Halo 2. Whereas the Bungie sequel bored me with a tedious main campaign, RC kicked me right in the face with one of the most viscerally thrilling single-player experiences I've had in years. I swear, I was at the very edge of my seat, not wanting to put the game down until the very end--the last time a game has done that was Metroid Prime.

Those wondering how the whole squad thing plays out, breathe a huge sigh of relief. It isn't on the same revolutionary caliber of Rainbow Six, but it's far from the disaster that was Daikatana--the team elements are a very nice change of pace from what you'd expect in Star Wars games. Your fellow troops successfully manage to be efficient warriors worthy of their superior rank, yet far from being invincible semi-gods. At times, I actually found myself protecting my own troops more than the other way around!

However, even though the game's slogan touts that the "squad is your weapon", it's not really much of a cerebral experience. Don't get me wrong, team spirit is VITAL to succeed(And certainly enough, there will be times in which you'll have to use your brain), but it's less in the vein of complicated plotting and more in that of drawing every last morsel of strength within Delta Squad to scrape past the many rooms ridiculously brimming with battle droids, Geonosians and other galactic malevolents(Including General Grievous' very own MagnaGuards--but unfortunately, not Grievous himself).

That's right. There is only one word that can properly describe Republic Commando's gameplay: chaos. Pure, relentless chaos, and it never lets up. This game may be many things, but dull is most certainly not one of them. Those looking for a rush of adrenaline will be on Cloud 9 here.

Oh yeah, this game can also get hard--really, really, REALLY hard. I'm not kidding, folks. Some of the predicaments you're placed against succeed in making Contra look like pre-Kindergarten. Imagine having to slice a terminal in a enemy infested room--or better yet, THREE of them all at once? Or how about having to plow through hallways and bridges with droid dispensers scattered around like confetti, sometimes placed in ways that seem damn near impossible?

Or better yet, how about doing the above things with all of your troops dead? Now, as surprising as it may seem, such situations(Well, some of them anyway) ARE possible to survive, but it's going to require a lot of out-of-the-box thinking, as well as frequent saving. Some of my fondest memories with this game involve lengthy standoffs with Super Battle Droids and just barely being able to detonate droid dispensers despite being outnumbered ridiculously. This is actually my favorite aspect of the game: being pushed to the very limits of your abilities(And sometimes beyond) just to survive.

But the most important thing is that the game is FUN. You're not dragged back by needless exposition or tedious cutscenes--the padding between gameplay is just right. The cutscenes are semi-interactive, short and straight to the point. Loading times are quite short thanks to the developers chopping up the three worlds into smaller areas. This isn't the next wannabe David Lean masterpiece masquerading as digital entertainment(Hello, Xenogears), it's a no-nonsense rollercoaster ride from beginning to end, worthy of Contra and the very first MegaMan.

Score: 9.5/10

Replay Value

But unfortunately, no game is perfect, and many otherwise exceptional titles are held back by that one chronic flaw. As much as you're probably going to enjoy yourself with Republic Commando, you'll find that the aforementioned thrill ride will be over far earlier than you'll want it to be. Seasoned gamers will beat it in 10-15 hours, and more experienced ones will likely do it even less. The extras, while nice, are too short to be of any substance. Though I don't have Live or a second Xbox controller, the general consensus on RC's multiplayer/online seems to be that it's a slapped-on afterthought to the quality single-player. In other words, once you beat this game twice(On normal and then hard), you've seen all there is to see.

Score: 5.0/10

The Michael Jordan:

-Exceptional graphics
-Weary, wartorn enviroments
-Amazing digital recreation of Republic Gunships assaulting Geonosis
-Great atmosphere
-Responsive controls
-Mindblowing sounds
-Nice music
-Good but not great story
-Short loading times
-The best videogaming voice-overs ever
-A rollercoaster of a single-player campaign
-Great AI from both your troops and the enemies
-WOOKIEES!

The Michael Jackson:

-A short-lived experience
-Can get BRUTAL at times
-Unremarkable extras
-Bleh multiplayer/online support
-Oddball rock song in end credits
-Game epilogue partially spoils a major conflict in Episode III

Buy/Rent/Run Away:

As much as I adore Republic Commando, I honestly don't think I can justify it's current $50 dollar tag. If you're good at action or FPS games, you will likely blow through it in a few days. However, I personally believe that this isn't necessarily because of the game's length--but because it's just that damn good. This is one of those experiences that hooks you and doesn't let go until the very end. As it stand, this is a definite rent(And a buy once it's price lowers) for anybody who likes quality gaming, and ESPECIALLY those who crave intensity and adrenaline. Republic Commando is easily comparable to those shooting comets that cross through Earth every 80 or so years--the experience may not last long, but every single second is worth it.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 04/03/05


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