Review by VaporFox
A clone with some originality
Though this isn't the first foray into FPS (first person shooter) genre for Lucas Arts, Republic Commando is certainly one of its best. Instead of the ever cliche "one man against the universe" scenario that players are usually cast in, you play the role of Jango Fett clone 1138 (or just Delta 38) of the Republic clone army, who is the leader of a 4-man squad of elite commandos. As the leader, it's your job to command this team efficiently while completing whatever objectives your superiors have issued you.
Your teammates include Fixer, Scorch, and Sev, who -- despite being clones as well -- all have very distinct personalities (and voices) in battle. Fixer is the team computer specialist. Scorch is the demolitions expert; and Sev is the "fiercest hunter" of your brothers, as the game calls him. Even though your squad are called specialists in one field or another, they can all perform the same tasks with equal skill (which I found a bit odd).
Story - Rating: 5
If you're expecting Republic Commando to be the same kind of "romantic space opera" as the actual Star Wars movies, you're going to be sorely disappointed. But, don't let the low score I gave this aspect of the game mislead you. The developers were trying to let you see the world through the eyes of a Republic clone soldier -- a goal that I think they accomplished to near perfection. The reason I gave the story such an average score is because ... well ... there isn't really much story to begin with.
After all, you have to keep in mind that your main character and his comrades are all clones who've been genetically conditioned to be efficient soldiers who're utterly loyal and never question authority. So the "story" consists mostly of you just focusing on completing your missions/objectives while keeping your squad alive. There will be no insightful "are we doing the right thing?" angsty dialogue, or "meaning of life" epiphanies going on between your teammates in this game; they're all business.
There is a total of 3 "campaigns" all together, which are split up into 16 missions, and they take place in 3 distinctly different settings. The first starts you on Geonosis (the "bug" planet seen in the climax of the Star Wars Episode II movie). The second campaign takes place on a huge Star Destroy-like assault ship. Then you finally end up on the Wookiee home world of Kashyyyk.
Graphics - Rating: 8
While some might call the graphics in this game average when stacked up against FPS monsters like Halo 2, I felt the overall graphical presentation was excellent. The weapons models were a little on the bland side, but then again, weapons don't have to be "pretty" to do their job. Character models were above average, but nothing that really pushed any system limits or hasn't been done before in a zillion other FPS's. Much the same can be said for the various backgrounds encountered throughout Republic Commando. They weren't mind-blowing in any one way; but each setting had its own distinct feel and was done well enough to give players a nice feeling of immersion.
Considering how much action can be going on around the screen at once, the framerate remained admirably stable in RC, which was a pleasant surprise. The only flaw I can really point out is the occasional case of V-synch tearing (things in the background looking jagged/distorted) when you turn quickly, but it's something only the most extreme graphics-whores are going to care about.
What really impressed me graphics-wise was the cool visuals offered at times. You see through the viewpoint of Delta 38's helmet, which is set up with a tactical readout visor that's similar to the visor effects done for Samus Aran in Metroid Prime. You can keep track of your entire team's health and status at all times, without all the information being cumbersome on the screen. You can switch to a "tactical" visor mode, which helps you identify things in the background more clearly (including your other teammates). There's also a "low light" visor mode, which is basically the Star Wars version of night vision. There's even a neat "wiper" that scans across your visor to clean it off whenever raindrops (or enemy blood) splatters on your screen at times.
Sound - Rating: 9
This is one of the few standout features. Yes, if you've played ANY Star Wars game before, you know you're going to hear at least a few entries from John Williams' classic movie score when you play; and Republic Commando is no exception. However, there's also a few original bits of music, as well as some pieces that were used in the Episode II movie. All in all, the tunes are very fitting to the action without ever being a distraction from the gameplay.
My only gripe music-wise was the "theme song" called Clones, which was done by the band Ash. You can watch a short video of it in the extra content section. To me, the rock song just felt totally out of theme with the game, and seemed like a pathetic attempt to promote some no-name band one of the design team members probably liked. But I digress.
As for in-game sounds, these are all top notch. Sure, you're going to hear your usual sound bytes of blaster fire and explosions you've probably heard in every other SW game/movie, but it was all done particularly well in RC. There's even an extra content movie that lets you see how they created many of the sound effects in a studio.
The voice acting, believe it or not, was all top notch in this as well, even if there were no major story elements or drama to unfold. In fact, some of the most entertaining moments in the game can be had simply from hearing the various responses your teammates make to your orders once given, or the "glee" they express as they're carrying them out. If you've played Halo 1 or 2 and thought the marine dialogue in those games was humorous, you're in for a treat. Your character is voiced by Temuera Morrison, the same actor who played Jango Fett in The Clone Wars; and I believe one of the squad members was done by the same VA who did Carth's voice in Knights of the Old Republic.
Overall Gameplay - Rating 7
The best way I can describe the gameplay in Republic Commando is it's a fusion of the run-and-gun action of Halo, and the team-oriented elements of Rainbow Six. However, the degree to which you can control your squad isn't nearly as deep or complex as the latter game. On the contrary, the command interface is as simplistic and efficient as you could ask for.
Team Control - Rating: 9
There are "hotspots" in the background you'll encounter that make an "action icon" pop up on when your aiming cursor is placed over it. For example, there's various sniping points you can point and click at to make one team member run to and perform sniping duties. Others make them use anti-armor artillery, while others have them lob grenades. You can even point and click on gun emplacements/turrents to have squad mates go take them over for fire support.
Similarly, teammates can also be commanded in this manner to slice into computers, set traps (IE: bombs) in strategic locations, disarm proximity mines, or set explosive charges to clear debris. If a team member gets low on health, you can command them to retreat to one of the various bacta dispensers scattered around to heal themselves.
Another neat team-oriented feature is in the case one squad mate falls in battle, you or any of your surviving party can work as a "medic" and revive them. The same even applies to your character. Should you "die", you collapse, and the screen goes red. A menu then appears that gives you the option of either retrying from a save, have a member come revive you, or have them continue with their current orders (which will have them heal you only after they're done with their current task).
The other method of controlling your squad involves holding down "A" and using one of the 4 directions on the control pad. "Left" sets them to "Search and Destroy", which makes your squad aggressively move towards objectives and fire upon any enemies encountered on the way. "Up" set them to "Secure Area", which has them hold and guard a small area that you've pointed to. "Right" makes them "Form Up", or in other words, calls all teammates who aren't carrying out orders (slicing computers, planting bombs, etc) back to you. "Down" makes them "Cancel Maneuvers" (IE: stop what they're doing). Finally, you can command your entire team to focus their fire on one specific enemy by simply pointing at said target and pressing a button.
Weapons - Rating: 7
In the beginning, you have only a DC-17 blaster rifle and a DC-15 sidearm (pistol) at your disposal. Both can give you a slightly "zoomed" view by clicking on the right analog stick, and the pistol has unlimited ammo (but it has to charge up briefly when fired rapidly). Throughout the course of the game, you get "attachments" for your DC-17 that make it a more versatile weapon, allowing you to switch between various modes on the fly. It gets a sniper attachment, which allows you to zoom in a much greater distance and can one-hit-kill all but the most hardy of enemies. There's an anti-armor attachment (think grenade launcher) as well, which can take out concentrated groups of enemies or heavily armored droids.
An assortment of grenades can be used as well. Thermal Detonators (powerful frag grenades), EC Detonators (meant to incapacitate mechanical targets), Sonic Detonators (which can work as makeshift proximity grenades), and Flashbug Detonators (IE: flashbangs).
You eventually get to pick up a "secondary weapon" from fallen foes to replace your pistol too, but you can only carry one secondary firearm as once (similar to Halo), which forces you to use some strategy. These weapons range from rocket launchers and Wookiee bowcasters, to space age shotguns and Heavy Repeater Rifles (think mini-gun).
Enemies - Rating: 7
I was a bit disappointed with the limited number of enemy types in RC, but most of the enemies they DID include were done well enough to make up for their lack of diversity.
Geonosians - The hive-like bug creatures seen in Episode II. You encounter these a lot in the first campaign, but not so much for the rest of the game. They vary from basic foot soldiers and larvae, to the much tougher "elite" Geonosians.
Droids - Probably the most often encountered enemies in RC. They range from simple grunt battle droids and "super" battle droids (more armored), to the fearsome rolling droidekas and dwarf spider droids.
Trandoshans - These are reptile-like slavers and hunters who oddly seem to get in your squad's way quite a bit throughout the campaigns. They're tough, but not very smart.
Multiplayer - Rating: 5
Admittedly, I haven't tinkered around with the multiplayer too much in this (since I don't have Xbox Live), but from what I HAVE experienced, it's forgettable at best. Most of the maps are uninspired; and the "customizability" of your character is minimal at best. It's pretty obvious the developers focused a lot more on the single player campaign than this area; so if you only buy/play first person shooters for the multiplayer, you'll probably want to pass this game up. There's no "co-op" mode for the campaign mode either.
AI - Rating: 8
The AI is truly a mixed bag. At many times it was utterly brilliant, while at others it just made me drop my jaw in disbelief, wondering how certain things managed to slip by the game testers.
First, the good: I can honestly say that the teammate AI (as a whole) was some of the most intelligent that I've seen in this sort of game. No matter what kind of command you've issued, your squad mates will nearly always use cover and hug walls when you're in tight places. In other words, there were very few instances where I felt I needed to "babysit" them just to keep them alive or doing what they should be doing. At times, they would even "respectfully" deny your commands if it was a particularly bad decision. For example, if you try to direct a teammate to a sniping point, yet there's some proximity mines blocking his path, he'll inform you that he can't do that, until you take care of the mines.
The enemy AI is at times smart, and dumb as nails at others. Most of the enemy types have some effective (if not frustrating) evasive maneuvers they'll perform regularly. However, that's usually where their "intelligence" ends. I lost count of how many times Trandoshans tried aimlessly blasting at me with a shotgun from 100 feet away, or droids who I seemed to catch in "idle mode" (they were just standing there waiting to be killed).
On a similar note, there was several instances where the team AI seemed to falter with glitches. At least a handful of times I've had a squad mate get "hung up" on an obstacle in the background so badly that the only way to fix the problem is to load a previous save. In one case, I even had Fixer just decide to STOP following the rest of the team in one level on Kashyyyk, no matter what orders I issued. Note that these things were rare, but they happened enough times that I felt obligated to mention them here.
Final Score: 7
Republic Commando did a LOT of things I liked. It doesn't try to "be" any other game so much that it's noticeable, and it's even done some things I hadn't seen before in an FPS before to boot. The only problems with it that kept me from giving a higher score is the total game length (most people can beat this in 2 days max), some glitches I couldn't ignore, and a mild lack of polish in certain areas (music skipping at title screen, for example). Overall, I feel that even people who aren't big Star Wars fans should at least give this a rental.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Got Your Own Opinion?
Submit a review and let your voice be heard.