Review: Star Wars Republic Commando (PC)
What with the massive popularity of squad-based shooters it was high time the Star Wars universe got its butt in gear. Enter Republic Commando. You take command of four highly trained clone commandos called Delta Squad. Your mission? The behind-the-scenes dirty work. Your crew has started and ended wars but the glory has always went to the Generals and Admirals. Can you lead Delta Squad and put the smack down on the bad guys?
The overall story arc of Commando takes you Geonosis and Kashyyyk, two worlds that will be featured in the upcoming Star Wars Episode III movie. Without giving too much away, let’s just say that far too many Separatists are showing up where they shouldn’t be, so much so that the Republic’s curiosity is piqued and they decide that Delta Squad should investigate.
Republic Commando does a commendable job of putting players into a squad-based environment but, overall, it seems to fall a bit short. As you proceed through the game you will be prompted where you can send your squadmates to perform specific actions, such as breaching doors and setting up a sniping position. However, if you’re too busy shooting geonosians your mates will usually just go ahead and do these things anyway, taking some of the tension out of the gameplay. When it comes right down to it, you could probably make it through a majority of the game by doing everything yourself and just letting your squadmates tag along for occasional cover fire.
Unfortunately, they’re not too good at that, either. It would be different if your squadmates were consistent in their actions but they’re not. One encounter may find them setting up properly, taking good cover and putting some Republic laser right through enemy heads. The very next encounter may find your squadmates all bunched up not a foot away from the enemy while the enemy just pounds them down. Sure, you could make the case that, “Well, tell them what to do. This is a squad-based tactical shooter, right?” I thought it was, but when your squadmates choose to do their own thing from time to time, you kind of lose sight of that. Let me clarify that, if you give them an order, they usually do a good job of carrying out that order. Movement orders and action orders seem to be carried out effectively. Some combat orders, such as telling all of your troops to focus fire on a single enemy, seems to flake from occasionally, forcing you to re-issue the same order over and over until the enemy is dead.
I’d like to say that your squadmates were absolute necessities in getting your missions completed but that’s just not the case. Granted, you couldn’t make it through the whole game alone as many encounters feature multiple enemy contacts. However, your troops merely act as cannon fodder in these instances and, if you so choose, you can run around and take care of most mission key points alone.
Commando does have an interesting way of dealing with squadmates dying. If their health is reduced to zero, they’re incapacitated. You can then order a squadmate to move to their wounded comrade and issue a shot of bacta that will revive them with about half of their health. As their leader you will also, from time to time, be taken out. As you lie there you can call for someone to issue you bacta or you can tell your guys to keep on fighting. In essence, you can’t lose any squadmates during the course of the game. To the game’s benefit, there are many audio sequences where your troops banter back and forth with various forms of dialog and the game does do a decent job of making you care for your guys. I’d still like the ability to lose a squadmate and still have to proceed. The loss would be felt not only emotionally but oeprationally as well.
As far as mission variety, your goals, even though heavily scripted, carry a nice change of pace throughout. You’ll perform everything from pure combat to reconnaisance to stealth missions. You could say that Commando is ‘on rails’ but it’s pulled off well. I do feel like you walk into one too many ambushes but overall I didn’t feel like my directives or the action was stale. A bit of a caveat is that the single player game is rather short, even for today’s standards. I don’t think it took me much more than six to seven hours to get through the whole thing.
Even though you may have to re-issue orders the actual controls of the game are very fluid and sensible. As you move from location to location various opportunities for your squad to use their respective talents will arise. As an example, you may enter an area where some cover is provided. As you move your targeting reticle over this area a hologram will pop up indicating that you can order your sniper to take up position there and begin firing. This same method is used for door breaches, slicing terminals (basically hacking), and ordering certain armaments to fire from cover, namely snipers, heavy weapons and grenades.
Your squad it made up of a sniper, a demolitions expert and a ‘slicer’, or hacker. Granted, they can interchange duties fairly well and your sniper can hack a door just as quickly as as your slicer can but it does make for some interesting comments between your clone soldiers. It’s also pretty fun to stack up to a door, have your slicer breach the door with a charge and your sniper toss in a thermal detonator for good measure. Granted, it seems like your enemies know you’re coming more often than not but it still work as far as your squad getting cover during the beginning of combat. It’s just a matter of them staying covered is the problem. For one of your soldiers to stay covered you have to order them to a position, otherwise their faulty AI will have them going who knows where.
The multiplayer is a bit of a letdown, mainly due to the fact that most of the maps are simply rehashes from the single player game. There are the common multiplayer modes such as team deathmatch and assault but, unfortunately, other games have done these gametypes better. Let’s just say Commando’s strengths lie elsewhere.
As far as the graphics and the audio, Commando really delivers. The game uses Unreal technology to power the graphics and it shows. Your squad’s armor is detailed and realistic, with visible wear and carbon scoring from being shot more than once. The environments look good as well with highly embellished textures. Your enemies are also detailed and their motion capture is fantastic. The Trandoshans move with a very animalistic feel while the Geonosians move with a stuttering, bug-like pace. It’s also fun to take off a droid’s head and watch him do a two-second breakdance before going down. The audio is also well done, as it is in most Star Wars titles. You’ll recognize many sounds from the movies as well as plenty of redbook audio from the films. It must be nice having such a large audio library available to you from some of the biggest movie hits ever to be on the silver screen.
Overall, Commando is a fun shooter that tries to be a tactical squad-based game but turns out to be little more than a flashy FPS. The lack of multiplayer variety and friendly AI further hinders this title but, if you’re a Star Wars fan, I can firmly say you’ll enjoy this game, even if the single player campaign is a bit short.
FINAL SCORE: 79/100