Star Wars: Republic Commando (NS) - ReviewEvan Norris , posted on 06 April 2021 / 1,956 Views
The Star Wars prequel trilogy was a cinematic bust, but it certainly gave the world a lot of great secondary media. That includes Genndy Tartakovsky's brilliant animated Clone Wars series, RedLetterMedia's hilarious long-form video reviews, and, of course, a whole bunch of entertaining video games. One of the best of those games was Star Wars: Republic Commando, a tactical first-person shooter that launched on PC and Xbox in 2005. Now, more than 16 years later, the title comes to Switch and PS4 as an enhanced port. How you enjoy the game will depend greatly on how you reconcile with "enhanced" and "port".
For the uninitiated, Republic Commando takes place during and between Star Wars prequels Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. It centers on Delta Squad, an elite special ops unit made up of four clone troopers: Boss, the playable head of the squad; Scorch, the demolitions expert; Fixer, the hacking expert; and Sev, the slightly-unhinged sniping expert. Together they'll fight battle droids on Geonosis, Trandoshan slavers on a derelict Republic cruiser, and MagnaGuards on Kashyyyk. Along the way they will bond as brothers in arms and — since they are all clones — brothers in the literal sense.
Perhaps the greatest success of the story in Republic Commando is how it carves out its own niche in the Star Wars canon. The game is still recognizably Star Wars — there are battle droids, Wookiees, and thermal detonators, after all — but it's certainly an edgier, grittier experience that tackles familiar events from a very different perspective. Like Disney's smash-hit The Mandalorian, Republic Commando widens the Star Wars mythology, gives famous events additional context and texture, and shines a spotlight on a corner of the universe that functions outside the famous deeds of Jedi knights, chancellors, and princesses.
Don't expect any Jedi here, apart from the odd cameo or Easter egg. Republic Commando is as much sixth-gen Call of Duty as it is Star Wars; as a result, the heroes here are infantrymen. Across a 10-hour campaign you'll control Boss as he blasts Separatist forces and issues orders to his squad in a first-person perspective. The shooting controls here are typical for the genre. By default you'll shoot from the hip, but you can aim down the sights at your leisure. You're also able to jump, reload, toss grenades, melee attack, crouch, and interact — all standard stuff. Developer LucasArts elevated this material, however, by investing in enemy artificial intelligence and adding a layer of tactical decision-making on top of everything.
The enemy AI in Republic Commando was exceptional in 2005 and still makes an impression today. Enemy behavior is both believable and adaptable, which is absolutely essential in a grounded, tactical shooter like this one. Moreover, each opponent operates according to its own internal logic. Battle droids, being the most brittle, will travel in groups to overwhelm opposing forces; Trandoshan slavers will rush at Delta Squad with shotguns and knives; and Geonosian warriors will zip around the air unpredictably, making feints at earthbound troopers. It all makes for a very credible, engaging, and challenging experience.
Partner AI is similarly impressive — Scorch, Fixer, and Sev will take cover, heal themselves and each other, and make informed decisions independently — but it's limited by design. That's due to the signature system of Republic Commando: squad tactics. As Boss, you can issue a range of general and specific orders to your squad mates, in order to maximize their potential and survive each deadly encounter. You can set the entire squad loose with a "search and destroy" command, or order them to form up on you. You can send them to the nearest Bacta dispenser to heal, ask them to breach a locked door, request they booby trap an explosive barrel, or direct them to take up position in a sniper nest. Only by deploying yourself and your squad in smart, strategic ways can you hope to overcome a much larger, more powerful enemy force.
What's especially nice about the tactical commands in Republic Commando is how easy and intuitive they are. In general, all you need to do is highlight an interactive object — like a door, terminal, or waist-high cover — and press A; the nearest commando will immediately obey your command. It's a very accessible tweak to more intricate tactical shooters of the Ghost Recon variety. That said, sometimes it can be a little too simple and straightforward. One wonders how the tactical decision-making would have evolved in the cancelled sequel.
Graphically, Republic Commando looks better than before — at least on consoles — thanks to a new coat of paint from developer/publisher Aspyr. Everything is sharper and more textured. The blocky models won't let you forget this game is from 2005, though. Remember: this is an enhanced port, not a remaster, and certainly not a remake. Think of it as an uprezzed Xbox game.
While Aspyr upgraded the graphics, it didn't do much else to improve performance or modernize the game. There are no Switch-specific features, which is a major bummer. Gyro aiming would be a great addition, as would touch controls in handheld mode. Aspyr also nixed the multiplayer component from the game. The multiplayer mode was never essential, sure, but it would still be nice to have — maybe even buttressed with offline bots. Smaller quality-of-life fixes, like the ability to toggle crouch, would also be welcome.
So, should you invest in Republic Commando on Switch? Again, it depends on how you approach an "enhanced port". If you're looking only for the original single-player campaign, in all its glory, with some enhanced visuals, then go for it. This is still a great, unique game after all these years and worth playing for first-person shooter fans and Star Wars devotees alike. If you're looking for a true remaster or something that might justify double dipping on Switch, you may wish to pass. In any event, let us all hope and pray that one day we see a sequel to this outstanding game.
This review is based on a digital copy of Star Wars: Republic Commando for the NS, provided by the publisher.