I started writing this review at least six months ago but got side-tracked at the time. Since the subject of video games is again on my mind for other reasons it seemed like now’d be an appropriate time to finish it off.
Warning: Minor spoilers.
A month or so ago in a review of Star Wars Battlefront I mentioned it’s semi-contemporary Republic Commando. As a wanna-be penny-pincher who would not buy a videogame of his own accord I never guessed that I’d actually be playing Republic Commando. But a friend of mine happened to have a copy. And since he was done with it and willing to loan it out I thought I’d see what all the cool trailers and hoopla were about.
Brief Synopsis: In Republic Commando you play a clone trooper. But not just any Jago Fette body double. You’re a specially bred clone with a little something extra. You play the part of ’38’ leader of the elite four-man “Delta” commando team tasked to preform special operations on behalf of the Republic.
Your team mates are 07 ‘Sev’ (all round bad-ass), 40 ‘Fixer’ (computer hacking specialist), and 62 ‘Scorch’ (demolitions expert). These guys heal you when you get shot up, help cover your back, preform mundane tasks, and make good natured snarky comments about each other and the local color.
The missions deal with opposing the Seperatist movement and the timeframe covers events between Star Wars II and Star Wars III. Some of the venues included Geonosis, the inside of a starship, and the Wookie homeworld.
Opinion: From the trailers I initially thought Republic Commando would compare directly with Star Wars Battlefront. And while a few comparisons can be made it’s obvious the designers were attempting much different things with the two games.
One difference is that alot of the enemies (especially the droids) are alot harder to kill in Commando than in Battlefront. However, you get alot of new weapons to take ’em down with including weird bio-weapons taken off enemies and three types of grenades each tailored to a specific task.
Things are alot less random and more mission focused in Commando than they were in Battlefront as well. Enemies in Commando might have a little self direction, but basically always come from about the same place every time you run through a map, and there tend to be specific goals to reach at the end of each map. This contrasts pretty heavily with the free for all slaughterfests that make up Battlefront games. In this respect Commando more resembles games like single player Doom than Battlefront.
Another difference is that Battlefront allowed either 1st or 3rd person display, a feature which I really liked since 3rd person makes for easier coordination and tracking. On the other hand Commando was only designed as a 1st person shooter. At first this seemed like it’d be really annoying, but I quickly got used to it. And I think I understand why they forced you into it. Two reasons:
Republic Commando takes place heavily (but not exclusively) in halls, tunnels and other enclosed spaces. I suspect a 3rd person perspective in some of these locals might have frustrated players as the camera slips into an opaque wall or can’t get a good view around the character.
Secondly, they’re really trying to put you into the part of the clone trooper. When an giant insect splatters nearby it partially obscures your view. EMP grenades that catch your in their blast radius screw with your electronics in notable ways. And when you get shot in the head and killed (at least before one of your comrads can revive you) a spiderweb crack appears through your helmet face shield, the perspective shifts upward and the battle continues on, uncomfortably out of focus like a fever dream. These effects either fade at the appropriate time or are electronically “wiped” off, but provide a regular reminder that you are indeed in the shit.
And your helmet gives you tactical overlays of potential maneuvers (demolitions, slicing, taking up sniper positions, administering first aid, etc.) that you can assign team members to preform. This is kind of cool IMHO since the tactical display keeps with LCD/holographic aesthetic some of the movies had. It also helps stress that you and your men are a team each with particular talents who work together.
The whole feeling of guys with unique personalities and abilities working together in tough situations is pretty well evoked throuhout the game. And for me it really worked. We were the hard headed fools rushing in where Jedi feared to tread. The work was dirty but we were the clones to do it.
I usually like to think of myself as pretty aloof and not too closely bonded with the characters I play in video games. But I’ve got to say: in the level called “belly of the beast” we must’ve gotten TPK‘d at least twenty times over the course of a week and by the end I wasn’t just frustrated, it felt like I was personally letting my squad-mates down. And when Yoda wisks us off to other battles leaving Sev behind in that hell hole I almost shed a tear, bitterly resenting that callous little muppet.
Final verdict: Sure the graphics and accouterments were fine, but what videogame can’t boast that these days? On the other hand the ambience, that gritty clone trooper ambiance, she is magnifique.