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Star Wars: Republic Commando Review
Star Wars: Republic Commando presents the Star Wars Universe in a way not often visited by the Lucasarts games, through the eyes of glorified grunt. However, while seeing the Star Wars universe (of the prequels) in this way may be unique, the gameplay is of the fairly standard nature. While fun, Republic Commando places the player in a linear, watered down squad-based FPS, and while the fire fights can be intense, and the squad fairly intelligent, a general simplicity hampers the game.
Story wise, Star Wars: Republic Commando adopts the premise that the player is a, get this, commando. More exactly, a commando for the clone army (remember, of Mexicans), which means he is more or less a storm trooper with more fly skills then the rest. You know, like aiming. From there the game is subdivided into three campaigns, each one over the course of the commando (and his four man squad's) career. The first takes the player to fight the Droid Army on one of their many bases on the fringe of the galaxy. The second campaign takes place on board a derelict Star Destroyer to face off against slavers, and, once again, droids. Finally, the third chapter takes the commando and his team to the Wookie homeworld, to be reminded how kick ass the end of Return of the Jedi would have been if Lucas hadn't decided to set it on the Ewok world at the last minute. Okay, I lied a little in a last bit. It actually is to face off against the slavers/Droid Army, who apparently are in cahoots to enslave the Wookie race and conquer their homeworld. And how do you stop all these atrocious acts? By shooting everything in sight, of course.
As the head of a four man team the player must divide tasks equally to maximize fire power and minimize casualties. While essentially shooting through all the environments, the team must demolish obstacles, take over firing positions, and deal with nearly overwhelming odds. All commands are issued by a point and click system. The problem with the squad based combat, and the main way I find this game overly simplified, is that none of the teams actions are dynamic, beyond shooting wildly. The AI squad mates, while good at taking cover and rare at charging blindly to their deaths, won't use their full arsenal any time. Once they get grenade launchers, they won't use them any time a heavily armored unit attacks, nor can they be commanded to. Only when a preset point is present that allows the player to deploy the AI ally with his grenade launcher can the weapon be used. The same goes for the AI using its sniper rifle or grenades. When preset points are present, its fire away, but when they aren't, it's just shooting blindly regardless of the enemy present. This really removes a fair share of the challenge and replay ability of the game since with no ability to change how a battle plays out, it's pretty much pre-scripted. In fact for most of Republic Commando it feels like the game could practically play itself, were it not for the player having to hit a button to tell the AI to use the preset fire points, they pretty much do everything for themselves. And since the game allows the player to revive down squad mates they can revive the player too, so it's also fairly hard to die.
The fire power of Republic Commando, while not as diverse as I would have liked, delivers enough variety to keep combat interesting, and makes sure to provide guns that all have their own specialty. The first campaign gives the player access to the standard gun he will carry at all times, a rapid fire repeater rifle. However, the gun is also heavily augmentable, with the ability to switch it to grenade launcher and sniper modes on the fly. It's also worth mentioning that this is the gun all team members will carry at all times. The gun is fairly powerful against both droids and living targets, and for the most part, ammo is plentiful. But if ammo is to run out, the player can switch to his always available secondary, the pistol. With infinite ammo it still packs a punch, if not as fast firing or heavy hitting as the main weapon is. The pistol, in fact, makes me reminiscent of the first Halo , since while it lacks speed of fire, it does seem to have a very high accuracy rate, meaning I found myself using it even when I wasn't out of ammo for the repeater rifle. As the game progresses the player gets access to a variety of grenades, again all with special purposes. Flash grenades blind enemies (and yourself), electric grenades act like a massive taser (even to living things), and thermo-detonators, well, they're fairly self explanatory. Further on, during the second and third campaigns, the player gets access to a variety of weapons. This is probably the only Star Wars game that let's the player use a shotgun, something I enjoyed a lot. All the slaver's weapons, from the shotgun to sub and full machine guns, were very effective against living targets, while the primary weapon worked best against droids. While the overall arsenal expands to some ten guns, since the player can only carry one besides his defaults, the options never get very large at any one time.
Controls are also a high point in the game. While the simplification of squad based activities hurts the difficulty and gameplay some, it allows the controls to be as smooth as possible. Using only the A button and the joysticks, the player can order his squad to do any of the activities available in the area. Being able to do so means the player never has to break concentration from the shooting itself, which goes along smoothly by using the same setup about all Xbox FPS's use. That is, right trigger to shoot, left to throw grenade, X to reload, joysticks to move/look. One other feature I found very effective was the way guns are swapped. As noted when I talked about firepower, the primary gun has three modes, which can be switched between with thee of the four arrows on the D-pad, and the fourth arrow on the D-pad takes out whatever secondary weapon the player happens to have with him. The only problem with the controls is accessing the pistol. It's technically on the fourth D-pad arrow with the secondary gun, but double tapping the arrow doesn't always take it out. Only sometimes (seeming random) does the character take out the pistol when ordered to.
One of my favorite parts of Republic Commando has to be the music. By using what sound to be Russian Army Choirs, or something vary reminiscent of them, the game makes the struggle seem all the more epic. Cueing in at just the right moments to top off a fire fight, the music never fails to bolster the atmosphere the game is trying to obtain.
Graphics hold their own, too. While not mind-boggling, they are very good. Each of the three campaigns looks distinct from the others (no major re-use of graphics) and the enemies all look as deadly as possible. Since while the basic battle droid will never be scary, the game's heavier robots look dangerous enough to back up their firepower.
Multiplayer was a bit of a disappointment. With only 6 maps and no bot players, it doesn't have much to offer. Sadly you can't, for example, take two human players, give them each a team of bot squad mates, and then have a face off like in the single player game. Overall, it feels like a last minute tack-on.
At full price, I can't honestly recommend Republic Commando. While fun to play, it's neither long enough, nor has enough replay value, to justify shelling out 40 to 50 dollars. However, once the game falls in price, and you're looking for a fun and fairly easy way to shoot through the Star Wars Universe, pick it up.
needles of black tar heroin to make this game good?: 2