Regardless of what you felt about the latest Star Wars movies, the one extremely cool plot device was the development and deployment of the clone army. Not only did it provide a great battle sequence at the end of Episode 2, it gave an indication as to where Darth Vader would get his seemingly limitless shock troops. Besides, how cool was it to find out that the Jedi once had a legion of loyal soldiers cloned from the DNA of one of the galaxy’s best warriors? Lucasarts has just recently provided gamers with the means to experience life behind the helmet of these forces, taking on some of the toughest missions ever assigned to the clone army. Grab your blaster, because we’re entering the Clone Wars in Star Wars: Republic Commando.
Unlike a majority of the cannon fodder scattered throughout the original trilogy, players step into the boots of Delta-38, nicknamed Boss. Delta-38 is a commando, a highly trained clone warrior whose exceptional skills make him and his four-man squad stand out from the rest of his brethren. While they’re sometimes referred to as deluxe models by the other clones, the simple fact is that the Delta Squad is dispatched to take on jobs the other clones simply can’t handle. What seems like a routine support mission on Geonosis in the first few hours of the Clone Wars soon becomes a galaxy-wide conspiracy between the Trandoshans, Geonoshans and the Trade Federation that could endanger hundreds of planets.
Fortunately, you’re not going onto the battlefield alone. You’ll be able to call upon your Delta squadmates to provide support, covering fire or other tasks. While you all come from the same genetic stock, the other team members have a number of skills they specialize in. Delta-62 is known as “the heart of the team” by Delta’s advisors, although he prefers the nickname “Scorch.” A demolitions expert, Scorch loves to make things explode every chance he gets. Next comes Delta-40, the “consummate soldier” who follows orders to the letter. Known as “Fixer”, 40’s the team computer hacker who can crack open any door or machine. Finally, there’s Delta-07, the deadliest member of the squad. Called “Sev,” this hardened killer is the team’s sniper and combat specialist.
You’ll be able to order these soldiers around to take care of certain objectives, such as performing breach maneuvers on doors or healing themselves at Bacta stations (otherwise known as first aid). However, for the most part, you’ll direct them for fire support, taking up positions on turrets to suppress incoming opponents. You’ll also be able to direct them to one of three kinds of firing stances: grenade throwing for explosive maneuvers, anti-armor emplacements for heavily protected foes or sniper positions for distance eliminations. All of these tasks are simple button press commands, so you can literally command each soldier on your team without losing sight of the in-game action. As the leader, you can choose any one of these moves along with a number of general orders, such as search and destroy tactics during heavy firefights, securing an area, forming up in a line for tighter maneuvers, or concentrating fire on one single opponent to maximize your damage.
While every member of Delta Squad has personal shields that regenerate, a la Halo, there will inevitably come a time when you’ll lose one or more team members. Fortunately, you can resuscitate anyone by commanding a squad mate to revive a fallen comrade. Even cooler is the concept that as long as one member of Delta remains standing, players won’t lose the game, even if their character dies in battle. In fact, there are a number of times where you’ll probably wind up getting taken out if you take the point position, only to have your squad eliminate the surrounding opponents and revive you later. What’s more, while you’re incapacitated, you’ll have the ability to demand immediate resuscitation or tell the squad to maintain their orders until it’s safe to get you.
Although you’d probably the commandos to pack a large number of weaponry, you’d be surprised by the relative lack of equipment they seem to pack. In reality, the arms they hold are multipurpose weapons for any situation. Initially, you start off with a blaster rifle similar to the ones seen in the movies. However, you’ll soon acquire a number of attachments to change the function of the gun that turn it into a sniper rifle and a grenade launcher. As a last resort, you have access to a rechargeable laser pistol that comes in handy as a desperation weapon, unless you come into close combat, when it’s easier to bash them into submission or stab them with a retractable knife hidden in your gloves.
Visually, Republic Commando is one of the most appealing titles this year. Your three squadmates have detailed their armor to show off their own personality. It not only helps point them out on the field, it’s also a nice character touch. You’ll also notice a lot of character animations, such as specific ways they approach breach maneuvers or take up firing positions. They’re also not mindless automatons in combat, because you’ll notice them picking up and throwing back incoming thermal detonators. Opponents also show off a lot of localized damage, such as droids that fire in circles when their heads are blown off. The game demonstrates a number of impressive visual effects as well, from static interference in the helmet to light and heat blooms. You’ll also notice slick little details, such as spattering blood or oil that covers your face shield, which is quickly cleared in a nice “windshield wiping” animation. Environments for the levels are richly detailed, even in dark stages, and you have a definite sense of the Star Wars universe from the moment you start the game up.
Sound is just as nicely done, with the same sound effects found in the films. That ranges from the blaster fire echoes to the massive explosions and even Wookie growls. This compliments the in-game music, which ranges from driving rock during some battle sequences to cinematic style orchestral pieces. Topping this off is some pretty solid voice acting from everyone involved. The Delta squad manages to express themselves with plenty of radio chatter, from Sev’s snarls and Scorch’s wisecracks to Fixer’s attempts to keep the two of them from killing each other.
In fact, there are only a few issues that manage to keep this game from being completely perfect. First of all, Commando is a great game, full of action sequences and battle tactics. However, it’s an exceedingly short game, one that can be completed in ten hours or less. This, combined with an extremely direct and linear amount of gameplay means that you won’t necessarily replay the game a lot, but when you do, you’ll enjoy the title a lot. Tactical veterans possibly will wind up avoiding this game as well, dismissing the one-button presses as too simplistic, but the game doesn’t necessarily have to be over complicated since it focuses on action over extreme strategy. What’s more, the multiplayer is somewhat disappointing, with plenty of standard multiplayer battles to be found. This is one of those titles that would’ve been great if it seemed like it was originally intended, instead of a feature that seemed like it was added at the last second without anything to contribute to the experience.
Fans of the Star Wars Franchise will probably love this title, because it gives them a different sense of their favorite series from the soldier’s perspective. However, this is one of those titles that will appeal to action gamers and some strategy players alike. Although it’s a short single player experience, Commando packs a ton of action into every minute, and gamers will enjoy every minute of it.