Taking the best elements of Halo and Ghost Recon 2, Star Wars Republic Commando gets set to astound us all with some of the best squad based action seen yet. Though Republic Commando may not offer anything new to the genre it nonetheless manages to seamlessly inter-mix fast-paced action and tactical forethought into the best first person shooter to come out this year on the Xbox.
One of the first things youâ€™ll notice about Republic Commando is how it brazenly steps away from accepted Star Wars tradition and simply uses George Lucasâ€™ world as a platform rather than as a crutch. This struck me as a very conscious effort on behalf of Lucas Arts and was probably a very deliberate attempt at widening the gameâ€™s target audience. Though hardened Star Wars fans might miss that â€˜Jediâ€™ facet it was ultimately a wise move to give the game greater appeal.
Over recent years a general trend towards team based action and strategy has been emerging with games utilizing that â€˜multi-player-single playerâ€™ feel by including squads or team-mates. None however have done it as well as Republic Commando, and this success is mainly due to the superbly simple interface. Just one button with a few linked d-pad commands is all that is required to comprehensively lead your squad into any situation. Throughout each of the levels are dotted specific manoeuvre locations that can be utilized by moving your crosshair over the locale and pressing the â€˜useâ€™ button. Doing so will either instruct one of your commandos to take up that activity or enable you to do so yourself if youâ€™re close enough. There are also general commands that can be issued from anywhere such as, â€˜form upâ€™ or â€˜search and destroyâ€™ that enable you to exert a surprising level of control over your fellow commandos no matter what theyâ€™re doing. This straightforward and uncomplicated approach allows you to effortlessly direct the movements and actions of your troops and completely the removes the feeling of â€˜baby-sittingâ€™ the AI.
Single player campaign mode is unquestionably where the developers have put much of their effort, and certainly their diligence has payed off. Each location has been meticulously put together allowing for an excellent blend of claustrophobic corridors and wide open spaces, each having its own appeal depending on which way you prefer to lead your squad. Whether itâ€™s splattering bugs onto rust coloured sand, sneaking through a spooky ship or fighting alongside the wookiees on the jungle planet of Kashyyyk you will never be without the sense that each crate or wookiee corpse was put their with a purpose in mind. Unfortunately the campaign mode is a touch too short, proving a slightly disappointing end to the commandosâ€™ journey, however, considering the rather challenging difficulty curve, most will find that playing the game through again on hard mode will fill the hole nicely.
Though the single player campaign may have set itself apart from the pack, itâ€™s a shame to see that the developers did not put the same effort into the multiplayer mode. While Republic Commando is Xbox Live enabled and has the standard array of online features, it ultimately fails to achieve anything new when compared to other first person shooters. All the usual game modes are there including, â€˜capture the flagâ€™, â€˜death matchâ€™ and other favourites, however Republic Commando offers up only 5 maps, some of which feel identical to others. Beyond this though was the very buggy split screen mode. For instance, the player entering the game first is automatically allocated the first profile control scheme (but not the name), player 2 would lack certain sound effects like walking or melee attack noises and occasionally your view, or even your position, would spin around or change randomly. These are mistakes that should have been caught during play testing and their presence in the finished product is inexplicable.
One facet that multiplayer does share with single player is the exquisite graphics. Splattered throughout all modes is an environment rich in detail: battle armour looks worn with accompanying dings and dents, red dust falls atmospherically from the ceilings and the foliage looks dense and formidable. Also, itâ€™s clear from both the extra content and from in-game footage that a lot of effort has been put into making the commandos look and behave like military specialists. Whenever your commandos enter a room they immediately take on tactical positions, hiding behind doorways, crouching when up front to avoid friendly fire, and all in all maintaining the appearance of an elite squad.
Another great feature of the single player mode is the voice acting. All throughout the campaign you are served with a constant reminder that you are part of a squad, a squad that relies on communication as an integral part of its ability to function as a unit. Though Temuera Morrisonâ€™s voice acting may not be particularly stellar, it is nonetheless a nice aspect of the â€˜Attack of the Clonesâ€™ movie that has been brought into the game to provide a little extra authenticity. Notably, the voice acting of your squad mates adds much more than just a nice audio aesthetic. Rather, their voices and what theyâ€™re saying define their individual personalities, and also add a humorous side to the game; I was personally quite smitten when 40 (your squad mates have numerical names) refers to his â€˜l33t hacking skillsâ€™. Apart from the voice acting, the sound in both the effects and music departments was top-notch, providing us with all the right grunts, groans and orchestral pieces to set the mood from the first landing to the very last attack.
In conclusion, Star Wars: Republic Commando is a great title, and though it may not achieve anything genre defining, it certainly pulls its own weight when it comes to the already cramped FPS market. Though the game offers a somewhat average multiplayer experience, it is ultimately able to carry itself on the weight of the single player mode alone and delivers the most intuitive and downright fun squad based action Iâ€™ve ever played. Anyone who considers them-selves to be an FPS enthusiast should definitely take a look into this excellent Lucas Arts title.