So I've had to restart this review a good few times because, each time I began writing it, I found myself ranting about the sequel trilogy and how much I loved the Pre Disney Expanded Universe...
However, I do have to say that despite the terrible sequel trilogy, the future of the franchise definitely has potential. The Mandalorian was/is excellent and both The Book of Bobba Fett and the ObiWan series may shine just as brightly, hopefully providing quality StarWars content for the coming years.
But we're not here to talk about the future of a beloved series but rather to look at a shining example from its past: Republic Commando.
Originally released way back in 2005 (for Xbox and Windows) the game was praised for its story, gameplay, and combat, leading to it acquiring a cult following with both StarWars fans and gamers alike. Flash forward almost 17 years from that initial release and a whole new generation will get the chance to experience the adventures of the Clone Commandos as both the PS4 and the Switch get a version thanks to Aspyr Media. As a more or less straight port though, will a game from 2 generations ago still hold up? Will gamers still find it's gameplay loop fun, and will it's story still grip them?
Well, for the most part, yes! Being a straight port of the original, with no graphical upgrades, new content, or modernization, I was a little worried that my memories of this game wouldn't stand up. However, I'm pleased to report that the experience was as fun now as it was then.
Set during the events of the Clone Wars that we saw begin in Episode II, you step into the armour clad and genetically modified clone boots of RC1138, better known as "Boss" as he takes leadership of a specially designed and trained four-man team of Clone Commandos. Along with squadmates Scorch, Fixer and Sev, you'll fight through the first few years of the war and carry out missions across locations well known to fans. The droid foundries of Geonosis, the Wookie homeworld of Kashyyyk and the corridors of the derelict starship Prosecutor are all involved and, as the team bonds, they'll encounter enemies and characters that will give lore lovers something to chew on. It's a war buddy story, where the interactions between the different members of the team are well done and their individual personalities shine through. You'll feel the team's relationships grow as the story advances and might just have a little tear in your eye by the end. Fans of the Clone Wars animated series, in particular, will enjoy it as it's one of the better stories told in Star Wars games and, while not as deep as KotOR or Force Unleashed, it does it's job well.
So the plot will still tick the boxes, especially for SW fans, but the gameplay is what we're really interested in so here goes.
Taking the form of a first-person shooter, you and your squadmates make your way towards the mission objectives, shooting down varied types of iconic enemies with your blaster rifle. Weapons feel exactly like you'd imagine they would if you were in the movies, blasts feel punchy and hard-hitting and have that perfect "pew pew" sound effect that we all know so well. Your AI-controlled team does a good job of backing you up, they stay close and quickly open fire and aim accurately.
But they do need some direction to really be effective and it's here that Republic Commando differentiates itself from other FPS of the time. You can tell them to hold position, advance or form up at any time with a simple to use radial menu but there are also specific tasks they can be assigned to as well. Spread throughout the environment, and marked by an icon showing their type, are various points that provide some type of advantage if a team member is assigned to them. Sniper points, turrets, grenadier positions, doors to splice or breach, as well as reviving downed allies or focusing fire on a specific tough opponent is easy. Simply press A on the icon while looking at it and one of your team will scramble to do the task, and they'll be just as (or even more) effective than you would be if you did it yourself.
You'll find 80% of the action taking place in tight corridors but having to look out for and utilise these spots for a tactical advantage really makes the levels feel more open and interesting than they would otherwise. Firing on droids, while sending troops to a sniping point, and instructing everyone to focus fire on one specifically powerful opponent becomes hectic and requires quick reactions but is always satisfying. The feeling of being a kick ass Commando, leading a team of powerful specialists, while taking down swarms of cannon fodder and overcoming impossible odds shines through but is enhanced by the excellent atmosphere building. Loads of little touches enhance the experience and instantly draw you into feeling like a part of the SW universe. From the sounds of blasters, the clank of clone armour and droids, to the look of the HUD or details like the electric wiper that removes gunk from your visor in combat, they'll all add up and help enhance the feeling of having stepped into the world of the prequel trilogy. Add to this the constant banter between your clones, showing their different personalities, and you'll find the experience of managing super soldiers through this beloved franchise a fun and interesting diversion.
There is one major thing that might discourage new players from picking up Republic Commando though, and to be fair it isn't really the games fault. You see it does really look like a nearly 20 year old game. Although really good looking at its original launch, it now looks dated but presentable, while coming off as downright ugly when compared to modern releases. Those coming from things like Battlefront II, Fallen Order or Squadrons will definitely find this jarring and it may cause graphic snobs to ignore it all together. Give it a chance though, accept it's a game from 3 gens ago and the gameplay and plot will definitely show it to be a worthy purchase. Alongside this were some very minor occurrences of getting stuck on level geometry, times where you can't walk up an incline you think you should but it always resolves itself with a sidestep and never became a major issue.
When it comes down to it, this straight port of a classic and much loved Star Wars game still holds up in the modern era. It's story and setting will still delight newcomers and those who played the original will find an experience that matches up to their memories. While definitely showing its age in the graphical department, it does everything else right and when the budget price is considered I'd encourage all StarWars fans to pick it up. On a personal note I'd love this to prove that the concept still works and for the idea to be reworked into a modern feeling new game. The Bad Batch series we're getting soon could be an excellent excuse to create a new experience using the same gameplay and it's something I sincerely would love to see. Until then though, this re-release will tide fans over and provide something new for younger fans to experience. Look past the presentation and you'll find an experience that still works today!
Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 8/10
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