pinkelephant's Star Wars: Republic Commando (Xbox) review


Games based on movies rarely hit the mark. Developers are rushed to meet strict movie release deadlines, and on top of that it's difficult to translate a two-hour movie into a longer interactive adventure. By basing Republic Commando on the entire Star Wars prequel trilogy, Lucas Arts had the freedom of adhering to no movie in particular, and created an experience that's enjoyable regardless of your knowledge of the films. The result is a relentlessly entertaining shooter based in the Star Wars universe that will keep you on your toes right up until the credits roll.

In Republic Commando, you are the leader of an elite group of Republic clones: the Delta Squad. The Republic needs you and your trio of specialists to complete missions that require the stealth and tact that an entire clone army could not provide. Throughout your various missions you'll shoot your way through many different locations, never visiting the same one twice. You'll have many futuristic weapons at your disposal, ranging from rapid-fire laser guns to crossbows to rocket launchers. Also, as squad leader you're able to use some fairly basic but effective tactical commands. You can tell your three comrades to stake out certain positions, take offensive action, target a specific enemy, or even to heal themselves at designated stations. Thankfully, your allies can make their own simplified decisions during combat as well, and you can focus on the intense fire fights that Republic Commando has to offer.

Republic Commando does a great job at creating a sense of urgency and immerses you in your character. The realistic visor on your screen at all times makes you feel like you're looking through the eyes of an actual elite commando. One particularly great visor effect is when you kill an enemy up close and their slimy alien blood splatters all over your visor. Little touches like these make you feel a part of the action. If you happen to get downed by an enemy while your allies are still alive, you can direct them from your incapacitated state to either come and revive you immediately or finish the fight as best they can. Of course, when any of your allies goes down it is your job to either revive them yourself or direct one of the other soldiers to do it for you. As long as one member is still alive, you always have a fighting chance.

On top of a well-balanced mixture of action and strategy, you'll have a variety of gnarly weapons to deal some serious damage with throughout your adventure. Your main gun is a rapid-fire laser cannon that you'll use to take out most enemies. As you progress, you'll find useful attachments that transform your standard gun into a variety of different forms including a sniper rifle and a grenade launcher. Along with a large variety of weapons, you'll also have five different types of grenades that all have specialized capabilities. For example, one type of grenade shocks its enemies and works most effectively against robotic droids, while another type stuns non-robotic enemies. The weaponry and types of grenades you use all depend on what kind of enemies you're fighting, and you'll have a lot of fun figuring out which weapons work best in certain situations.

None of this would matter if Republic Commando didn't look fantastic. The detailed space environments, convincing and distinct character models, and lifelike animations all bring the Star Wars universe to life on the Xbox. The large spacecraft look especially grand with futuristic metal plating and all sorts of air shafts and hallways to get lost in. The enemies that fill these hallways look lifelike and threatening due to their fluid animations. The flying aliens look especially menacing as they perch on the walls and slowly flap their wings, biding their time until they attack. One particularly memorable animation happens when you shoot off a droid's head and the body continues to shoot around aimlessly before finally keeling over. All of this makes for an immersing atmosphere that unfortunately is interrupted a little too often by a choppy frame rate. When the action gets particularly fierce and you're dealing with a lot of enemies on screen, the frame rate can get dangerously low. However, these moments are usually few and far between and the game looks so good that this flaw is easier to forgive.

You'll find convincing voice acting and a great soundtrack in Republic Commando as well. All of your three squad mates have their own distinctive voice and personality that brings their character to life. For example, the sniper of the group is timid while the explosives specialist has a throaty, burly kind of voice. Various ambient sounds like lasers whizzing by and grenades exploding also add to the realism and suspense. As you'd expect, the soundtrack to Republic Commando is epic in stature like that of its movie counterparts. You'll recognize the familiar Star Wars theme in different forms throughout the game, as well as some original music that corresponds well with the action on screen. All of these sounds make Republic Commando a better experience by adding personality and realism to the action.

All in all, Republic Commando's single player campaign is extremely entertaining for the eight or so hours it lasts, but you can't help wanting more out of the experience. You can play multiplayer online, but it's fairly simple because there are only two game types. It's clear that Republic Commando was designed as a single player game. Currently most Star Wars fans are playing Battlefront or Battlefront II online, so it's very unlikely you'll even find people to play with. In short, you're far more likely to play the campaign over again than you are to spend any sort of serious time playing this game online. Overall, Republic Commando is a pithy, action-packed adventure that is bound to please any action fan, regardless of his or her opinion of Star Wars.
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