EDIT: this post was previously published as “Playing Republic Commando on Xbox One X”.
With the new month here another batch of Games with Gold titles arrived too. One of these was an old favourite of mine from the original Xbox days so I thought it was time to revisit LucasArts’ 2005 shooter Star Wars: Republic Commando and see how it holds up. Set after Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones the game put the player in the role of a squad leader of three highly trained clone soldiers who are sent on dangerous missions for The Republic. Each of the clones have their own distinct personality which is a trait that the franchise later used to great effect a couple of years later in The Clone Wars series.
Levels in the game are mostly small discrete areas that are chained together with a narrative and it works really well. It does mean that there isn’t a whole lot of opportunity to deviate from the path the designers have laid out but the game encourages you to keep moving forward constantly so you rarely have time to stop and consider your options beyond each door you want to breach or hack. Some sections open with a short scripted event to reveal a new environment or set the appropriate tone – it’s a technique used well in other games of the era such as the aforementioned Halo CE and one we’d later see used to great effect on the 360 generation with the excellent Rainbow Six Vegas. The load screens between these areas aren’t terribly intrusive now and on Xbox One X they barely last a few seconds which is a nice step up from loading off a DVD on the original console.
In backward compatibility the game does benefit from an enhanced resolution and what appears to be a steady frame rate however that same improvement also exposes the low detail textures and art assets which can be blurry up close. Some HUD elements like the grenade icons are the worst offenders and could do with some tweaks on the filtering side if that’s even possible. Character models are detailed enough to pass in 4K on the Xbox One X (especially the droids) and the environments do well thanks to good use of lighting and effects. The night vision mode and the visor “wipe” still hold up really well. If you have access to the PC version you’ll get the benefits of a game that’s designed to run at higher resolutions than the Xbox plus there’s mods also available that allow the game to run at up to 4K resolution.
Apart from that the game itself still plays quite nicely. The default controls for the game really do wonders when it comes to making you feel comfortable with Republic Commando. Wisely, the developers chose a configuration that’s close enough to Halo: Combat Evolved that (almost) everyone will be able to pick up the controls and feel in familiar territory. In the early days of Xbox not everyone followed the Halo model which will make those games in the future a lot less appealing to players who’ve now been weaned on a consistent control scheme that was more or less defined by the success of Bungie’s shooter.
Combat can be exciting and requires you to be fully aware of all the tools at your disposal. Not only can you have attachments available for you primary weapon that allow additional modes such as working as a sniper rifle but you can pick up enemy weapons too for brief periods. There are multiple grenade types you have access to and each of these serve their own purposes. You’ll quickly find there’s a need to mix up your attacks to be fully effective against your opponents. For example; ion grenades are great against all droids but in combination with a sniper rifle you can make short work of the tougher super battle droids by slowing them done with the grenade then targeting their weak spots.
Issuing orders to you team is limited to a set of general commands or interactions with certain locations like a healing station, a door or a sniper point. The AI is usually good enough in most situations but using the commands might help you complete objectives faster. What’s neat is that even when your own character is down there is still a chance for the other clones to be able to revive you; the game gives you to option to order them to continue with the current objective or immediately attempt to revive you. Their success will be dependent on the situation but it is a nice touch that the revive process that applies to the rest of the team also works for you too. If you think back to the original Gears of War which arrived more than a year later on the Xbox 360, it allowed you to revive AI squad mates but if you went down it was game over. Republic Commando was in some respects ahead of its time.
Compared to more modern games Star Wars: Republic Commando is not going to spark any kind of genre revival. However what it does have is enough of the familiar design elements that it doesn’t feel entirely out of place… some of those (like player revivals) can still be seen as a great example too. It also does the license justice by finding the appropriate fit of characters and game play that makes sense. In the end it’s a great pick up and play experience and with the smaller levels it makes it an easy game to play in small doses and still get your Star Wars fix. 🙂
Star Wars: Republic Commando is out now for Xbox One and PC.