Star Wars has long been one of the most successful licensed franchises in gaming, from multiplayer experiences like Battlefront to legendary RPGs like Knights of the Old Republic. The franchise has experimented with countless gameplay styles, which has created some phenomenally unique games, like Star Wars: Republic Commando. More than any other Star Wars game out there, Republic Commando still stands out as one of the most tonally different games in the franchise, and a truly unique experience.
Ready the Canon
Republic Commando introduced the franchise to the characters of the game’s name, Clone Commandos that would later appear in The Clone Wars and other media. From the very first minute, Republic Commando doesn’t wait to drop you into the action, throwing the commandos into the thick of the battle on Geonosis. It’s clear from the start that Republic Commando is adopting a different tone than your usual Star Wars fare, with a more military-horror kind of vibe.
During the first stage of Geonosis, your first objective is to rendezvous with the rest of your squad, each of which has an incredibly distinct personality, unlike the normal Clones. Scorch is the jokester of the group, Fixer is the more stoic and analytic one, and Sev is the gruff military man with a penchant for violence. There’s a sense of isolation that permeated Republic Commando, even when you get the squad together. The only real allies you’re ever going to have are your three squadmates, and the games’ systems are explicitly designed for teamwork. Republic Commando honestly has some of the best squad mechanics I’ve ever seen in a game. You can order your squadmates to take up positions at different points in the game, like setting up for sniping cover or taking over a turret. The key is that nearly everything you can order squadmates to do, you can do yourself. If a blast needs to be set you can do it and order your squad to cover you, or a squadmate can be ordered to do it while you give them cover.
The quality of the allied AI is vitally important in Republic Commando because it makes the other squad members feel like more than companions, they’re a vital piece of the game that you have to use to make it through. This style of grounded military fiction applies to the rest of the game, with the team’s first mission being to assassinate a Geonosian leader. Republic Commando feels “gritty” but not just for the sake of it like some military shooters, as it all feels natural within the Star Wars universe.
Industrial Light and Magic
The game’s lighting and sound design are absolutely impeccable, and each area feels dark and foreboding, with dangers hiding around every corner. Guns and combat feel crunchier than most Star Wars games, with battle droids getting blown apart, and Geonosians spraying discolored blood on your visor, only to be wiped away by a kind of laser windshield wiper. A particular highlight is the Super Battle Droids, which feel like hulking behemoths rather than their film counterparts, which are just another flimsy droid. Super Battle Droids require the entire squad’s focus to take down, and sometimes when destroyed the legless husk will crawl along the ground, still trying to fight the Commandos. It’s a horrific sight that the game can get away with because it’s a droid, and not a living being. The actual design of the droids also makes them feel a lot dingier, more like hastily patched-together machines. Equally interesting is the armor of the Commandos; dirty and dented compared to the pristine armor of a normal Clone Trooper.
The visor itself also works wonders in setting the mood and tone, similar to what the Metroid Prime games do. The HUD is always highlighted by the shape of the Clone’s visor, with info being displayed as the troopers themselves see it. The view intentionally feels limiting and claustrophobic, which plays into the tightly designed linear corridors of the campaign.
There’s no Jedi and Sith in Republic Commando, it’s all about military forces grappling against one another. The game constantly reminds you of the danger by killing regular troopers you come across in horrific ways. Literally, the first ally you see in the game is dragged out of a ship by a Geonosian and dropped to his doom. Republic Commando is one of the best looks Star Wars has ever given at actual intergalactic war. The films and shows often apply a level of pomp and gloss to everything, but Republic Commando shows what it’s like for those troopers on the front lines, taking commands from the important people. It’s an utter shame that it never received a sequel, but hopefully, with Republic Commando’s re-release and the newly formed Lucasfilm Games, we can see another more grounded take on a galaxy far, far away.