With the divisive prequel saga bringing the series back to the big screen, Star Wars saw many top-tier video game adaptations release in the wake of its rejuvenated popularity. One of the titles that is still fondly remembered by fans is Republic Commando - a squad-based shooter set during the Clone Wars. With the game being originally released on Xbox and PC back in 2005, Sony and Nintendo fans missed out on this gem for over 15 years. Fortunately though, Aspyr has now brought it to both the PS4 and the Nintendo Switch.
Something that I should clear up right off the bat is that this is port and not a remake or a remaster. What this essentially means is that the visuals, sound, and gameplay remains completely untouched, and it's only its control scheme that has been reworked to function on newer hardware. PS4 owners do at least have trophies to hunt, which have been added to the game for the very first time, and provide some additional objectives to complete.
Not much might have been added, but a noticeable omission here is the removal of several online modes, which released alongside the game in 2005. These online modes included a deathmatch mode, a team deathmatch mode, and a capture the flag mode and were designed for between four and 16 players. Whilst it's the campaign that is by far the most beloved aspect of Republic Commando, it's still disappointing that these modes have now been lost to time and haven't seen a revival along with these newer console versions.
Okay, with all of that out of the way, let's start by talking about the story. Republic Commando takes place during the Clone Wars and sees you step into the shoes of Delta squad leader, RC-1138. The campaign is split into three main objectives that will take you roughly six hours to complete, and these see you travelling across the galaxy and completing tasks along with your squad such as rescuing imprisoned Wookies and infiltrating a droid foundry.
If you're looking for a game that shares the same storytelling magic as the film series, then Republic Commando will likely disappoint. There are no cutscenes present here and your mission details are simply conveyed to you through brief radio interactions. The story might take a backseat here, but there are still plenty of humorous back and fourth moments between you and your squad. One of my favourite of these was early on in the campaign when the demolition expert remarked "was it or red, red, green... or red, green, red."
The action within Republic Commando is, of course, squad-based and you'll need to balance giving your team commands and roughing up enemies yourself. Your Delta Team squad mates can act on auto-pilot, but the combat requires you to be methodical, and it's likely that your mission will end in failure if you're just approaching it like a typical FPS. As the squad's leader, you have a whole slew of commands that you can issue to help turn the tides during combat. You can command your crew to focus their fire and take out one specific enemy, for example, and you can retreat if things get a little too dangerous.
Whilst I did find the tactical combat to be engaging, the level of babysitting I had to do was frustrating at times. Often without supervision, my squad would make decisions that were completely devoid of common sense like running blindly into battle completely on their own. They would also charge past healing stations and fail to revive each other when downed. I understand that the gameplay is designed to put you in the shoes of an all-important squad leader, but I wish that the AI just had a little bit more independence.
That said, the gunplay itself here feels snappy, and there's a diverse selection of weapons that you can wield when taking down attacking droids. Among my favourites, there's the DC 17, which is pretty much the jack of all trades and can transform into an assault rifle, a sniper rifle, and a rocket launcher at the push of a button, and there's also fun special weapons such as the Wookie Bowcaster and the Geonosian Beam Weapon.
Something that I was impressed by, was how well Republic Commando's visuals have managed to stand the test of time. It's unmistakably an older title, but its character models don't look noticeably dated and its environments are colourful and detailed. It does really show its age in some areas, but these are mainly related to its overall gameplay design. The levels that you'll manoeuvre through feel awfully linear, and there are loading screens present whenever you step into an elevator or progress to the next stage of a level.
Even though its age might be starting to show, Republic Commando still remains a blast to play through 16 years on from release. It's squad-based combat requires you to be strategic and really plan out your actions, and there's a great variety of different weapons present. That said, the AI isn't the most intelligent without instruction and some might feel disappointed that the online modes present within its original release are now absent. Hopefully this port can act as a catalyst to help more classic Star Wars titles like Bounty Hunter and the original Battlefront reach modern day platforms.