Star Wars games have been an important part of Star Wars history, and video game history for that matter. Games like Knights of the Old Republic I and II hold a special place in the hearts of both Star Wars fans and those who love the Original Xbox. So it gives me great pleasure to talk about one of my favourite Star Wars games of all time, and one of the best Original Xbox games of all time – Star Wars Republic Commando.
One of the best things George Lucas did with the Star Wars prequels is that he invented a new universe – a universe which looked and felt very different to that which the original trilogy existed in. That original universe is the one which made us fall in love with the concept of the force, lightsabers and, well, you know the rest.
Don’t take my ramblings literally, however; I don’t mean that the prequels and the originals actually exist in separate universes (though some fans may wish that to be so), and instead I’m talking more about the aesthetic of each of the trilogies. Ignoring the obvious improvements in picture quality and CGI capability, the prequels look different because they’re set on different planets, with different colour schemes and different characters. Moreover, they include one of the greatest parts of Star Wars lore: The Clone Wars.
Some of the best Star Wars media has been based on The Clone Wars: the animated series, comics and, of course, video games. Republic Commando released way back in February of 2005, and is a brilliant part of the now exempt Star Wars extended universe. You play as a Republic Commando who leads an elite squad made up of three other elite commandos: 62 ‘Scorch’, 40 ‘Fixer’, and 07 ‘Sev’ – Delta squad.
As Delta 38, you see a brief overview of your birth and development at Kamino, where you learn how to become the clone trooper you were made to be. Your first mission is to infiltrate the arena on Geonosis where the clone army exposed themselves to the separatists for the first time.
I know that this saying has been hijacked by recent instalments of the Call of Duty franchise, but this game encapsulates the term ‘boots on the ground’. Your first combat scenario is fighting your way through the underground tunnels of the Geonosis arena, as featured in the critical darling Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
But from the very beginning, players knew that this game was going to feel different from other Star Wars games that had come before. I’m not sure we had seen that many FPS Star Wars games overall, let alone ones which felt gritty and realistic due to the design of the visuals, or a standout soundtrack where the main theme contains chanting within the Mandalorian language.
Geonosians looked intimidating, complex and daunting, in contrast to the caricatures they are in the film. The scenery was dirty and detailed but revelled the player with great shots of large battlegrounds and spaceship set-pieces.
I could go on complimenting the technical achievements that Republic Commando showed, such as the realistic graphics and squad-based combat, or how it broadens the prequel universe with dark tones of war and deception, or perhaps the realistic HUD visualized like a clone trooper helmet. But one thing that I would like for you to walk away with after reading this article is that of Republic Commando’s power to make you feel like you were a commando amid a galactic war. And I don’t mean that the game always puts you in the middle of the battlefield – far from it in fact.
You are completing top secret missions which most of the republic army don’t even know are being carried out. But as you play through the three main missions of the campaign, each having their own set of chapters and sub-chapters, you begin to understand the importance of your brethren when facing these monumentally important missions which will guarantee the victory of the republican army over that of the droid separatists.
Controlling your squad allows you to choose tactical advantages time and time again such as placing your commando to provide cover fire as one member uses a turret and another provides sniper cover – this is where you can control the combat scenario you’re facing whilst feeling like a badass clone commando as you use your grenade launcher to take down a disastrous spider-droid or group of intimidating super battle droids who, similar to the Geonosians, are no joke in this game. But don’t worry as there are plenty of jokes made with the exchanges of your commando squad – from Scorch talking about blowing through every problem you encounter, to Sev decapitating his enemies, to Fixer providing a neutral balance but nothing much more.
Star Wars Republic Commando doesn’t deliver the longest FPS campaign you’ll play, and half of it does take place on an elongated Kashyyyk section. That being said, the parts of the Star Wars universe it explores, such as the sacrifices that soldiers have to make for the good of the mission, the horrors of war and why you are nothing without your brothers, makes this game an absolute must-try for anyone who hasn’t played it.
I don’t care if you’re not a Star Wars fan – this is a great FPS campaign to experience, with some of the best squad mechanics I’ve used since Rainbow Six Vegas 2, even though that game came out after Republic Commando. I played Republic Commando again recently and it holds up extremely well via Xbox One backwards compatibility. Ultimately, it’s one of the best Star Wars games because it shows us a side of Star Wars which we had never seen before that point – a perspective from the clone army. A perspective where not every soldier is a powerful force user or lightsaber wielder.
In war there are casualties, and there is no greater casualty than that of your family.