Star Wars: Republic Commando is the latest sci-fi remaster from Aspyr Media. Does this classic 2005 shooter still provide strategy and spectacle?
When I reviewed Aspyr Media’s remaster of Star Wars Episode 1: Racer, my appreciation for the game was, in part, fuelled by a generous slug of nostalgia. It’s a thrilling game in its own right, but also one I have a deep and long-standing connection with.
I have no such history with Star Wars: Republic Commando. For Aspyr’s latest remaster, I sign up to serve the Republic with nothing more than a modest disdain for shooters and a moderate love for the Star Wars franchise.
On paper, Republic Commando is little more than a corridor shooter typical of the mid-aughts. It’s an unremarkable collection of “go here and do that” missions requiring the slaughter of a steady parade of droids and creatures. But, it’s Star Wars, and as much as I try to ignore it, the franchise is a global phenomenon for a reason. And if used correctly, it can elevate the most rudimentary of games.
To pin Republic Commando‘s appeal solely on the Star Wars franchise does the game a disservice, however. It’s a tightly designed shooter that hurtles along at pace. Set-piece bleeds into set-piece in quick succession. There’s never time to think before another wave of enemies attack or you’re deployed on another dangerous mission. In fact, the constant, driving grind of it all can be rather gruelling. Clone war is hell.
As with many shooters of the era, the influence of Halo is evident throughout. Republic Commando shines brightest when it tells the story of an epic war through focused, hard-fought skirmishes. The funnelled levels betray the game’s age but, like Bungie’s classics, there’s a pervading sense of scale delivered through some evocative backdrops and ambient storytelling.
This feeling is enhanced by the game’s tactical elements. Although Republic Commando‘s campaign is a solo affair, you are accompanied by three squadmates, Scorch, Fixer, and Sev, each with specific skills and abilities. Throughout the adventure, you must deploy your Delta Squad teammates to breach doors, fiddle with comms panels, take up sniper spots, and conduct various other tasks found on a Clone Trooper’s job description. All the while, their health needs to be managed. If you fall, you can request revival from squadmates. If all four of you perish, it’s game over.
The moment-to-moment management of the Delta Squad’s manoeuvres is the secret to Republic Commando‘s success. As someone who is generally lukewarm on shooters, it adds a welcome element of tactical thinking. Some sequences are brutally tough and can only be completed with careful and decisive instruction to your comrades.
Compared to Aspyr’s previous remasters, Star Wars: Republic Commando is a mixed bag from a technical perspective. Frame-rate performance is a problem – on Nintendo Switch, at least – during the game’s more frantic scenes. Fortunately, a patch is on the way.
Image quality is perfectly acceptable, but such is the gloom of a Geonosian hive or a nighttime assault on Kashyyyk, the action doesn’t pop from the screen like Racer‘s colourful vistas. This is not a ground-up reimagining, then, rather an up-rezzed spit and polish. For some games, when 16 years old they reach… look as good, they do not.
Jesse Harlin’s brooding, majestic score almost compensates. Familiar themes from John Williams are reworked and given dangerous undercurrents to emphasise the magnitude of the conflict. And let’s not forget, this is the Star Wars game that features a song by Northern Irish rockers Ash over its closing credits. [They have form in this area; one of Ash’s live party pieces is a guitar-driven version of Star Wars’ Cantina Band – Obscure music facts Ed.]
Star Wars Republic Commando is another addition to the long list of spin-offs that prove the prequel trilogy, for its many faults, created a broad canvas upon which other creators could create their own magic. It’s a well-designed and compelling tactical shooter that – assuming its technical issues get patched – is worth signing up for.
Game: Star Wars: Republic Commando
Platforms: PlayStation 4 / Nintendo Switch (Reviewed)
Publisher: Aspyr Media / Lucasfilm Games
Developer: Aspyr Media
Release Date: Out Now