A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…
Setting the Stage
White-hot blaster bolts sizzle overhead as you hunker down, knee-deep in Trandoshan guts and scorched droid parts, fighting tooth-and-nail to survive an onslaught of seemingly infinite automatons. They march forward with programmed malicious intent in their receptors. You’re dangerously low on ammo, health supplies are at a minimum and you have nothing but your own wits and the support of your three squadmates to keep you alive. You check your grenade supply and see that you only have one single electronic countermeasure detonator remaining. If utilized properly it may be your only means of survival. As you contemplate your options, a stray shot from a far-off sniper takes out your demolitions expert, leaving him gasping on the ground.
You order your sniper and engineer to cover you from strategic positions whilst you patch the expert up, hastily restoring him back to minimal health. You’re a Hutt hair’s breadth from death, he’s a Wookiee hair’s length from life. You send your sniper over to a mounted turret to provide heavy covering fire to your beleaguered squad, and then march the injured demolitions expert over to the bacta station for some much-needed recuperation, covering his approach with your own scattered fire in the enemy’s direction. Some of the shots find their mark and reduce the approaching droids to piles of scrap, but others whizz straight past and fizzle off into the distance.
It’s a tense, nail-biting situation that forces you to adapt to an escalating firefight and utilize every tactic and tool at your disposal to survive and achieve victory. It’s moments like these when Star Wars: Republic Commando shines brightest.
Given it’s an unavoidable, all-encompassing, perpetual pop culture machine, it’s no surprise that the Star Wars franchise has dipped its toes into pretty much every videogame genre imaginable. It’s put you in command of real-time strategy with Empire At War, given you the keys to a whacky hack-‘n’-slash power trip with The Force Unleashed, and it’s even allowed you to strangely gyrate to Star Wars parodies of once-famous tunes in Star Wars Kinect. Was Star Wars Kinect good? I can’t say. Are the songs memorable and would I actually love to dance to them in real life? Absolutely.
The first-person shooter genre seems like a no-brainer for Star Wars, seeing as though, well, there are wars. With a plethora of weapons, infantry designs, vehicles, and vistas to create carnage with, Star Wars has seen arguably more success here than any of its other genres. Dark Forces and its subsequent Jedi Knight sequels are fondly remembered as being thrilling adventures with super cool action hero Kyle Katarn squaring up against the evil Empire and weird bald guys in black. I admit I haven’t played those games, so I just go by word of mouth that they were great.
Pandemic’s Battlefront was where everything changed, an ambitious shooter that truly dropped players right into the thick of a larger scale Star Wars experience. Being able to experience the battles you’d seen in the films in a videogame as lowly grunt in the conflict, fighting alongside your army to achieve victory was mind-blowing at the time, and its sequel ramped that up even more. It’s a shame that the series reboot by DICE over a decade later seemed to favour letting people play as lightsaber-wielding characters at the expense of the boots-on-the-ground experience that endeared me to the original so much, but oh well.
After playing Battlefront I was left wanting more, I hungered for that immersive Star Wars experience that let me act out the fantasy of being a cool soldier dude fighting bad guys with my laser gun. Thankfully, Republic Commando, which was released the same year as Battlefront 2 (2005) proved to be just the thing I needed.
No Match For a Good Blaster At Your Side
Republic Commando is a first-person shooter that puts players in the muddied boots of Delta Squad leader RC-1138, AKA ‘Boss.’ The game is a mission-based, linear adventure with an emphasis on light squad commands, allowing you to issue context-based orders to your three teammates: Sev, Fixer, and Scorch. It features a similar shield/health mechanic to Halo, with a recharging shield covering your vitals that will then deplete if the shield is drained. In fact, it is a bit of a Halo clone in some regards but then again so were a lot of things at the time.
Though the game shows its age in its graphics and some design choices, Republic Commando still manages to provide an enjoyable, immersive experience that arguably has yet to be surpassed or even just matched by anything released since. Its shooting mechanics are fairly bog-standard and admittedly the weapons don’t exactly feel very impactful, but the inclusion of your squadmates and their banter, as well as a variety of mission objectives, locations, and memorable set pieces keep the game enjoyable and immersive despite its average core gameplay. The game uses snippets of John Williams’ score which are always nice to listen to, but the game’s main theme, ‘Vode-An’, is the standout track. It’s an ominous and grandiose chant composed within the universe’s fictional Mando’a language that invokes a sense of raw, tribal camaraderie feeling that can trace its roots back to thousands of years of Mandalorian history
The opening minutes of the game do a fantastic job of immediately immersing you into the shoes of Delta Squad, with sequential flashes of Boss’s life from the player’s POV following him from birth to adulthood. It’s over quickly, but I appreciate the detail the developers put in here. They could have just as easily started the game with the first mission, but went through the effort of getting you right up to speed with what these characters are and what they’re bred for.
The characters quickly establish themselves as being more than just faceless mass-produced soldiers with no personality, riffing off of each other in the waiting room before you’re led out onto the rain-soaked loading dock, ready to be picked up for your first mission. These opening minutes immediately drop you into the role and make you feel like you’re inside that armour, it’s you that’s being born and molded into this elite soldier being sent on a dangerous mission.
Delta Squad’s four members are kitted out in different coloured armor and feature different voice actors, which lends individuality to each of them and humanizes them, making them feel more personable than the average clone. Their differing, sometimes clashing personalities are the driving force behind their interactions, which keep the entertainment value flowing through some of the game’s less exciting moments. Delta Squad is a team that sticks together no matter what and will fight to the bitter end no matter how dangerous the mission is, and they have fun while doing it.
Boss establishes himself quickly as a hardened, fearless leader who cares deeply for his squad. He isn’t as talkative as his subordinates but is far from the standard zip-mouthed FPS protagonist we’re used to seeing. In between barking out orders to Delta Squad, Boss often comments on the mission at hand and even hypes himself up as an elite badass. Boss is the only member of the squad to be voiced by Jango Fett (and by extension the whole clone army’s) voice actor, which gives him a familiar yet authoritative tone.
RC- 1140 ‘Fixer’
RC-1140, AKA Fixer is Delta Squad’s tech expert and second in command who specializes in slicing into computer systems and hacking. He’s a no-nonsense, by-the-book soldier who is usually the one to rein in Scorch and Sev when they get a bit banter-heavy and makes sure their mind is focused on the mission.
RC- 1262 ‘Scorch’
Described as ‘the heart and soul of the team’, Scorch is Delta’s demolitions expert. Jovial and talkative, Scorch is always quick on the trigger with his one-liners as well as his blaster shots. Scorch brings some welcome levity to the often grim and dark missions the Deltas are sent on, and his friendly persona keeps things grounded.
RC- 1207 ‘Sev’
Fan-favourite Sev carries out his missions with grim efficiency that some might find concerning, a skill emphasised by the sheer joy he exudes during combat. Sev absolutely loves his job and relishes any opportunity to smash droids and squash bugs. Easily distinguishable by his blood-red handprint of unknown origin across his helmet, Sev usually joins Scorch in banter over the radio, much to Fixer’s chagrin.
Boots on the Ground
The first of three missions takes place on Geonosis, and tasks Delta Squad with destroying gun emplacements, assassinating a Genosian Separatist leader, taking out a shield generator then boarding a Federation core ship to retrieve its launch codes and escape before it explodes. The game eases you into the controls and systems gradually as you make your way through the rocky canyons, gradually providing you with new attachments for your blaster and getting you reacquainted with the rest of Delta Squad.
You’ll encounter pretty much all the different types of battle droids here, and while the variety isn’t what I’d call expansive (that’s a limitation of the source material) it’s cool to see them pose a bit more of a threat than they usually do when up against lightsabers. Super Battle Droids in particular are far more threatening here than perhaps anywhere else in the franchise, with a girthy health pool that’ll take over half your blaster’s ammunition count to deplete. They present a challenge that forces you to be more conservative with your ammo and utilize the area’s cover to position yourself and attack it from different angles.
It’s here in these canyons that you encounter perhaps the game’s most irritating enemy, the Geonosian Elite. They can fly around and prove difficult to hit, which is already bad enough but it’s their weapons that make them a true nuisance. The Elites carry a weapon that assails you with a constant damaging beam which melts your shields and health bar fast, and this can prove troublesome when they’re backed up by the ground-based mooks. No cover will help you and your squad when these insectoids are hovering about, since they can just daintily fly over whilst you’re crouched behind a wall and blast you right in the face. A sniper shot or two can take them out without much hassle, but on the hard difficulty setting they can really ruin your day.
By far the best mission in-game, at least in my opinion is the second one. Delta Squad is tasked with boarding The Prosecutor, an abandoned Republic assault ship that has mysteriously reappeared, despite being assigned to a different world. All communication with the ship has been lost, so it’s up to the Deltas to infiltrate the stricken vessel and investigate its interiors for the source of its abandonment. It’s not as if any of the environments in Republic Commando are particularly welcoming, but the second mission puts you in an environment that really hammers it home just how dire things can get, and it takes but a quick pivot right at the start of the mission to see why.
There’s no foliage, no rocky outcrops, not even a skyline to accentuate the environment. There’s nothing but the cold, empty vastness of space and the only thing keeping you grounded and safe from the starry void’s embrace is this giant, seemingly empty floating hulk that could prove to be just as inhospitable. You and the rest of your squad are alone up here, isolated from the rest of the Republic Army and the first section of the mission sees you infiltrating the vessel from different entry points, leaving you to explore its eerie, empty corridors by yourself.
There are signs of damage everywhere: debris in the corridors, fires, the odd corpse of a clone here and there, and even scattered limbs strewn about (which is never a good sign). There’s a creeping paranoia that builds as you creep through the oppressive corridors and tunnels, not knowing what’s about to jump out at you. It’s not particularly scary and you’re not about to jump out of your seat like Dead Space would make you do, but it’s definitely atmospheric and sets the appropriate tone for the rest of the mission.
It soon becomes apparent that Trandoshan slavers are responsible for the ship’s current state, and it’s up to Boss to fight his way through the lizard-laden corridors to regroup with the rest of Delta Squad and retake the ship. This leads to what I believe is Republic Commando’s most thrilling and entertaining combat encounter, the hangar bays. The Prosecutor’s been taken over by both Trandoshans and Separatist battle droids, a large number of which are hunkered down in the hangars.
What follows is a long, drawn-out series of skirmishes across multiple rooms that sees Delta Sqaud blasting their way through waves and waves of enemies whilst trying to complete their tasks. What really makes this part of the game shine for me is the variety of options the player has available. Republic Commando‘s squad command system isn’t too in-depth—in fact, it’s quite simple, but it still gives you enough control to immerse yourself as the leader of Delta Squad, and have the results of your actions prove to be a success. There are balconies overhead where you can send Sev to provide sniper cover from above, and there are heavy turrets you can send someone to sit in and blast away anyone who dares to try and stop you. Add in the spawning machines that indefinitely spit out battle droids until they are manually shut down and you have a chaotic and frantic combat encounter that leaves you directing the squad to various vantage points from which they can provide the most beneficial assistance. The fight culminates in having an AT-TE walker delivered to you, courtesy of command promising to provide ordinance. After fighting tooth-and-nail to get this far, it’s immensely satisfying to be at the helm of such a powerful machine that can blow away everything in your path with such ease.
The final mission takes place on Kashyyk, and features early glimpses of characters from the then-upcoming Revenge of the Sith such as Wookiee chieftain Tarfful and General Grievous. This mission was immensely difficult to me as a younger lad and playing it again, I can definitely see players finding the skirmishes here quite challenging with its abundance of droid spawners and long, drawn-out firefights. The final portion of the mission involves dropping off each member of your squad one-by-one, reducing your numbers whilst still going up against waves of enemies. It’s tense and sometimes frustrating but with enough clever usage of ammo supplies and wits, you’ll see it through to the end. Republic Commando is infamous for ending on a cliff-hanger here, and it’s one that still stings to this day, long after the game passed out the canon stream and drifted into the continuity now dubbed Legends.
We’re Clones, We Fight, We Win!
Republic Commando is by no means a masterpiece. The game is over a bit too quickly, and the weapons lack the gravitas and feedback of their contemporaries. The AI of both your squadmates and opponents can prove a bit dim at times, especially when it comes to the combatants of both sides entering close proximity to each other. Some enemies are a bit too bullet-spongy for my taste and certain encounters get dragged out a bit too long thanks to their presence in numbers.
Despite all of that, though, I still love Republic Commando. It does a fantastic job of putting you right inside that armour and at the helm of the finest squad of commandos in the Clone army. Little things such as your helmet’s visor wiping itself when you get splattered with oil or alien guts, sly nods to the franchise’s history really add to the Delta experience. You’re brothers in arms who fight together through thick and thin. If you’re in the mood for an immersive (if short) first-person shooter that doesn’t do anything all-too impressive gameplay-wise but still manages to be an enjoyable ride through a period of Star Wars history that has seen more and more emerging love over recent years, then you can’t go wrong with Republic Commando.
Sean Hollyman is an avid fan of action figures, videogames and sometimes other things too. When he's not labourously trying to earn platinum trophies for games that he otherwise probably wouldn't care about, Sean can often be found taking photos of his Transformers in embarrassing situations.
Favorite Food: Roast Dinner
Least Favorite Food: ANYTHING with mayonnaise in it