2005 – I remember I was at my grandma’s house after school watching some afternoon cartoons when a commercial came on. It started with a LucasArts flash, and I was an avid Star Wars fan, so my attention was immediate. Revenge Of The Sith was due out soon, and I clung to anything I could get.
What I saw was Star Wars, but not in a way I had ever seen before. I distinctly remember the ad campaigns for this game showing a sense of tension and even fear I had never seen from any media from the franchise: intense first-person helmet-cam combat in ambushes interspersed with the heavy breathing of a stressed Commando. I knew this was something different, something I’d never seen before.
Released in March of 2005 for the XBOX and Windows, Star Wars: Republic Commando is a “tactical” FPS set in the Star Wars universe during the time frame of the Clone Wars. I’m not going to dive too deep into the narrative, but lets take a look as to what makes this title tick.
As soon as you launch the game, you are greeted by your boys, Delta Squad, backed by the vocals of a Mandalorian choir. The game spends a few minutes getting you up to speed. The basics: you are a Clone Commando in the Grand Army Of The Republic, designation RC-1138 or “Boss,” and leader of Delta Squad which is made up of three additional commandos.
- RC-1140 “Fixer”
Fixer is the teams technician and slicing expert. He is described as “pure and uncomplicated” soldier, and Four-Oh is a “by-the-books” type of Commando that will recite policy and SOPs verbatim. His favorite weapon is the wrist gauntlet vibroblade. Badass.
- RC-1262 “Scorch”
Scorch is the “class clown” but he’s got it where it counts. Six-Two is the demolitions and heavy weapons expert of the squad, and is always the first for a clever quip or to volunteer for a bit of “radical restructuring.” His favorite weapon is the anti-armor launcher. Enemy go boom.
- RC-1207 “Sev”
Sev is described as a “fierce hunter” and it’s clear from first glance he is not only very capable, but very enthusiastic about his work. The crimson smears of paint on his armor, combined with his passion for his work, have brought forth a very important question: is it real blood or not? Oh-Seven’s favorite weapon is the sniper rifle.
Each Delta’s personality is unique and distinct from the get-go. Boss is voiced by Temuera Morrison himself, who played the role of Jango Fett and the Clone Troopers in the films, which adds a hefty amount of authenticity to the character and the experience overall. The squad’s interaction amongst themselves really does feel like that of professionals who have lived and worked together for a considerable amount of time – in this case, for their whole lives. The dialogue almost never feels contrived, or out of place.
Buckets On; Hearts Gone
Your first duty as Delta Lead will be partaking in a covert op in the backdrop of the Battle Of Geonosis to assassinate a Geonosian HVT. Each Delta has been inserted via separate methods as a failsafe, to ensure the whole squad doesn’t all go down in one gunship.
As you make your way through the the frontline trenches, you’ll become acquainted with your basic equipment and controls. This game handles more or less like any standard FPS of the time; it’s simple to pick up and run with. The Heads-Up-Display within the helmet of your Katarn armor will give you information as to your health and shield status, objective location, and squad status. Weapon status is indicated by readouts on the weapons themselves. Nearly every piece of info the game will give you is in a diegetic manner that Boss himself is seeing. Encountering your first enemies will get you torching off some blaster bolts with your Blas-Tech DC-17m Interchangeable Weapon System, or “Deece.” As the name implies, the Deece is modular, and with quick component swaps will perform as your workhorse assault rifle, precision sniper system, and light anti-armor launcher all in one package. Especially of note – When’s the last time you can remember using iron sights in a Star Wars game?
You are also issued a DC-15s Sidearm Blaster, which is fairly plain as far as handguns go. Accurate and packing a fair amount of punch, it has a recharging system which ensures you’ll never be caught without ammo for a fight. It can fire eight shots in rapid succession before needing to recharge, so I always imagined this to be analogous to iconic Delta Force 1911s, or the MEUSOC 1911 employed by the Marine Corps; whether that was intentional or not, who knows.
You can also pick up various small arms from fallen enemies throughout your missions: these include a Wookie rocket launcher, Trandoshan shotgun, and even a belt-fed MG. The arsenal is rounded out by a few different grenades, including the classic Thermal Detonator, flashbangs, and an EMP grenade which stops clankers in their tracks. Throughout your tour, you’ll be going toe-to-toe with various TradeFed battle droids, as well as Trandoshan slaver and mercenary chakaar. If you want to live to operate another day, it’d be good to become familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of your available equipment.
Working your way into your target location, you’ll pick up your squadmates one by one. Here is where you’ll begin to realize that the most effective weapon at your disposal is not the Deece in your hands, but your team. You are able to give your squad simple commands, such as taking up a sniping position, setting up a demo, slicing a terminal, or aiding a fallen brother in need. You can also decide the general manner in which they behave, with the “search and destroy” command prompting them to be aggressive and semi-independent of your direct command, or having them form up while you take point and call the shots.
The Deltas are able to think for themselves. They’ll seek cover as appropriate, use available healing stations if needed, or utilize grenades and the various Deece attachments. I’ll notice that if I’m performing a task, such as setting up a demo shot, the squad wont simply stand and watch me work. They will spread out, watching different sectors from positions of cover.
Each Delta has a particular skill or equipment they “specialize” in, but this does not translate to any difference in gameplay: each brother is just as proficient in each skill as the next. It would be nice if there was a perk to using each Commando to fill specific tasks, such as Sev having more accuracy or a higher fire rate when in a sniping position, or Scorch having a reduced time to set up a demo or recover an enemy mine. I believe this may have been omitted in order to keep the decision making more fluid and on-the-fly, rather than getting bogged down while in a firefight. This is a “tactical” shooter, but it isn’t Star Wars: Raven Shield. Maybe it could be compared to the simpler Rainbow 6: Vegas games in terms of that side of the gameplay.
Much of the campaign is designed around the effective use of your squad – you simply cannot play this game like Three-Eight is a one-clone army. Your energy shields and guns will get you far, but at the end of the day, there is a reason there’s four of you. The very best and most engrossing parts of the campaign are when you are setting up an ambush or a counter-assault with the resources you have around you. Is there a place you can set up a proximity mine and lure your enemies through it? Maybe there’s an E-Web emplacement nearby, but you need to demo some rubble to get a clear line of sight. The tactical gameplay keeps you on your toes, and keeps you re-assessing what resources and positions of advantage you can exploit. I can tell you that even with all the advantages you can muster, taking down a Droideka dispenser under withering fire is going to be a huge pain in the shebs.
A Galaxy Far, Far Away
Republic Commando will have you participating in several diverse AOs. From the red-sand canyons of Genosis, to a VBSS mission on a derelict Acclamator-class Republic Assault ship, and finally the jungles of Kashyyyk, from the depths of the Shadowlands all the way up in the Wookie villages high up in the Wroshyr trees; each environment is well-detailed, and varied in appearance. There are stark stylistic differences even in similar locales, like Trade Federation and Republic starships. None of the levels got too repetitive to me before I found myself in a new one.
Sound design is very authentic to Star Wars, and uses familiar effects that will make you feel at home in the overall universe. Also present is a mix of John Williams’ score for both the original trilogy as well as the prequel films, and original tracks made just for Republic Commando – both intermix seamlessly. The original tracks make frequent use of male choir singing in the Mando’a language, intense percussion and brass elements, as well as a goddamn didgeridoo. This is in keeping with the presentation of Mandalorians being based on New Zealand and Maori cultures, thanks to Temuera Morrison being the template for them. Give it a listen in the link below.
Graphically, the game is very competent. The team managed to strike a balance between military grit, typical Star Wars presentation, with a mix of almost cartoonish stylization, and manage to pull it off with great success. You’ll see some absolutely massive Wookies defending their homes, and face off with the intimidating profile of the B2 Super Battle Droid.
As the game was a 2005 XBOX title ported to PC, the standard graphics suite is dated and native widescreen isn’t supported out of the box. There are easily-installed mods to remedy this and enhance the visual acuity of the game somewhat. An updated port of the game has been released for the PS4 and Nintendo Switch as well.
A More Civilized Time
At the time, Republic Commando occupied a very unique space in Star Wars media, and it does so even to this day. This is even more surprising considering this is a first-party LucasArts project, rather than a licensed title. Around the early/mid-2000’s, Star Wars games and books detached from the main films were incredibly popular: of particular note would be the Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic and Star Wars: Battlefront series, releasing their first entries in 2003 and 2004, respectively.
Republic Commando is notable in the fact that you won’t see a single Jedi or Sith throughout the campaign; this is pure, ground-pounding SOF action in some of the hottest sectors in the galaxy. Seems like it was a long time coming for a franchise with “Wars” literally being the operative word of the title.
Reminds me of a saying someone once said about keeping a good blaster at your side.
Coming back to Republic Commando after having a bit of my own experience in our own world, living and learning, I feel I’ve been able to appreciate certain bits about the game more. You can see where the use of a military advisor payed off. It is interesting to see life-like tactics applied to the Star Wars setting played totally straight. Maneuvers are purposeful and appropriate. I take particular notice of the assaulters moving to points of domination after a successful door breach, similarly to how I’ve trained and executed many times. This has been a staple of CQB tactics in every worthwhile professional body that has partaken in close combat for decades at this point.
For clarity, I’m not a Sep-slotting space commando or combat veteran – I’m not even a part of a “tactical” team. However, I do work with a handful of guys that I have been through some pretty good scrapes with, and I trust my actual fuckin’ life with them: It’s pretty hard to do a two-man building clearance in the middle of nowhere if you don’t absolutely have faith in your partner. You get that same sense of brotherly love from Delta’s interactions with each other, from complimenting someone on a well placed shot, or ribbing them for taking too long to slice a terminal. When I was younger, I thought it was just some decent writing; I know now that this is an example of exemplary character realization, and this an extremely hard kind of relationship to portray in media if you haven’t lived it. This is no small feat for a movie tie-in FPS from the mid 00’s, and it’s something I’ve grown to appreciate greatly.
If you’d like to play Republic Commando, you can pick it up for about $10 on Steam, or track down a PS4 or Switch copy. The game is a little short at about 6 hours, but there’s no feeling of slack or filler in that time frame, and is well worth the cash in my opinion. If you’d like to read the novels, the first entry, Hard Contact is listed on Amazon for Kindle at $4, and paperback at $15.
Alright, ner’vod, I’ve rambled enough about my favorite band of Space-SAS for one day. Thanks for taking the time to read, and I hope it piqued some interest in a neat slice of Star Wars media.
Stay dangerous, ret’urcye mhi.