Before we get this review underway, it should be noted that this review is based on the original game running on Xbox Series X|S with backwards compatibility enhancements. That being said, it’s essentially the same game that will release when Star Wars: Republic Commando releases on April 6th. The only differences will be variations between the resolution, some tweaks to the controls, and the U.I on Xbox being a little blurrier due to the way the enhancements work on Microsoft’s consoles. For all intents and purposes, though, it’s the exact same game. Of course, I’ll most likely end up playing it again on PS5 (via backwards compatibility) for the trophies because I’m a sucker for digital doodahs.
[Update: I’ve since played a couple of hours of the game on PS5 (running the PS4 game via backwards compatibility) and it’s as expected: a cleaner HUD, slightly more refined textures, and that’s the lot. Still worth a play if you’re a trophy hunter, though!]
So, what’s it all about then?
Star Wars Republic Commando is a bit of an oddity, or at least it was. See, back in 2005, the year Republic Commando released, Star Wars games were either dog-poo, or they were OK, but they were rarely ever honest-to-goodness first-person shooters.
Sure, we had the original Star Wars Battlefront and the Jedi Knight series, but they were not proper first-person shooters. Battlefront was a Battlefield clone and Jedi Knight was a mixture of first-person shooter and third-person action-platformer/maddening-puzzler.
Republic Commando took Star Wars into new territories by introducing a crack-squad of super clones in a Ghost Recon style outing, though significantly streamlined when compared to the famous Tom Clancy series.
Republic Commando definitely takes inspiration from other shooters of its day. Similarities between Ghost Recon, Brothers in Arms, and especially Halo, given the sci-fi setting, are obvious, but it’s never so obvious to be considered a blatant rip-off.
The big question is, then, does it hold up these days? Is Republic Commando worth playing on modern consoles? Yes, but you’ll have to take the rough with the smooth.
The moment-to-moment gameplay is good with the game providing a solid if a little short, single-player campaign that takes the super troopers on a few Star Wars-y missions. You’ll get into mad firefights with droids, super battle droids, Genoshian warriors, and more.
Despite the game’s age and the tech behind it, it still manages to feel quite modern. The controls are a little heavy and you’ll definitely feel a bit uneasy going into your first battle, but it’s not unwieldy by any means. Think of Killzone and how heavy the weapons feel there and you’ll have a good idea of the heft that’s felt behind Republic Commandos’ combat.
The tactical aspects, while being inspired by Ghost Recon and Brothers in Arms, is not quite as deep as either. You have limited control over your squadmates. You hold down the command button which brings up commands that are mapped to the d-pad. You could, however, go through the entire game and never use them; the A.I is decent enough that your fellow clones will fight when they need to, take cover when things get heavy, and even revive you when you fall in battle.
The majority of commands that you’ll give to your soldiers are contextual commands. So, for example, if a passage needs to be blown open with explosives, you aim your reticule at the blockage and command a clone to go blow it up. Likewise, if a door needs to be hacked open, it’s the same deal. Though you will have to keep an eye on their health meters as they don’t always go and grab a lovely bit of bacta when they need to, but you can command them to in the same way as other contextual actions. And I love this, only because I can’t get enough of hearing “go and get yourself some bacta, soldier”. (Watch the video for the spot-on impersonation that I’ve been repeating non-stop for weeks…)
Something else I really liked, and this is a small thing that you’ll forget about after you’ve seen it a couple of times, is your view getting filled with gunk, and then your visor cleaning it away automatically. It’s such a cool touch and I personally can’t get enough of it.
Another visual effect that really stands out is the low-light mode. Or night vision, as we Milk Way dwellers call it. This will trick you into thinking you’re playing a game produced within the last five years, not 15. Of course, the night-vision filter masks a lot of what dates the game, like the low-quality textures, shadows – and sometimes the lack of – but it’s brilliantly done and it was impressive back then and it’s still impressive today.
Republic Commando is obviously missing a few of the comforts we’re used to with modern games, and the multiplayer mode is nothing to shout about. But, it’s a first-person Star Wars shooter that managed to break away from the mediocre tie-ins and carve out its own space. Unfortunately, it never got a sequel, but maybe now that the Star Wars license is being spread outside of EA’s grasp, we’ll see something similar in the future. I hope so because Star Wars is rich pickings for the right developer, and a proper tactical shooter would be aces in my book.
Star Wars: Republic Commando Review
Star Wars: Republic Commando is still worth a play in 2021, no matter where you choose to play. The gameplay holds up even if the presentation doesn’t, but it’s the price you pay to play a true first-person shooter in the Star Wars universe with nary a lootbox in sight.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game bought at the expense of the reviewer. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: Xbox. Reviewed using: Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S. PS4 version tested on PS5 post-launch.