During the early 2000s, fans got plenty of Star Wars prequel trilogy game spin-offs of varying quality. While Knights of the Old Republic set a new bar for quality when it came to Star Wars and its expanded universe, most of the releases focusing on the new movies were a major letdown. However, there is one notable exception to this rule: Star Wars: Republic Commando.
The tactical first-person shooter was widely praised for its gameplay, tactics, story, and characters as it surprised fans and critics alike in 2005. With a planned sequel cancelled, fans have been left with just a few brief appearances by Delta Squad in other media such as novels and The Clone Wars. That’s all changing now, though, thanks to Aspyr Media bringing the previously PC and Xbox exclusive game to Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4.
The game picks up at the start of the Clone Wars on Geonosis, with the player taking on the role of Delta Squad leader 38. He is an elite Clone Trooper who has been specifically designed to take on the most dangerous missions. First deployed at the Battle of Geonosis, 38 commands a small four-man team made up of 62 (Scorch), 40 (Fixer), and 07 (Sev).
Like much of The Clone Wars animated show, the story delves into the more interesting parts of the galactic conflict and puts the emphasis on the foot soldiers involved in the war. Across three distinct campaigns and several years, Delta Squad becomes a veteran force, taking players to a derelict ship known as the Prosecutor and the Wookiee planet of Kashyyyk. The action is well-paced throughout and ratchets up the tension at exactly the right moments to keep things exciting. The only real complaint with the story is that it is over too soon, with Star Wars: Republic Commando lasting just over eight hours in total.
The best thing about Star Wars: Republic Commando in 2005 was the tactical first-person gameplay and this is still the case in 2021. Compared to some other tactical shooters like Rainbow Six, the gameplay here is much faster and not as cautious. Players can give out commands to the three other members of Delta Squad, some of which are specialized to their particular role. Although this might appear like a simplistic approach, it actually works quite well and never feels like it lacks any form of depth or strategy.
This is largely because the three teammates have some of the best AI in any game. When not given any specific orders, Delta Squad doesn’t become useless. The Clone Troopers are more than capable of looking after themselves and don’t need constant babysitting, giving the sense that the player is not some sort of one-man army doing everything himself but rather a part of a genuine squad.
Star Wars: Republic Commando also excels at not letting the tactical elements interfere with the gunplay. The commands are streamlined, with everything able to be controlled either from the d-pad or through the A button. Different items and locations have context-sensitive actions that specific members of your squad can do, all of which the player can order with a simple press of the A button. This is an efficient method that’s flexible and works effectively but does not ruin the basic gameplay.
Despite Star Wars: Republic Commando being billed as an enhanced port, nothing has really changed all that much. The visuals are the same as they were back in 2005, which may be a bit of a turn-off for some players as they do look very dated, especially in the darker moments when there’s not much colour. Even a minor facelift might have been enough to satisfy most players.
The game also suffers from some technical issues, with it failing to maintain a stable frame rate during intense moments. Star Wars: Republic Commando also cannot reach 60 FPS, which is a bit baffling considering that this is a game that was released three console generations ago and lacks any sort of overhaul in terms of graphics or features. The load times are also longer than you might expect and a bit too frequent, affecting the flow as the action moves from one scene to the next. However, perhaps the biggest crime of all is the fact that the developers did not take this opportunity to add co-op gameplay, something fans have long been calling for.
This Nintendo Switch edition of the game is also missing the multiplayer from the original release, which stings considering that this element is still available on the PC and Xbox editions of the game, which is also playable on the Xbox Series X via backward compatibility. While the multiplayer offering in Star Wars: Republic Commando was largely viewed as a disappointment and the least enjoyable part of the game, it still feels as if players are missing out on the full experience.
The only real reason to choose the Nintendo Switch version of Star Wars: Republic Commando is the fact that it can be played entirely in handheld mode without any notable drop in performance. In fact, there’s a case to be made for doing just that, as the visuals don’t appear to be quite as poor on the smaller screen compared to how they look on a 50-inch television. The frequent checkpoints and fast-paced action also make it ideal for picking up and playing in shorter bursts.
Star Wars: Republic Commando remains one of the best Star Wars games and those who have not experienced it before should certainly try it out now. While the Switch version might not be the definitive experience, due to some of the technical issues, it still offers a solid edition of the game. For those who can get past the dated visuals, the rest of Star Wars: Republic Commando has aged surprisingly well, thanks to the excellent gameplay and sophisticated AI. Simply put, any Star Wars fans who want a great shooter experience or gripping story outside of the Skywalker family must give this a go.
A Switch key was provided by PR for the purposes of this review.
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Republic Commando’s brilliant gameplay and compelling story more than make up for the dated visuals, although the Switch version might not be the definitive experience.
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