In Replaying the Classics, StarWars.com revisits Star Wars games of yesteryear, examining why we loved them then and why they stand the test of time.
Three years before Star Wars: The Clone Wars introduced Captain Rex and Torrent Company, Star Wars: Republic Commando told the story of another elite clone-trooper unit fighting in Darth Sidious’s war.
A first-person shooter in the vein of Dark Forces, Republic Commando occupies a unique place between classic run-and-gun FPSs like Doom and the squad-focused mechanics of certain modern yet traditional shooters, such as Gears of War and Halo 5. Which makes perfect sense — Tim Longo, the game’s director, served as creative director for Halo 5: Guardians and is credited as a level designer and playtester on several titles in the beloved Jedi Knight series. Republic Commando was first released for PC and the original Xbox on February 17, 2005, but it’s still available today in a newly optimized Windows 10 edition on PC and through Xbox One’s backward compatibility program.
The game begins at zero hour on the planet Geonosis. You are RC-01/138, or “Delta Three-Eight,” leader of the four-commando Delta Squad, and your success will depend entirely on how well you manage your squadmates in battle. The game’s trailer got it right: “The squad is your weapon.”
You call the shots every step of the way. In the midst of combat, simple aim-and-click commands will let you order your squad to interact with environments, seek and destroy enemies, secure positions, and execute context-specific moves like the door-breach maneuver. If you fall in battle, the game will summon a menu asking you to make a choice: Do you want your fellow Deltas to continue carrying out their present orders? Do you want them to retreat and revive you? Or, in traditional video-game fashion, would you prefer to simply reload the last checkpoint and try again? You can also revive downed teammates yourself or order a fellow commando to do it for you; wounded allies will periodically rejuvenate themselves at healing stations.
It’s a deceptively simple set of design ideas that makes for fun, varied engagements — and there’s plenty of narrative depth to the experience to give the fighting meaning and a sense of momentum. Each member of Delta Squad has a unique nickname, personality, and voice, and their relationships propel the story in a way that earns your affection. The player character, Three-Eight (or “Boss”), is portrayed by Temuera Morrison, who fans will recognize as Jango Fett from Attack of the Clones and numerous clone troopers from Revenge of the Sith. Delta Six-Two, a.k.a. “Scorch,” is voiced by actor Raphael Sbarge, who played Carth Onasi in the original Knights of the Old Republic. And, of course, Star Wars mainstay Tom Kane supplies the voice of Yoda and several other characters.
The action takes place during three Delta Squad campaigns, spread across three locations and divided by long stretches of time: at the dawn of the war on Geonosis, aboard an Acclamator-class assault ship dubbed the Prosecutor (the transports seen in all their glory at the end of Attack of the Clones), and on the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk. You face a number of aggressive, dangerous foes, such as the standard Trade Federation B1 battle droid, the armored super battle droid, Geonosians, and Trandoshans. Thankfully, the standard-issue clone weapons are a blast to use.
While the game’s story and tie-in novels like Republic Commando: Hard Contact are part of the Legends continuity, Delta Squad themselves were faithfully canonized during Season Three of The Clone Wars, in an episode titled “Witches of the Mist.” IGN called the episode “amazing” — six years after the publication gave Republic Commando an Editors’ Choice Award.
With its top-notch storytelling, voice acting, and tactical elements, the game holds up incredibly well. I’d say it falls straight into the “must-play” category; you can safely recommend the game to anyone who enjoys first-person shooters, especially if they’re already a Star Wars fan.
Alex Kane is a journalist based in west-central Illinois. He has written for Polygon, the website of Rolling Stone, Syfy Wire, Variety, and other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @alexjkane.