Bad, vile and meaningless: Republic Commando from Alan's clob

Star Wars -- Republic Commando

The Republic Commando happened to be the only star wars -related title available on my local supermarket, so I bought it on a whim. I was actually looking for Battlefront but they didn't carry it.

"Some kind of a foreign commando"

You are born as an elite clone, a leader to a 4-man squad. You and your teammates are trained to work together. The first day of the clone wars is now, and the planet is called Geonosis. This story stars where Star Wars episode 2 ends, however there are no story elements worth mentioning that would pertain to the Star Wars sexology.

This game has no puzzles. The role of a leader is to detect holographic images of soldiers at useful positions in the hud, and press F to send squad members over to those locations. Your unstationed squad members use the regular crap machinegun that reminds me of a vulcan cannon from a wholly another game: it's bad aiming with the overall stopping power of a water pistol.

The sniper weapon is more useful, but with only 20 bullets in your clip you don't have much long-term stopping power. However, if you go and place a squad member in a place that's designated for sniping he'll break out his sniper with infinite clips of ammo and keeps the whole area clean. There's also positions for regular small-arms fire and grenade throwing, but you can never choose what the preferred weapon is, nor can you set your team up in arbitrary positions. It follows that filling the team placement slots up is your most important function for survival.

The action in this game is at least as wooden as acting was in the recent feature films. Your super weapons have only a couple of ammos. Mostly the game is expecting you to sit around like a duck firing 100 bullets at one enemy before he falls down, and then taking on the next one. This is particularly unrewarding combination with those "droid dispensers", cubic ordnances that arrive out of basically nowhere and then keep on churning new droids constantly from their bowels.

Robots need parts. How the hell can you make infinite amounts of anything from a finite space? And why does it sometimes take 10 seconds to place a charge but later on 20 seconds? Is it about difficulty level raising? It's ridiculous. Remote-controlled charges like these should be simply slapped on and be ready in 2 seconds. It'd be a lot more realistic if you'd have to heroically run at the dispenser, slap a charge and get out fast instead of sitting down, making coffee and having a nap while the charge is setting itself up. Meanwhile the droids seem often oblivious of your presence, usually chattering something like "registering audio disturbance". Oh pleeze.

Look ma, there's no way to die

An elite solder does not die—he just suddenly runs out of bacta. A bactaless solder goes limp and groans vaguely for replenishment. Every squad member carries a portable bacta gun that can be used to bang life back to your fallen comrades, who become halfway recovered with new bactaplasm coursing in their veins. (I wonder, why can't they inject themselves, or the damn suit do it automatically? You'd keep on going forever!) Every corner and nook also tends to carry 1-3 bacta machines to be used for nourishment during heated battle. I think the idea should be that one team member gives his bacta to a fallen one, and both need replenishment in the end, or something...

Finally, level design is a bit on the dull side. There's quite a bit of repetition within levels, and gameplay itself is fairly repetitive. (Set squad, kill enemies, hack terminal, blow up another obstacle, repeat.) There's even a bit of self-irony in the dialogue: "Another hangar?" "What can I say, sir, the Wookies love hangars." But not all is awful, I definitely enjoyed a number of spots in all the levels, I just think that overall they'd use bit more work. Some more elements? More tactics? I think it's definitely missing something.

The game features a modern engine with blooms, bump maps, some stab at lighting, and some vaguely shadowlike castings on the ground (but enemies do not cast shadows). However, there's a distinctly synthetic look to everything, be it ground, rock, wood or metal. Plastic surfaces do look about right, though. Textures generally are quite underwhelming. Particularly offensive are the wookies that look more woody than hairy. (Doesn't anyone have a good shader for hairy surfaces yet?) And texture resolution is just too low. I think double the resolution for high-end machines would help this game enormously. One other thing I hate is fire that looks like explosion in empty space suspended in midair.

Ok ok, so there's faults. What about the good sides?

Your own squad has almost flawless performance. It's like they read your thoughts when you instruct them in the positions. They take intelligent routes, never get stuck, crouch where appropriate (to not blow up any mines on the way, for instance), and when you reassign slots it's almost always the right delta that leaves his spot and goes to the next one, without you manually instructing anyone to abandon position first. This is marvellous. Sometimes you have a moment where you genuinely believe in the teamwork when you watch your squad jeering at each other, throwing grenades and battling enemies hand-to-hand. I think this part is definitely the strongest part of the game, and it carries on throughout.

The enemies are not that interesting however. While there is definitely some logic to their behaviour, it largely fails to work. For instance, the droids never take cover but always march forwards without any regard to personal risk. The more dreadful the threat, the slower it moves, so that makes the would-be challenging parts often totally boring. At the extreme you take on a spider droid that is essentially just a huge monster you can run circles around and fire, if you like, or just weather it out behind some crate and wait while your teammates do the job.

I normally run at the weak droids and wildly sting them with the knife, which kills with one hit. While stabbing them I noticed that the enemies are sometimes following a script: If you advance faster than the game expects, the enemies are kinda stuck going to where the designers expected you to be, not where you are. That means the droids/what-have-you slowly crawl past you, despite your best efforts to kill them—as if mocking your efforts.

(Another useful hints: droidekas, the rolling machines, can't fire at you if you go to point blank range, so they can be safely killed with stabbing as well.)

The lizardy guys are largerly very annoying, overall I think they are quite successful. They are both clumsy and ferocious, to a good effect. Some that wield this game's equivalent of shotgun throw the gun away when they get wounded and decide to run at it, with knives bared. There is often a genuine sense of panic while you try to administrate enough small-arms fire to drop these guys before too many gets at you. (Sadly, even the organic kind of enemy is way too ammo-resilient. There's no way in hell anyone shield-less ought to last even a second with the kind of weapons you have in your hand, like the heavy repeater those spiky guys carry.)

The bodyguard types wield the electrically charged pole, and have habit of sitting in the air and bouncing around completely unbelieveably. They are the weakest kind of enemy. Usually hitting them occurs mostly by an accident and despite they don't look strongly armoured, taking them down is a lengthy ordeal. The best you can do is, again, to station your squad so that snipers pull out their guns. At one point you are battling with 3 or 4 of them, and it would be a total nightmare of boredom were that place not equipped with many stationary guns.

An unelegant weapon for the less civilised times

This game features no jedi or light sabres. This is a game about a commando clone, and the only one that appears briefly is Yoda that instructs the clone troopers of the taking of Kashyyyk, connecting the game to the 3rd movie. The game takes only about 5 hours to play through, so it's a very short one. As you progress through the levels, it unlocks some extra content that is mostly low-res the making-of variety.

For instance, I learnt that they hired an army guy to help them understand soldier movement and there's footage of the game development team stalking up their cubicles with plastic weapons in their hands and looking as if someone stuck thumbs up their asses. But clearly this part paid off: in the end the movements, while repetitive, at least look convincing.

The sound scene is good. This is one of the rare games that doesn't break into pieces when I use my 4-channel audio setup. (The fact I can't play surround in Doom 3, Thief 3 or Half-Life 2 tells something about how common this setup is.) The absolutely funniest part of the game, above all the manufactured fun, is watching the sound effects woman guy bat two slices of pineapple against some hay during making footstep sounds for the various game enemies. At one other scene she rummages through a room full of cardboard boxes with vague labels like "squeaky" searching for right kind of equipment. I testify that sounds work well in this game. Truly a great job, whoever she was!

The voice acting is first class. Your own voice (delta three-eight) is done by Temuera Morrison, the actor that did Jango Fett's role. Jango is supposed to be the "father" of all the clones, but the other deltas do have different voices. Overall, everyone comes through fairly well. There's a bit of witty humour sprinkled in the speaks, and I think it'd be great if there were two or three times more speaks for all the common tasks like "search and destroy" or "place an explosive charge".

Verdict? and summary

Don't buy at least at full price. Firstly, this game's actual action is not for you but your squadmen. You never have enough ammo in weapons that matter so that it counts. Secondly the weapons are misbalanced. The machineguns and the standard rifle are underpowered, and can only take out the weakest kind of enemy, the common battle droid. The sniper is too powerful related to them, but not powerful enough because it still takes like 5 hits with sniper to kill one super battle droid. It doesn't seem to matter much where you hit the enemies. This game needs a more explicit damage model. You only get 4 explosive rounds, which can take out one of those droids with one hit, in comparison.

To make this game more balanced, I think all the squad members and enemies should be killed with fewer hits. Halo has a good balance, so something like that, maybe. Here's the wishlist:

Try Battlefront instead. I'd take my own advice, too.