Retrospective: Star Wars: Republic Commando

The Empire Strikes Back Catalogue.

How soon we forget. All LucasArts has to do is waltz through door with a smile on its face, a Monkey Island revamp and a decent Star Wars MMO under its arm, and the keys to a digital distribution service jangling in its pocket, and all of a sudden the past five years are forgotten. For years, absolutely nothing - and then suddenly she's back on the doorstep with a cheeky wink and a quip about selling me some fine leather jackets. Out of nowhere, we're rolling around in hay together and daring to dream of a new Day of the Tentacle, and more. As if the life that I wasted lying horizontal on the sofa and staring at the wallpaper hadn't been frittered away.

Well actually I haven't forgotten, you bitch. You left me. You grew tired of the things we cherished: pointing at verbs and combining objects, flying TIE fighters through asteroid fields and singing 'Lucas Arrrrrts!' in daft voices whenever we saw your logo. You walked out of that door and started chasing anything with a wallet or a nascent interest in pod-racing. And now, after so long searching for the fleeting affections of people who could never love you like I do, you've come crawling back to me. Good, old, dependable me.

I knew you'd come back though. I could, for want of a better phrase, feel the good in you. I thought for a while it was through basking in the reflected BioWare glory of Knights of the Old Republic - but no. I knew that your increasingly cold heart was still beating because of Republic Commando; the game that somehow and some way took comedy battle droids and gravel-voiced Kiwi clone troopers and rendered them vibrant, gritty and cool. Sure, it wasn't perfect, with its repeated action bursts and environments, its fixation with corridors and hangars and a paucity of enemy types - but it was effused with a spirit that couldn't be denied. And its music was brill too.

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The in-game intro tracks your growth as a clone. It's all rather nifty.

For those who bravely resisted anything associated with the front of lunchboxes between the years 1999 and 2005, Republic Commando takes place between the close of Attack of the Clones and the beginning of Revenge of the Sith. It's a squad-based first-person shooter in which you and three fellow clone commandos plough through the Clone Wars' first act on Geonosis, watch the back of General Grevious running through various Wookiee doors on Kashyyk, and in-between times deal with a group of adolescent Trandoshans who've found a Star Destroyer with the keys in the ignition and taken it for a joyride across half the known galaxy. Each of your commando chums meanwhile - Sev, Fixer and Scorch - has a personality that belies their shared genetic heritage and different traits, although, truth be told, said traits generally revolve around killing stuff.

The squad dynamics of Republic Commando remain exemplary - they're clear, obvious, fluid and easy to use. Most importantly though, in Republic Commando your squad is a necessity rather than a gang of liabilities trailing around after you reminding you to reload. The AI (perhaps aided by the game's limited corridor confines) rarely falters, while the ploy of providing many and varied sniping positions and grenade spots to bind your charges to while working your way round vast sci-fi hangars provides a tangible tactical edge.

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