Retrospective: Star Wars: Republic Commando • Page 2

The Empire Strikes Back Catalogue.

Played through again now, the game is eerily reminiscent of Left 4 Dead - so neat are some of its squad mechanics, and so desperate for a co-op mode are affairs in general. Take the similar ways in which members of your squad become incapacitated, for example, and squad members having to get them back on their feet while the battle still rages. Or the ambient battle chatter, the mix of hugely imposing enemies with blaster-fodder or the scenes in which waves of Star Wars villainy must be held off... The whole game is simply a brilliant action package that subscribes to the Halo mantra of delivering that same exhilarating burst of action again and again - all to orchestral music that blends the chants of excitable holy men with the familiar strains of John Williams.

Even today it remains a more than competent action game, but there are other reasons that Republic Commando feels like it has what approaches the soul of a true LucasArts game, when so many others from the prequel period do not. It primarily comes from your squad, whether through the remarkable variations in animated bug/droid/lizard takedowns on show or simply in banter that, as mentioned before, rivals the best Left 4 Dead has to offer. Some of the lines are just priceless: "A well-built sniper rifle is a beautiful thing. Ours has two zoom modes, 'Up close and personal' and 'Hello, you're dead.'", "Are you trying to baffle the enemy into submission, sir?", "I think we may have to blast our way through that... And I'm not just saying that because I love to blow stuff up." Any game, any game at all, in which squad members chastise you for being a sadist when revoking an order to charge up on health has got to be a winner.

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The gang's all here. And underneath they're all Temuera Morrison.

Whereas other recent Star Wars action games have little other than surface gloss, Republic Commando somehow goes deeper. Where a less confident game like Force Unleashed has to open with a big sell, like you playing as Vader, Republic Commando simply contents itself with a long build-up to a final cameo from Yoda saying a 'jolly well done' in his mangled sentence structure. Because of this it feels like a separate and tighter package from the same canon, not necessarily part of the established prequel money machine. What other part of the nu-Star Wars splurge went as far as making jokes about its own limitations? One priceless moment in the final third of the game has a squad member complain, just when you're getting a little tired of going through the motions in facsimile environs, "What? Another hangar?" and another cattily reply, "Well, I guess the Wookiees just like Hangars..." They sure do.

For LucasArts itself Republic Commando came at a difficult time. It was known during its development that two thirds of its developers would be laid off after it wrapped, and it's hardly surprising that after its less-than-stellar sales the mooted sequel Imperial Commando would never see the light of day. Yet even with this in mind, in what were really rather desperate times for the folk in the Lucas games division, a game with real heart and soul was produced. It gave me hope that one day being a LucasArts fanboy would mean something again.

Are we teetering on the edge of something truly meaningful? I can't say. I'm damaged goods, with some stratospheric trust issues. But it feels right. I'm glad I didn't burn all her clothes after all, or stab her eyes out of all the photos that showed us together in happier times. Not out of all of them at least. Welcome back LucasArts. All is forgiven.

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