A great Star Wars squad shooter with good gameplay elements and a surprisingly intuitive control scheme.

User Rating: 8.1 | Star Wars: Republic Commando XBOX
There's no question that the three prequel Star Wars films are disappointments (especially Phantom Menace) They are just not as good as the original three science-fiction masterpieces starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher. These newer films have flashier special effects and more advanced visual smackerooney, but at their heart is a film without any atom of entertainment. There are some who might disagree; the most ardent Star Wars fans will slate me for stamping all over The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and more recently, Revenge of the Sith. But to me, they are time-wasting blobs of disappointment. And, as Revenge of the Sith's tie-in game demonstrated, often when you make games out of these films, they backfire horribly. But there's one example of a game that's based on these films, and is actually rather good...

Here we are with yet another Star Wars game, Star Wars: Republic Commando. This takes place at the height of the Clone Wars, which is displayed very tediously in the prequel films, and as the title suggests, you play as one of the clones who take part in this huge interplanetary war, representing the might of the Republic and doing so with an ultra-hard squad who do your every bidding and obey your very order. In other words, you're looked up to by many people and you are a beacon of hope shining in the war. A messianic figure clad in clone armor, with a blaster in hand, and three "brothers" by your side.

And, unlike the prequel films, is actually good. Even though it takes place in some dull scenarios portrayed in the movies, Republic Commando somehow turns these thoroughly non-entertaining battles into intense firefights with lasers pelting from all sides. This is unquestionably one great Star Wars game.

The entire of Republic Commando takes place from a first-person perspective. You see the whole game through the visor of one of the best commandos of the war, with a weapon in hand and a nice comfortable wristblade waiting in the wings for close-up combat, or just when ammunition is scarce.

And of course, being a squad leader, of course you have three other clones to boss around and issue orders to. The first of these is Six-Two, more commonly known as Scorch, and he is a straightforward soldier whose specialty is demolition [more about this specialties later] The second is Four-Oh, who is usually referred to as Scorch, and he's a computer nerd who has a knack for hacking into computer systems and overriding control panels. And the last is Oh-Seven, who is usually called Sev, and he is a fierce, sometimes impatient hunter with a passion for sniping down bugs and droids alike from a safe distance.

They're certainly one charismatic squad; each of your mates has their own distinct, memorable personality. Scorch is more childish than the other two, and is a lot more happy-clappy; eager to do your bidding whenever possible and is always optimistic whatever the situation. Fixer is more mature than the other two, and sometimes acts as the person who separates Sev and Scorch when their arguments start. And Sev is a dry-voiced, psychopathic soldier who is always eager to kill people who get in his way, and gets impatient when there's nothing to take the head off of.

And often this squad is the reason why Republic Commando is raised above most of the squad shooters on the market. They are a memorable bunch and are hopefully featured in any future Republic Commando games. Sometimes when the combat becomes tedious and gratifyingly boring, there's always a smart-ass or sarcastic remark to make you laugh, or just make you grin. I wouldn't be surprised if George Lucas decided to feature them in a Star Wars spin-off movie.

But that's enough about the squadmates, now I'll crack on the gameplay itself. Republic Commando is a very fast-paced squad shooter compared to more methodical games like Rainbow Six or Ghost Recon. Often you'll find yourself abandoning any squad orders altogether, and throwing yourself headfirst into a heated firefight. But yet other times, tactics is a must to prevail to the next section of the game. It's quite a mix of styles all thrown into one game, and yet still manages to be well-balanced.

The squad control is a very intuitive system and it's certainly less sophisticated than Rainbow Six. There's no forgettable order buttons in Republic Commando - it's all context sensitive and is very user-friendly. Simply point to an object that looks like it can turn the tide, and press A to order a squad member to take advantage of it. A prime example is sniping points for Sev to level out the battle from, or debris in the way that might need some radical reconstructuring work. Cue Scorch. If things get a little bit out of hand, there's a simple squad ordering mechanic that is accessed with the D-Pad, allowing you to issue basic orders such as Form Up or Search and Destroy.

Nevertheless, sometimes the combat can feel a little bit like a chore instead of an entertainment form. There's some horribly relentless enemies in this game that don't even wince when your emptying an entire plasma canister into their face. And plus the firefights don't stop coming. Normally this is a good thing, but when you've got some weapons that are low, and when your squadmates seem to love getting incapacitated, sometimes it can feel all too samey. There's not enough variety in this game, and this is a shame - it would have been great to drive some Star Wars vehicles. The lack of varied enemies, environments, and gameplay might make people abandon the otherwise awesome campaign altogether.

To counteract the fact that the campaign can sometimes be somewhat of a chore, another reason why Republic Commando is often more enjoyable than most other squad shooters on the console is simply because it's Star Wars. There's some familiar Star Wars bad boys in here, including the dratted Super Battle Droids and the hateful Geonosians. Sometimes the Star Wars feel is let up on, and sometimes it feels like some uncertain parallel universe, but then there's a group of furry Wookiees around the next corner to brighten things up.

Then there's the multiplayer. This isn't as squad-based as the campaign, it's a one-minded battle in some tedious arenas. It's Xbox Live-enabled, but there's no reason why you'd want to play this disappointing multiplayer if there's stalwarts like Halo 2 in your collection. I can't really explain the multiplayer in-depth because I'm a single-player-oriented person without Live.

And now we move on to the audiovisual presentation of this game. The graphics are pretty damn good in this game, and are indeed just like the scenarios of the film. The visuals kick off impressively with the sandblasted canyons of Geonosis, where spiderbots loom on the horizon, lasers spray everywhere, and droids helplessly fire at every soldier they see. The Wookiee planet of Kashyyyk is also an excellent environment, but the mid-sections of the campaign are way too repetitive to strike you with some awesome visuals. Squad members themselves are brilliantly modelled and authentic to their film counterparts, and the enemy character models are reminiscent of familiar Star Wars villains.

The sound is also a high point. From the haunting chant of the menu screen to the excellent in-game scores, the music in this game is really quite good. I was also delighted to see Ash's thunderous "Clones" featured in this game [I'm a big Ash fan] and I was pleased to hear that brilliant blaster fire in this game. Wins the award for "Best Sound Effect Ever."

One question that bugs everyone is, "Should you buy this game?" I think that yes, if you enjoy a rollicking, if flawed, campaign, or if you're a Star Wars fan full stop, you should raid your bargain bin for a copy. Aside from the disappointing multiplayer, and some slogging repetitive sections, this is one fine Star Wars game. I rest my case. Finally.