Thursday, July 16, 2015

Star Wars: Republic Commando - 20/20 hours

I spent the last four hours of my time with Republic Commando goofing around. The first thing I tried to do was play a multiplayer game, a quixotic task at best, seeing as how the official servers were all shut down years ago. I downloaded some third-party software and found an active server, but I couldn't connect. I decided, as a consolation prize, to set up a LAN game and play against some bots - only to discover that Republic Commando's multiplayer doesn't actually have a bot option, which seems odd, considering that the teammate AI in single-player is as good as it is. I'm guessing that, whatever it's motivation, that decision is probably related to why the unofficial multiplayer was not as successful as Star Wars Battlefront II's.

What I wound up doing was wandering around the deserted multiplayer maps for about an hour or so, just checking them out, seeing their dimensions, firing off the various guns at nothing in particular. As far as I could tell, the maps were nice, but nothing special, but that's an assessment you should take with a grain of salt, because my experience with competitive multiplayer shooters is minimal. I've mostly gotten annihilated in split-screen Halo games and thus given the genre a pass.

After futzing around to no purpose for longer than was entirely reasonable, I went back to play the main campaign again, this time in GOD MODE! Which really sounds a lot more epic than it actually is. The only godlike power I had was total immunity to damage.

You'd think that would be dreadfully dull, and I suppose if I had to play it more than once, it would be, but there was something oddly relaxing about being able to go through levels that had previously been complex tactical challenges and just run up and blast the enemies point-blank in the face. This was especially the case with the solo sections of the game, where, in the normal game, the lack of your squad to back you up caused some uncomfortable difficulty spikes (I came to suspect those section were put in specifically so you would appreciate everything your squad does for you).

Overall, I'd say that Republic Commando is one of the more interesting Star Wars games I've played over the years. It lacks some of the series' most iconic trappings. You never have to fly a starfighter, and the only Jedi is Yoda, who makes a brief cameo appearance via hologram, but doesn't contribute much to the plot (aside from providing a brutal twist of the knife to the whole slavery subplot, which, as I said before, I'm sure is accidental), and there is no sign at all of comic-relief droids or aliens (you fight lots of them, but they're never funny - I don't recall even a single "Roger. Roger.")

Yet, in an odd way, it still feels like Star Wars. I'd attribute that mostly to the strong visual design, which is so effortlessly functional that it wasn't until I tried playing multiplayer that I realized this game was made in 2005 (though to be fair, that might also just be a sign that I'm getting old). The weapons, the environments, and the characters all look like they come from the movies. It is a plausible extension of the Star Wars universe into a genre and theme that I'd not previously associated with the series.

That's quite an accomplishment, and the fact that the game itself is fundamentally solid in its own right means that Republic Commando should probably have a higher place in the pantheon of Star Wars games than it currently occupies. I'd still say that it's more conservatively well-executed than particularly brilliant, but it's that very quality that gives it an evergreen appeal that will make it playable for years to come.

No comments:

Post a Comment