I consider myself to be a pretty massive Star Wars fan, especially when it comes to the games but, because I never had an original Xbox growing up, I actually never got around to playing Star Wars: Republic Commando when it originally released. Since then, I’ve always heard it lauded as one of the best Star Wars games of all time, putting it up there with the likes of Knights of the Old Republic and The Force Unleashed.
After playing through it myself, I’ll agree that it’s definitely a great Star Wars game and one that I’m glad I finally played, but it’s one that I would personally place a little lower down the Star Wars gaming pantheon, and that might be more a product of a larger issue with the port that we’ll get onto later.
Star Wars: Republic Commando has you playing as elite clone trooper RC-1138, as you lead Delta Squad through three separate missions during the Clone Wars. There isn’t really a story or anything to massively expand Star Wars lore, but that’s not really the point here. Instead, it’s about seeing a different side to the story and watching Delta Squad bond as a team. It’s effective too, with each member having their own personality that you see develop over the story. The team really does become a unit as the game progresses, and even the typically reserved 38 gets his own growth and character moments when he’s separated which was cool to see.
Star Wars: Republic Commando’s presentation is one of the greatest examples of a mixed bag I’ve seen in a game, although not all of it is actually the game’s fault. The game’s graphics are pretty good, with a lot of detail put into replicating the Star Wars look and making each member of Delta Squad look unique and fleshed out, but the game also spends a lot of time in dark corridors and cramped spaces that don’t really do the game any favours. The music, on the other hand, is utterly fantastic and makes each moment feel appropriately epic. Similarly to Star Wars: Episode 1: Racer, just having the Star Wars music there is a really big deal for fans of the series. I was also pretty impressed with the voice work and sound design itself, with battles actually sounding like something from Star Wars. It’s something that I’ve seen in countless Star Wars games now so the magic has somewhat worn off, but it’s still deserving of mentioning.
This brings us to Star Wars: Republic Commando’s most well-documented fault, and one that’s sadly unique to Switch. The frame rate is so stuttery and inconsistent that it’s a bit baffling how it was left like this especially when it’s not like it on any other console. There are moments where the frame rate relaxes a little bit, but most of the time you’re going to be dealing with sub 20 frames per second. This is the sort of thing I’d expect to see from a PS4 title being brought to the Switch, not an original Xbox game. The game is still completely playable, but after seeing footage of the other versions of the game I find it really hard to recommend the Switch version over anything else. This is especially confusing when you look at the excellent job Aspyr did with every other Star Wars game that it has remastered. As someone who’s never played the game before, it’s a shame I did it in this state, and I really hope it’s fixed soon because there is a great game underneath. It’s just hard to recommend on Switch in its current state.
At its core, Star Wars: Republic Commando is a first-person shooter with some light tactical elements to it. With the push of a button, you can order your squad to do various actions, such as setting up bombs, focusing fire on one enemy, getting into sniping positions, and reviving teammates when they’re downed. The game will give little holographic outlines on things that you can have your squad do, which makes it feel very user-friendly. I rarely struggled to get my squad to do anything, and the tactical elements really do make it feel unlike any Star Wars game I’ve played before. I’d love to see a modern interpretation of this system, especially as this one shows its age a little bit in how simplistic it is. At times it feels like you’re just going through the motions and placing your squad in the same sort of positions. There’s not a whole lot of variety, and it’s carried more by the awesome Star Wars music and character interactions than it is the gunplay.
Even if the tactical elements are welcoming, don’t go expecting this game to be a cakewalk. Star Wars: Republic Commando has tons of difficulty-spiking instances that really make it feel its age. The squad has a tendency to go down pretty easily too, so there were definitely a few times during my playthrough where things got a bit frustrating. Thankfully, as far as the shooting goes it’s pretty responsive and satisfying, if nothing too special. Each weapon controls well enough and gives good feedback, although I’d argue the relative lack of weapons makes some of the firefights get a little bit repetitive during the later hours. The shotgun is pretty awesome though.
One of the bigger issues with Star Wars: Republic Commando is that it suffers from the same thing that many Star Wars titles of its generation do- short length. The game takes place across three missions, and although each of them feels quite long, I’d finished the game within seven hours. Those seven hours were pretty great, but it still felt like it flew by far too quickly, without letting the mechanics ever develop too much.
I walked away from Star Wars: Republic Commando glad that I had played it, but wishing that I’d done so on another console. This Nintendo Switch port simply doesn’t feel finished, which is a big shame considering how well Aspyr has done on pretty much every other Star Wars port. If you’re willing to look past that then there’s a fun, if dated, game here that shows a side of Star Wars that’s rarely focused on in games.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Aspyr