The few, the proud, the clones.
In Star Wars: Episode II, we learned of the beginning of the Clone Wars and the origins of the clone army. A product of Jango Fett's DNA and some mad scientist on the planet Kamino, the clone army provides the Republic with a massive, highly-trained force of disposable soldiers ready to meet the Separatist threat head on - not to mention another unbelievably nerdy costume for hardcore Star Wars geeks to wear to the next Con.
In Star Wars: Republic Commando, you'll find out just what it takes to be a clone by taking on the role of RP 01-138 ("three-eight," for short), the leader of the elite Delta squad. Trained from birth to become an ultimate fighting machine, you and your three brothers, oh-seven, four-oh and six-two, will be inserted into enemy territory to perform incredibly dangerous missions that will decide the fate of the galaxy. Guess the Jedi were sort of overrated all along.
From first-person, you command your squad in eliminating any threat that crosses your path. The overall control is remarkably simple; anyone with even marginal FPS experience will sink right into the role quickly. The only difference, of course, is that you'll have three other guys to order around. Most of these general commands are similar to the wingman commands often found in flight games. Basic orders like Form Up, Search & Destroy and Secure Area are executed easily and effectively with a few simple button presses. More complex commands can be given at various hot spots, in which case you'll be able to set sniper points for cover fire, explode demolitions and set up perimeter defenses against oncoming forces. You won't be able to specify which member of your team will occupy each position, but take care of them well and someone will always be there to comply.
Part of the reason this system works so well is the way the A.I. handles itself. Your teammates will immediately move to respond to your commands, but will also perform like a pack of hunting Togorians when left alone. They'll gladly take point or catch up if you get too far ahead. Just watching them move as a team is impressive as they take up both defensive and offensive positions to perform team maneuvers like door breaches or room entry. The enemy A.I. isn't nearly as intricate, but seeing as how at least a third of the enemies are droids, that's not really a surprise.
Since you move as a team, help is always just a few steps away. Each team member is equipped with a field bacta kit, which will get any incapacitated teammate back on their feet in a few seconds. Hitting the deck is pretty common, but the game is a bit too forgiving with more than enough bacta healing stations positioned throughout each level. More often than not you'll be able to backtrack a smidgen and heal up before your team really gets into trouble. Only when the entire team is eliminated will you have to restart from your last save point, but that shouldn't happen much at all.
To keep yourself vertical, you'll primarily rely on your DC-17m Modifiable Blaster Rifle. Besides the standard setup, the DC-17m is compatible with a couple of additional attachments for added versatility. A sniper attachment adds a long-range component to the weapon for stealth kills and an anti-armor part will turn the relatively mild-mannered gun into a tank buster. It's great for taking out spider droids, scattering groups of super battle droids and is a cool conversation piece at parties. Other than that you'll have a DC-15s sidearm, several types of thermal detonators and a forearm blade as well as a variety of weaponry you can snatch from fallen foes.
The whole shebang looks pretty good, too. The squad models are well-detailed; body armor is dinged up in all the right places. Smash enemies with a melee attack and their ichor will splatter all over your visor, which will then kindly remove the gore with a handy wiper. A steady framerate and a variety of cool, incidental animations bring the world alive. Unfortunately, the small assortment of Trandoshan, Genosian and Droid models don't enjoy quite as much attention and the environments in the game's three main levels (Geonosis, Starship & Kashyyk) are fairly basic.
As is almost always the case with Star Wars games, the sound is very good, with the classic tracks from John Williams and a special voice appearance by Jango Fett himself, Temuera Morrison, as Delta 38. Punchy gun effects and atmospheric bits and pieces flesh out the experience.
Republic Commando puts on a good show, but its major shortcoming is that it's, well, too short. With only three main levels to fight through, most decent fraggers should claim victory over the Separatists in about ten standard hours. Although well-scripted and intense, it's also quite linear; you'll receive a few extras as rewards, but there isn't much reason to play the game again.
And don't expect the multiplayer to fill you with Dark Side power. The Xbox Live capabilities do extend the life of the game somewhat, but with a standard assortment of Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and Assault modes, there isn't much here that other Xbox FPS's haven't done bigger and better. It works well enough, although compared to Halo 2's jaw-dropping customization or Battlefront's epic feel, Republic Commando's multiplayer returns are fairly thin.
When the dust clears and the last enemy has fallen, Star Wars: Republic Commando remains an impressive but brief first-person foray into the Star Wars universe. The tour of duty deftly combines intuitive squad-based tactics with fast-paced action, though those wanting to go career will be disappointed in the lack of long-term value. But hey, not too shabby for a clone.