29 May 2016

FWS Forgotten Classics: STAR WARS: Republic Commando (2005)

Star Wars is one of the most well known science fiction franchise around the globe and one of the best example of space-fantasy. Jedi take the place of the Paladin and the Sith Lords taking the place of the Black Knights. Most of the fandom, including the cosplay community, focus on the Jedi and the Sith. But, one of the other well known elements of the Star Wars universe is the Imperial Stormtrooper and their iconic white armor (and bad aim). For the limited number of Star Wars shooter-type games, the Imperial Stormtroopers were often the target of your blaster fire. That changed in 2005, when the extensive world of Star Wars video games was given something new: an true military sci-fi shooter, coupled with limited squad commands. That game was SW: Republic Commando, and it would become one of the most beloved SW games of all time. In this installment of Forgotten Classics, FWS will be joining Delta Squad to dive into this unique Star Wars game.

What Was Republic Commando?
Star Wars: Republic Commando was released on the 2005 original Xbox and PC. This military science fiction first-person shooter video game was coupled some limited squad commands allowing the player able to direct the actions of Delta Squad quickly during real-time combat. The game was set during the very beginning of the Clone Wars, tying the game to 2002's Attack of the Clones and the upcoming release of Revenge of the Sith. In the game, you are an elite commando of the Republic clone army, constructed on the foundation of Mandalorian Jango Fett, and given the best gear, training, and team members. As Commando RC-1138, you are in command of an elite Special Operations unit of three other badass clone warfighters: Delta Squad. As with any Special Mission Unit, you and the boys of Delta are tasked with fighting behind the scenes, supporting the big army and wreaking havoc on the enemy. The game ran on the Unreal 2 Engine with both single-player campaign and multiplayer. The game features three major missions for Delta, spanning across several locations; from Geonosis to the Wookie homeworld of Kashyyyk to the starship Prosecutor; along with a number of enemies and allies. The game was released Feburary 28th, 2005 to the much acclaim by the gaming press and rapidly became a fan favorite.

The Historical Context of SW: Republic Commando
The year that Republic Commando came out, 2005, the world of video games was entering an increased phase of war gaming/shooters that would dominate the world of video gaming for over a decade spurred on by current events. Titles like Call of Duty 2, Brothers in Arms, Mercenaries, Splinter Cell, Medal of Honor: European Assault would all be released in the same year as Republic Commando. Also at this time, military themed squad based shooters like RAINBOW Six and Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 were becoming popular, accounting for two aspects of Republic Commando's gameplay.  For course, this was the time period when the Star Wars prequels were beginning to wind down with the release of the final insulting film, The Revenge of the Sith, two months after the release of Republic Commando. On the small screen, the animated Star Wars: Clone Wars series was in its 3rd Season. This made the time just right for Star Wars shooter set in the chaos of the Clone Wars. But, all of the Star Wars products being released were also drowning the market, making Republic Commando one of several SW game releases. 


Come and Meet the Boys of Delta Squad
RC-1138 "Boss" Commander
He is the commander of Delta, and featured the actual voice of Jango Fett himself, Temuera Morrison. This was the body that the player occupied in the game, and besides his leadership and Commando training, he does not use any special weapon system or skill.

RC-1140 "Fixer" TECH/HACK
Unlike the rest of the squad, the computer hacker-commando 1140 is more reserved and quiet, but does enjoy ramming his vibroblade into his enemies over his blaster carbine. His primary skill is being the computer systems expert and hack. His skills are key in accessing terminals, opening doors, and hacking equipment; especially turrets.

RC-1207 "Sev" Sniper/Scout/hunter
This is the badass of the unit of badass commandos. 1207 or "Sev" is the scout/sniper of Delta, and he enjoys his work with a grim sense of humor. Sev (for Seven) would be lost in the last mission of the game, and the last transmission said he was under heavy attack. Officially, Sev is listed as MIA status, but if the sequel game had been released, it is likely that Sev would have reemerged.

RC-1262 "Scorch"  DEMO
1262 or "Scorch" is the demolition expert of the team and often jokes around with Sev during down moments in the game. Scorch got his nickname from burning off his and his instructor's eyebrows during training.

What Happened to Republic Commando?
Republic Commando was one of those games that many were counting down to the release date, and even gaming magazines of the time were putting Republic Commando on their "must have" list of 2005. When the game was release, it received much praise, often getting scores like 8.4 from IGN, Game Informer Magazine giving it 8.25, and Eurogamer giving the game an 8 out of 10. Reviewers talked glowingly about the combination of RAINBOW SIX: 3, Call of Duty, and Star Wars into a unique package that explored the prequel universe in a fresh and realistic military manner. It sold well and the Star Wars fan community embraced it along with regular gamers. Adding to the game, toys of Delta Squad were made and noted sci-fi author Karen Traviss wrote a series of books about the commandos during the Clone Wars, Order 66, and even the Empire; which I am currently reading this series. In the Star Wars: Clone Wars animated series, Delta Squad would make a very brief appearance in the 2008 episode "Witches in the Mist".

What was the Impact of Republic Commando?
Star Wars video games have been around since nearly the beginning of the films, with Empire Strikes Back on ATARI 2600 in 1982 being the first official release. Since then, there have been over one hundred video games taking place in the SW universe across all consoles and computers. There is a few, like 1995's Dark Forces, that are more shooters, but they were more DOOM cash-ins than what Republic Commando is: an military sci-fi shooter/squad command game. There has been nothing like Republic Commando that blended MSF elements within the Clone Wars timeline, showcasing an Special Operations unit. This allowed Republic Commando to be more of interest to others outside the normal Star Wars fandom.
At the time, I was not into Star Wars after the shitstorm that the Prequels had been, but I had an interest in Republic Commando due to my interest in games like RAINBOW 6 and Brothers in Arms. This was one of the impacts of the game: bring gamers, not just SW fans, to play the title. The other impact the 2005 game had was introducing hardcore military science fiction elements to the Clone Wars time-period of Star Wars where it had been lacking. Republic Commando was not involving the Sith or the Jedi, but the war against the Confederacy of Independent Systems. Lastly, it is an fondly remembered game to this day. Given Republic Commando's unique status in the SW universe, it is often ranked by fans, critics, and the press, as one of the best Star Wars games of all time. It was so popular in fact, that Hasbro made two SW: Republic Commando action figure set 2006 and 2011...I still want of these for the FWS office.

What Happened to the Sequel Imperial Commando?
With the success of Republic Commando, LucasArts moved forward with development on a sequel titled Imperial Commando. However, it is 2016, and we have yet to see this game and it is likely that nor will we. What happened? Officially, LucasArts cancelled Imperial Commando due to limited resources, and those resources were diverted to the sequel to the uber-successful Star Wars: Battlefront series. But, I think there is more to the story than that. It has come out that there were two pitched stories that the game would have centered around. One of the proposed storylines, you would have taken the role a one of the heroes from Republic Commando, the sniper Sev, who turns away from the Empire, and being the first soldier in the Rebellion Army. While others in Delta squad would have sided with the Empire. Another story had you hunting down Jedi and killing them under Order 66. Author Karen Traviss has developed the world and lore of the commandos from the Republic to the Empire, and I think the setting in which the Imperial Commandos would have found themselves in deeply bothered the LucasArts people. Consider that our boys in Delta Squad during the Clone Wars killed members of the Separatists armies, which were the "bad guys" of the Clone Wars, but the tables were turned in the Empire. Now, the people that the commandos would have been working for were the "bad guys" of the Star Wars universe, and they would be hunting down and killed the "good guys" of the films: the rebellion or even surviving Jedi. Given the first person shooter format, it could have been hard for gamers to engage and killing the "good guys" they grew up with. I personally believe that LucasArts felt that the setting of Star Wars: Imperial Commando was just too much and decided that Battlefront games were a better, easier way.

Republic Commando Today
When this game was released back in 2005, I was completely burned out on the Star Wars universe due to the shitty prequel films. I knew about the game, read the articles on it in Game Informer magazine, but I never bought it. I played one level of the game at an Dallas Best Buy, but at the time, I was just totally not interested in playing an Star Wars game. After a few emails about this game from readers of FWS, I decided it was time to track down the game and play it for this blogpost. I really believed this would be an easy task considering I live in Dallas and that the game came out on the original Xbox. Yeah...it didn't work out that way. Yes, I could have ordered the game via Amazon, but I didn't want to buy shipping and after all, that wouldn't been any fun. It took me weeks to track down a copy, but in that experience, I came to realize what people think about Republic Commando today. Each time I visited a store and talked to the clerk, they often would say: "that is a good game" or "that is the best Star Wars game ever." Despite this game coming out on two console generations ago, and being a Star Wars without Jedi, the game is beloved by all that have played it. Given the difficulty of finding and buying this game in the wild of the real-world, I felt this also speaks to the status of Republic Commandos today, it seems that gamers are holding on to the game, and replaying it. Also, each time I discussed the game with people, they lamented the fact that the sequel Imperial Commando was not finished and never will be. In 2015, an fan of the game by the internet handle of Leon2800698 used his talent and skill to upgrade and fix the game on PC, giving the game a life-extension on PC. It still is not the upgrade that most fans want...but, it is a start.

Why Republic Commando is Memorable and Important to the Wider SW Universe
During the research phase of the blogpost along with the hunt to find a physical copy of the game for my original Xbox, I began to realize why this Star Wars game remembered so fondly by gamers and fans, and how it is important to the larger world of Star Wars in mass media. Simply put, Republic Commando is one of the very few Star Wars games and stories that does NOT involve the Jedi or the Sith (or even the Force for that matter). This allows us to experience an mostly unseen portion of the Star Wars central story: other POVs on the wars seen in the SW universe.
This is huge, because Lucas and the legions of creators involved in Star Wars focus the vast majority of the stories of this fictional universe a long; long time ago in a galaxy far, far away via the lens of these Force users and their allegiances. This is true of the Prequels, the original trilogy, and the new trilogy: the main story is the struggle between the Light and the Dark sides of the Force. In works like Republic CommandoRogue Squadron, Rogue One, and some of the RPG storylines; the focus is on the soldiers, pilots, spies, and smugglers that occupy the galaxy that SW is set in.
There is also another way that this 2005 game is memorable and important to the entire SW universe: it takes place in the much-maligned Prequel films-era. Okay, confession time, I mostly hate the Prequel Star Wars films and feel they are a huge betrayal of the original films and an massive broken promise to the mystery of the Clone Wars. But, Republic Commando is one of the few good works within that storyline and it adds a good solid element to the Prequel timeline and one that we fans enjoyed experiencing. And given the controversial nature of the Prequels, that may be the most important legacy of Republic Commando.

The EA "Imperial Commando" for 2017 Rumors
Recently, there was a rumor that EA was working on a Star Wars shooter for release in 2017. There are some hints around the internet that this is the long-awaited sequel to Republic Commando: Imperial Commando. However, these rumors turned out to be just the sequel to the current Battlefront game.  Of course, it is telling that with rumors still make the rounds about the sequel to the 2005 game, proving the popularity of the game to this very day.

Playing Republic Commando Today
This game was released 11 years and two console generations ago with no plans to update Republic Commando into the modern era of graphics and sound. Pity. For this blogpost, I broke out my original Xbox  to do "research". That being said, playing Republic Commando today on modern televisions really reveals the graphical limitations and makes some of the gameplay muddy and blocky. One of the things I really enjoyed about Republic Commando was showing the other side of the Prequel films and the covert missions of Republic Special Operations.
Overall, I enjoyed this game more than those shitty Prequel films. My issues with the game that ruins a great deal of the enjoyment of this shooter is the actual gunplay, the weapons, and combat itself. The standard armament of the squad is the DC-17m ICWS, and this unique modular DE weapon system is very cool, but when using in the game, it feels like nothing. There is none of the feedback present in other shooter games of that generation like RAINBOW Six 3, SOCCOM, and COD. Then there is the lack of power and impact of the DC-17m. You fire dozens of DE bolts into the various enemy types, and there little or no reaction from the enemy. The older HALO: CE did a much better job of this with the Covenant plasma DE weapons. Gunplay is an critical element in any shooter, causing this major and critical element of Republic Commando is lackluster and limp, impacting the overall enjoyment of the gaming experience.

Next Time on FWS...
Recently, another military sci-fi website shared a link to an author discussing the seven critical elements of military sci-fi, and I decided that FWS should take a stab at a list of the 10 critical elements of good military science fiction...mainly because I didn't agree with her list or some conclusions. Join us next time for the Top 10 critical elements of "good" military science fiction. 



6 comments:

  1. Another excellent article about a famous yet obscure fps game. I look forward to your list of Top Ten "Good" elements of sci-fi.

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  2. You can pick up the game for PC on Gog.com. It's a download that runs on Windows 7-10.

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  3. An interesting retrospective on an old video game. Pity that I never had the chance to play it mainly due to the fact that I never had the Original Xbox, though for my credit I was waiting for an opportune time to purchase it AND Steel Battalion at an optimal price. Still am to this very day.

    I would recommend that you take a look at it, but coupled with it's rarity and price and not limited to actually finding a workable controller ( http://assets.catawiki.nl/assets/4/f/c/4/fc40acd0-4713-012d-df4a-0050569428b1.jpg ), it might be a bit much for you.

    Still, it's something for those who, at the very least, recall fondly those Battletech Centers/Virtual World stores and the feel of actually piloting a giant robot.

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  4. I've always wanted to buy the Steel Battalion game for the original Xbox...there is something about that control system that makes the younger me who played Battletech in the 1980's scream for joy. Pity it is way too expensive today.
    Thanks for reading and commenting!

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    1. Yes, it's one reason why I don't put a recommendation or request for a review: the budget just won't allow it. Plenty of other YouTube videos about it though.

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  5. How far are you into the books? I'm very curious to see your reaction to/review of them. Having read quite a few of the SW novels, I'm of the opinion that they're some of the finest work in the SW setting, and go a long way towards redeeming not the prequels (that's...not really possible, save for some very extensive editing), but the era. Traviss has done her work on soldiers, training, special operations, the relationship between civilians and the military, and applies it all to the Clone Wars. It's haunting. I'm sorry she had to end it as she did (the Mandalorians she made were over-written by the Mandalorians of the Clone Wars series, and were completely incompatible...and Lucasfilm gave them precedence over the novels), but it was a glorious series.

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