The Star Wars games of the past have really been a mixed bag. There has been some truly quality titles but there were others which seemed more of a cash in than a serious attempt at creating a decent game for the millions of fans around the world. With the cinematic side of the story coming to an end soon in May 2005 fans may rely on games to continue the story and Lucasarts have a number of titles in development which are looking quite impressive. One of these is Star Wars Republic Commando, and in a recent presentation, Lucasarts showed us just what the game is all about and why you should be excited about it.
With Episode III due in cinemas next May, it may come as a surprise that the game is set between the events of Episode I and II in the films but it may fill in some background information for those following the films. While the developer and Lucas himself are keeping most information about the third movie under wraps, they are promising locations and enemies from the upcoming movie in the game which should widen the appeal of the game further.
In the game you take control of an elite Republic Commando squadron. Like Rainbow Six 3 on the Xbox, you will only take command of one character, and control the other three soldiers via a set of commands such as breach door or advance forward to scan for enemies. In terms of gameplay, it looks a little reminiscent of Metroid Prime on Gamecube with the visor perspective used as the heads up display. Throughout the game you will travel to many locations including a new planet from Episode III and undertake tasks such as assassinating a leader of a rebel faction or exploring the catacombs of the Geonesis warriors who are one of the enemies we saw during the brief presentation.
One thing which really stood out during the presentation and watching someone play the game was the way the squad interact with each other and also the character you play as. You can heal each other during combat and when you succumb to the enemy fire, your character does not initially die, instead time is given for AI team mates to come and heal your character so you can continue fighting. This game is definitely working with the 'there is no I in team' saying as relying on each other seems to be the key to success and therefore it is a good thing even at this early stage that the AI is quite impressive and seems very aware of the current battle situation. To give them commands the DPAD will be used in a one touch system which should make the game flow quite well even when many orders are given in quick succession.
As mentioned before you will encounter a wide variety of enemies in the game, but not the most well known like Darth Vader (considering the timing of the game this makes a great deal of sense). Enemies include battle droids, Geonosian warriors plus characters who will feature in Episode III will be shown for the first time, General Grievous' bodyguards. To combat these the expected weapons are featured such as the blaster but you will also have the opportunity to pick up enemy weapons such as the Geonosian Elite Beam Weapon.
The game will feature fourteen missions in the final game and these missions are split across three different campaigns. Throughout the game you will visit locations such as the planet Geonosis, a over run republic assault ship and the home planet of the Wookies, Kashyyyk. The game is already looking fantastic in terms of graphics thanks to the Unreal engine, especially on the Xbox which is the version that was used during the presentation. Even during battles with lots of enemies on screen attacking, the frame rate remained stable and this also displayed a nice effect, that being that when your character is hit, the visor flashes and gives an indication rather then just the HUD lowering health. This also makes it harder to hit the enemy as you can hardly see them when this effect is used. The sound effects are already sounding great, especially the communication between the soldiers in the squad. Also, to enhance the authenticity, Temuera Morrison has signed on to be one of the voices in the game.
With the focus on a great single player game, it is also looking good in terms of multiplayer. The game will support Xbox Live for up to sixteen players in disciplines such as capture the flag and deathmatch but unfortunately it looks like Lucasarts is leaving out co-operative play which is a bit of a disappointment. For those of you with an Xbox and no Live connection, the game will offer splitscreen multiplayer for up to four players.
The flow of lacklustre Star Wars related games could be over as the next few months seems to have a few decent ones on the way. Although it was recently delayed till February 2005, Republic Commando is already looking like one of the best action games of early 2005 and should keep fans happy until the third and final episode is released in May 2005.