A Bold New Genre
You might remember that Electronic Arts decided to dip their toe into Xbox Live right about the time Microsoft divested itself of their Sports developers, events which I’m assured have nothing to do with one another but form irresistible symmetries in the mind. I had assumed that these teams were just taken out behind the office and shot, as is customary in the industry - their contributions buried forever - but recently it’s become clear that isn’t exactly true. Take-Two grabbed the best sports games ever made by those teams, Top Spin and Links, and I’ve heard rumblings that these games are far from gone. The rest of the spoils, the major sports franchises I mean, those all went over to Ubisoft from the sounds of it. When I heard that they were making a golf game, originally I thought it might have been the new Links possibly acquired in that earlier deal - but now we both know that’s not the case. It does mean that next generation platforms will have fully three golf experiences to choose from, which is good news for people interested in a genuine simulation. Hopefully there is room somewhere in the market for a game where people play something that resembles the sport in question.
I wrapped up Republic Commando on Sunday, and I remain absolutely entranced by it. I understand that Gabriel likes Star Wars a great deal, so him liking this game which is based on Star Wars is not exactly headline news. Usually I’m wary as soon as I see the license. I have to like a game despite that context, because I already kind of feel they’re trying to get one over on me.
Here’s the thing that you need to keep in mind. Star Wars: Republic Commando is an excellent Star Wars game, but it’s a great game period. It makes the most of that license by doing something they are typically loath to do - put their own unique stamp on the setting. I’ve read in interviews that they were trying to show the universe from the perspective of a soldier and not a Jedi largely detached from this sort of warfare. I guess that’s one way of putting it, but that doesn’t account for vast scale differences and design touches that in my view amount to the most delicious canonical heresies. I mentioned Wookiees when I talked about it before, but it really can’t be emphasized enough - download the PC demo to see it, but this is not some minor stylistic interpretation. From the perspective of your squad, a Wookiee is a gigantic, unstoppable monster. Trandoshans, lizardmen basically, are not the lithe men you recall in rubber suits. They’re hideously muscled, with cruel faces and head ridges that form a treacherous geography. Straight away you’ll see their taunting lope as they come at you, and if you cannot perceive how a person can run in a taunting, threatening way don’t dismiss it as impossible. It’s in Republic Commando.
That actually needs a paragraph all by itself. The animation in this game has so much character, passion, and nuance that I couldn’t help but be invested. I mean it, I don’t know what dark hole they kept these guys in, but once their eyes adjusted to the bright light they turned out movements that perfectly communicate the weight and substance of their Star Wars.
The sound has a lot of meat on it, as well - compelling original themes, top drawer sound design and great voicework. The acting from Temuera Morrison (“Jango Fett guy”) is spot on, to the point that I practically demand they make a sequel just so he can huskily order me around. I have a feeling your mileage may vary as regards voices for your team, but for my part I got quite a few miles. There are raw game reasons why each character couldn’t have the same voice, but there is a canonical explanation for why they might have different accents that even I am not comfortable relating in this space. Ask Gabe. He knows.
The tactical elements are meant to be extremely light, quick decisions about who to shoot at and via what means, so I’m not going to fault them for doing what they meant to do. This isn’t R6 in space, let alone Full Spectrum Warrior, it’s not even Brothers in Arms in space - though such interpretations of Star Wars would be much appreciated and obviously I’m down for that. I hope they’re reading this, actually. You’re already working with Pandemic! Full Spectrum Warrior in space. Get on it.
Multiplayer is an afterthought and the game is too short. I’m probably alone in thinking that the length of this game is a mercy with so many others out, but that’s alright. Those are things you already know, so I don’t see any reason to turn my mind to a long form depiction. This is my position on this matter:
I am not going to play the Multiplayer any more than I already have, so for me and everyone I know that was wasted time. Not very much time from the looks of it, but certainly time that could have been spent on a more elaborate epilogue or better connectivity between abrupt scenes. They have proven that they are supremely capable of delivering an original look at Star Wars, and they have the makings of an extremely exciting series on their hands if they’ll take better advantage of it. To be clear, that means co-operative play, which should trump any other execution of multiplayer nobody cares about. If adversarial multiplayer simply must be executed, don’t make it a feature bulletpoint for the back of the box. Tie it in fully to the universe and leverage the amazing assets already created to put characters with different skills and abilities against each other in meaningful ways.
Before I go, if you know knowledge of Japan, our friend Kiko would very much appreciate some access to your expertise. Kiko, whose shirts you might own, is staying in Shinjuku for two weeks starting middle of the month, and he has some cool stuff laid out already, but nowhere near enough full the space. Do you know things that are cool there? Do you know the location of a vending machine which offers something unorthodox? Please let him know.
she fell away from the sight of the lord