Who’d have thought that this game would be being reviewed again in 2021? While backwards compatibility and the various digital stores make playing older classic titles such as this a breeze, unfortunately they aren’t always available on your platform of choice. This is what’s going on with this release of Star Wars: Republic Commando, and while it’s unfortunate that this is no remaster, it does at least tout itself as an enhanced port which makes the game available on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.

Republic Commando is one of the more interesting adaptations in gaming of the Star Wars Universe. There are plenty of Jedi focussed or strategy games in the franchise, but very few first person shooters – particularly ones that let you play as the ‘soon to be bad guys’, as it were. Republic Commando offers a look into the covert missions of a squad of Special Forces clone troopers during the clone wars, and leading up to (though not including) the dramatic betrayal that resulted in them becoming the enemy. It is an era of the universe’s lore which contains some of the most potential for additional stories, and it is partly for this reason that I think this game became such a cult classic.

Republic Commando puts you in the boots of a squad leader of elite clone troopers. Over the course of a few missions (split into multiple levels) you take on droids, Geonosians, and Trandoshans by engaging with your own weaponry and by commanding your 3 squad mates. While a squad based shooter in essence, the game’s tactical elements are very accessible, and your mastery of instructing your team isn’t as essential to your survival as you might originally assume.

Basic commands include instructing your squad to form up, search and destroy (go on the offensive), hold position and cancel manoeuvre. You can also instruct your team to focus fire on specific enemies. If a team member is downed you can attempt to heal them yourself or have one of your squad do this, and if you are downed yourself you can instruct your squad to either clear the area first or to drop what they are doing to come and get you up. The environment also features opportunities which are highlighted to the player. You can set up your squad behind cover to create a sniping position, or a position from which to throw grenades – both powerful options when getting in to heavier scraps, if not just for the fact that it provides some cover to your squad but also that they are more combat effective in those positions.

Strategically speaking, your march through the levels is fairly linear and simplistic, however that doesn’t stop the game from giving you options as you go – for example, breaching a door as a squad creates a quick entry, taking the enemy by surprise with a grenade and initial burst of fire, but you can also try to be quiet and have one of your men hack the door open. The latter is generally the least useful throughout, but it’s not always necessary to cause a scene, and in one situation in particular you are advised to be as quiet as you can – in that breaching may lead to the activation of hostile turrets.

Your squad activities are also worked into the objectives of the game. Again, these are fairly linear and simplistic, but there is a challenge that comes from pulling it all off smoothly. This may involve hacking a terminal and defending it for a period of time, or in the more intense fights you may even need to set charges on active droid dispensers. Things can get stressful indeed, but with the right formations, tactical set up, and on the spot micromanagement none of it is too much – at least not on regular difficulty.

One of the things that I remember most fondly about Republic Commando, and that I am happy to report still stands up, is the satisfying combat. There’s a small selection of weapons to choose from – which includes attachments to your starting weapon, and also pickups from enemies. Your starting weapons are a blaster pistol and a blaster rifle. Attachments for the rifle can be found which convert it into a sniper rifle or a grenade launcher, and you also have a retractable blade to use in close combat. Pickups from enemies include some heavy weapons like a Geonosian Beam gun, a rocket launcher and a heavy repeater, but also a shotgun, concussion rifle, machine gun and a Wookie bowcaster. All are enjoyable to use in their own way, though admittedly some bear more usefulness overall than others.

But what makes the combat so satisfying, aside from generally being tightly designed with some very cool sound effects, is the enemy reactions and animations. Droids fall apart or explode as you defeat them, and Geonosians expire with a satisfying splat. Get close to a kill or use your melee attack and your visor is covered in blood, prompting a screen-wipe to clear it off. It manages to be visceral without being particularly gory. The mix of enemy types also contributes to the combat remaining entertaining throughout, with just some of the enemy types including super battle droids, Trandoshans, Geonosians, Destroyer droids and the odd boss enemy like a spider tank or Magna Droids.

But what made this truly pop and still hold up today is its story and setting. This is a dream for fans of the Star Wars expanded universe, and the developers didn’t hold back on ‘the essentials’, as it were. The sound effects are on point and the music is excellent. The set pieces serve to remind you of how big this battle is that you’re fighting, and it’s just so much more interesting experiencing it as one of the foot soldiers. Familiar characters make brief appearances, but this game isn’t about Yoda or the Jedi – there’s not even any mention of the force throughout as far as I can remember – it is about your small squad and their vital mission. While there’s not a huge amount of dialogue, each character is well voice acted, and you do get to care for them as a squad leader. There’s the odd section where you are separated from your squad, which initially seemed counter to the theme of the game (a squad based shooter), but throughout these solo missions you are still communicating with your team and it still manages to give you a sense of working together.

Unfortunately however, despite all the nostalgic praise, there are some issues that Republic Commando exhibits, and these are less forgivable given the game’s status as an “enhanced port”. I would have liked to have seen this properly remastered, even if this just meant touched up visuals, but this would be a non-issue if it weren’t for some of the terrible glitches I experienced throughout. They weren’t high in volume, but were enough to become more than an annoyance – some being of the game breaking variety. I experienced squad members becoming permanently trapped behind doors, leading to me having to attempt the rest of a level on my own or reload (as the game ‘helpfully’ auto saved after the glitch took place); I experienced squad members staying behind and not responding to my instructions, again resulting in having to head on without them or reload; and lastly on the final mission I experienced a glitch with two of my squad members getting ‘stuck’ during a scripted action – you must guide your squad to turret emplacements, who will then leave your team to bombard an attacking ship, but two of them simply stood still and didn’t get into their assigned turret. These issues really should have been dealt with. I don’t particularly notice where the enhanced elements of this port are, and the glitches exemplify that.

But do they make the game unplayable? No, they don’t. These are irritating instances that hold up the pace at times – and are the reason this review isn’t giving a higher score – but overall the game plays well, and there’s no real substitute for this game, even all these years later. It really is one of the best Star Wars games out there and it’s a real shame its sequel was cancelled and they since haven’t done anything new with the game. The PS4 is a good place to play this as well, with the controls being well adapted to controller – even the squad commands are not tricky like you think they would be – so if you already have the game on PC and wanted to replay on a different platform I would say it is worth it. If you are new to the game, this is an ideal chance to jump in, and hopefully this insinuates interest in another Republic Commando game, or at least something similar.