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Star Wars: Republic Commando: Hard Contact

Company: LucasArts

With the release of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith only a few months away, it?s almost time for the slew of tie-in games to start popping up. The first of this year?s crop, which includes the video game version of the movie and the recently announced Star Wars: Empire at War, is Star Wars: Republic Commando.

First announced at Microsoft?s E3 press conference two years ago, Star Wars: Republic Commando shows players a darker side of the Republic?s Clone Army. As a squad leader of an elite Republic Special Operations unit, Delta Squad, it is your job to lead your group of four clones in operations behind enemy lines. Beginning on the hostile planet of Geonosis at the start of the Clone Wars, Republic Commando takes players through eight unique environments, including a Republic Assault Ship and the forests of the Wookie homeworld of Kashyyyk. Squad-based missions include assassination, infiltration, sabotage, and quick hit raids on Separatist Forces. In the course of their missions, the commandos face off with Battle Droids, Geonosian Warriors, and Trandoshan Slavers.

Since last playing the game at E3, Republic Commando has undergone a few changes. The underlying mechanics are just as tight as before; it?s the Squad that?s changed. The once gleaming uniforms have been marred and painted, giving each trooper their own distinct look. Uniforms aren?t the only things to get a little color. During missions each member of your squad have their own comments to add to the action, building a fun dynamic into the game. This helps to immerse players into the unit rather than having them play out like mindless automatons found in other games.

As leader of the Deltas, you take the role of RC-1138, nicknamed ?Boss.? The strong, silent type, Three-Eight usually isn?t much for words unless he?s barking out an order. Like other squad-based games, you are only able to directly control Boss. The rest of your group runs on A.I. and your orders.

RC-1140, who goes by the name ?Fixer,? is the second-in-command of the squad. He?s the more by-the-book commando, choosing to refer to his squad mates by their numbers rather than their nicknames. Fixer is the squad?s tech guy and handles any slicing or code-breaking. Sev (RC-1207) is the squad?s resident psychopath -- a coldly efficient killer with a sick sense of humor to match. When things get tough, you want Sev right there with you. Rounding out the crew is Scorch (RC-1262), the demolitions man. A competent soldier, and an excellent explosives technician, Six-Two has an overdeveloped sense of irony that can be mistaken for fatalism. Scorch earned his nickname after an ordnance accident that left him and Sergeant Walon Vau without eyebrows for a short time.

Squad-based systems are usually enough to turn a few gamers away, but the system in Republic Commando is as promised -- easy to use and responsive. As the clone commander all you have to do is point to a location, press a button, and your squad does the rest. These include commands like blowing up doors or taking up sniping positions. Most commands can be selected from the start, while others pop up during parts of the mission. For example, while storming the halls of the assault ship, the team encountered a machine spewing droids like no tomorrow. While we could have spent all day using their metal heads to calibrate out DC-17?s, our demolition?s man Scorch had a better idea -- blow up the machine! After finding the hotspot and clicking the command button, Scorch set his charges and reduced the machine to scrap.

The context sensitive action may seem a little ?too? structured for gamers used to the free-form systems found in Rainbow Six, but once you?re in the heat of battle it certainly won?t feel like it. Enemy A.I. is pretty rough and requires that your head be in the game at all times. You won?t be alone. Team members are quite capable and can take care of themselves. In fact, there were a few times where I had to have my A.I. controlled teammates pull my ass out of a tight situation.

So far, Republic Commando looks to be shaping up to be a nice departure from the light-stick swinging found in most Star Wars games. As an added bonus, the final game includes online multiplayer options, making it one to watch for.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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