Star Wars Republic Commando and a bunch of lesser games

A local supermarket was selling a bunch games for 5-15€. We bought eight of them. I haven’t had time to sample them all yet (Second Sight and Knights Of The Old Republic II remain unopened), but here are my first impressions on the lot I did get to try out already.

Conan, Spider-Man, Judge Dredd: disappointments to a varying degree. I was intrigued by all of these due to reviews in the usually very dependable Finnish magazine Pelit. We got the Gamecube versions. It should be noted that I was very consciously buying B-grade games. “Not great” can still be fun.

Conan (crappy official site, my apologies) opens strongly and I don’t mind the basic graphics, but movement is clumsy and the camera can be a pain. The combat is all right, though, and the theme works well. If it weren’t for Conan, I likely wouldn’t play this much more, as there are vastly better third person action adventures available. My expectations weren’t high, though, and as a “Conan game” it’s okay.

It’s cool that when you die, you appease your god Crom by dispatching a few enemies in the afterlife and then come back, all without using a “load game” spell.

Spider-Man I’ve played for a couple of hours. I was rather surprised by how difficult the game is: I couldn’t get past level three or something on the normal difficulty, actually losing my nerve completely by how unfair the game was. (I never found Ninja Gaiden too difficult.) Going at it again on “easy”, things were much more enjoyable. The camera is something of a plague and combat doesn’t feel like much fun. But zooming and swinging around the levels using webbing is plenty of fun! It just that you’re often pushed into tight confines, where the game is at its worst. But flying around as the Spider-Man is very much a childhood dream come true. Still, I was expecting much better camera, walking controls and combat. Maybe I mixed this with up the sequel, which got better reviews… oh well.

Judge Dredd – Dredd Vs. Death (I don’t quite agree with the Eurogamer review, but it’s the only decent link I can find) is a decidedly sub-par first person shooter, which so far seems to be remedied by a very strong licence. The shooting is dumb, the graphics are… disappointing, but it really does feel good to lay down the law as a fascist cop. There aren’t too many games which give you the chance! You get to arrest unarmed civilians (smoking in public, holding a demonstration, spraypainting walls, that sort of thing) and blow up armed ones, along with fighting all sorts of mutants. They say the story and gameplay does pick up later, but for now, I’m content with a flawed version of being in Dredd’s boots. Flawed Dredd is better than no Dredd. (Whoah, Dredd is a year older than I am!)

Then there’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4. The last game in the series I’ve played, Tony Hawk’s Underground, was a disappointment, although it seems I’m pretty alone with that opinion. I just didn’t get excited about completing the moronic “story” missions, complete with missions requiring the use of the worst driving model in the history of videogaming.

Instalment #4 (being Underground’s predecessor) is a superior game, at least based on how much more fun it’s been so far, and I’m only in the first stage. The challenges are more worthy. Then again, if Horse is all the Tony Hawk’s series is good for, I guess it doesn’t matter which version you’re going to play. But I’d appreciate it if the single player experience was worthwile, too.

As for the title in the post’s subject line, Star Wars Republic Commando blew me away. It got mixed reviews when it came out and I can see where the less than eager reviews are coming from. But whereas Dredd is saved by the licence, Republic Commando is lifted to “awesome” from “okay”. Without the licence, this would be an adequate squad-based shooter with seriously underpowered weapons. But integrated tightly with the Star Wars licence, the game becomes an engaging foray into the Star Wars sidelines. There’s not a light saber to be seen, yet you’re thoroughly inside the world. The game’s opening is perhaps the best I’ve seen to date.

The game’s been critiqued for how the teamwork is just tack-on. Yes, it’s all done via hotspots, but those are in-game hotspots your hi-tech armor is pointing out to you. And it’s not just for flavor: your squad functions much better when they’re commanded. Yes, it’s all artificial, but it works. The game does stutter a bit graphically, though, but the audio is top-notch and the commandos themselves are cool. Special kudos for the revival system, which makes the game over screen a rare sight. The constant bacta fills are a little ridiculous, though. (I mean, a bacta tank in every room? Come on.)

It’s weird but cool that the best Star Wars moments are not in the movies at all – no, they’re the videogames Knights Of The Old Republic – and now Republic Commando – and the animated series Clone Wars. Hell, I enjoyed my Star Wars pen and paper rpg campaign much more than the Episodes I-III. Oh, and I’m still looking forward to Lego Star Wars.






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