The original Bad Batch is Back.
Star Wars: Republic Commando is one of the best, and most influential, titles in the pantheon of Star Wars games. It was originally released in 2005 for both Windows and the original Xbox. Its dark, gritty view of the Clone Wars reinvented the franchise, and undoubtedly served as a major inspiration for Dave Filoni’s Clone Wars and Bad Batch series. Even the term “clankers” for droids came from Republic Commando. Delta Squad themselves even made a brief appearance years later in the Clone Wars TV series. All this to say that Republic Commando, at its core, is a very good game. Now it arrives on Switch with a few more compromises than one would hope, but can that underlying quality shine through?
Republic Commando is a squad-based, tactical, first-person-shooter. It takes heavy influence from the Tom Clancy games of the era, along with mega hits like Halo. You command Delta Squadron, a group of highly trained commandos in the Republic army. Each member of your four man squad has an individual specialty. They can be given specific commands but are also capable of making intelligent decisions on their own. Revisiting Republic Commando sixteen years after its initial release, I was impressed with how well the AI of Delta Squad holds up. This is good, as Republic Commando pulls no punches. Even at standard difficulty, it presents a stiff challenge. You and your squad can revive each other, but poor choices will quickly result in a full squad wipe.
The entirety of Republic Commando only covers three missions, but each of these missions spans multiple interlinked levels and span several years across the entirety of the Clone Wars. Each environment is entirely unique though you’ll admittedly spend a long time in each one. That being said they all look great, and hold up well despite their age. Strangely the Switch version is missing a lot of the visual features and materials that made this game such a visual standout, but more on this later. Environments range from large outdoor environments to cramped, dark spaceship corridors. Missions will at times require your team to split up, making your own personal tactics more important than ever. Typical of the era, your health doesn’t recharge automatically, but will need to be refilled at bacta stations. Ammo is also somewhat scarce, and you’ll often find yourself with just enough to make it through a firefight. This forces you to make use of your full arsenal as having enough ammo to force your way through with the standard assault rifle is rarely the case. When with your squad, the choices you make in the heat of battle can be the difference between victory and defeat. Will you breach a door with charges or quietly hack your way in? Will you provide cover fire for a squadmate as they a slice a computer terminal or will you do it yourself? Learning how you and your squad can be most effective is a huge factor is the appeal of Republic Commando.
The Switch version itself is where your personal mileage will vary significantly. While the Switch does provide a significant resolution boost over the original Xbox version, performance is very rough at points. The frame rate is comparable to the original version with intense firefights dragging things down. Additionally when background loading is occurring it can cause the game to lock up entirely for a moment. These issues usually come in waves and while it's arguably similar to its performance in 2005, the fact that the Switch can’t turn in a solid performance is upsetting. In addition to this is the fact that the Switch version, outside of resolution, is largely a downgrade from the Xbox version. Likely due to the fact that this version is built from the PC version, the optimisations present in the Xbox version to run advanced lighting and material effects are not present, or significantly pared back here. This results in a version of Republic Commando that while just as playable as it was 16 years ago, feels light on improvements.
As I said at the outset, Star Wars: Republic Commando is one of the single greatest Star Wars games ever made. While that largely holds true on Switch, it is unfortunate that it doesn’t really provide a definitive experience. At best you get a higher resolution but with pared back visuals and rough performance, it's somewhat difficult to justify outside of handheld mode against the original version. It is a shame that simply loading the original Xbox version disc into a Xbox Series X produces a better remaster than this official remaster. This is still an excellent game, and the Switch version doesn’t take that away, but issues present here significantly dull what ought to be a gleaming jewel.