I have a couple of confessions to make.
The first one is easy: I didn't like Halo. I finished it and all, but that was mostly just because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. The first couple of hours were exciting and new and the sense of adventure was enormous, but everything beyond that felt dull and monotonous. I couldn't wait for it to be over.
Yet, for all its comparisons to Halo, I'm enjoying Star Wars: Republic Commando immensely.
This is mostly because of the Star Wars connection, I suppose. The thought of being a no-name clone in charge of a troop of no-name clones is slightly appealing. It's welcoming after years of Star Wars games where you play Some New Hero, set to single-handedly save the universe. And especially so seeing the clone troopers kick oh so much ass in the Clone Wars cartoon.
But it's more than this. It addresses so many problems I have with these types of games, and this makes me love it beyond simple fanboyism.
It plays like Halo. But a better Halo. Like Halo taking place in a familiar universe. Instead of running down a generic corridor blasting generic alien enemies, I'm running down a corridor on a Star Destroyer, blasting characters I've seen in movies. It's a minor, cosmetic difference, but one that provides enough of a hook to keep me entertained for hours.
And the squad-based action enhances the differences. Makes it slightly better. I loved Full Spectrum Warrior. In my mind, the only way you could top FSW is by throwing it into the Star Wars universe and putting me in direct control of one of the guys. Just like Republic Commando.
You're no longer one man against an empire - you've got a bunch of squaddies behind you. And, when things get tough, in front of you too. At first it can feel a little unintuitive, giving orders in the heat of battle, but it as you grow more familiar with the controls, it becomes second nature, and you start taking a back seat in the action. You start dishing out orders and watching your men obey you completely.
Which brings me to my other confession. This is a little more shameful, seeing as how I've been playing video games for years: I can't stand losing lives in video games.
I know that noone particularly likes this. It's a demeaning, yet integral part of videogames. But I can't stand it. If I start getting 'killed' in a game I'm playing, it takes something spectacular in the game to stop me turning it off and never playing it again.
And this is another thing that Star Wars: Republic Commando addresses.
As I said, I loved Full Spectrum Warrior. Mostly because of the forgiving way it dished out death. If one of your men died, you could carry him the rest of the way, to get him patched up at the nearest medical station. Not only did this help appease my particular problem, it also made the game feel more 'real'; rather than presenting you with an overpowering "GAME OVER (ps - you suck)" screen, it let you continue on, slightly weakened. Never leave a man behind - isn't that what all those war films taught us? Republic Commando does something similar. When a comrade dies, you can 'revive' him, providing him with a couple of bars of energy, enough to reach the next medical station. Likewise, when you die yourself, your visor blurs over in a red hue, and you can issue one last order to your men: "Continue fighting, then come revive me", "Revive me now" or something else. I say "Something else" because I really haven't been paying much attention to any option other than "Revive me now".
There are a couple of complaints, of course. A few graphical glitches, for one. Why implement shadows at all, if you're only going to half-implement them? Your men cast shadows, moving platforms do not, making lift sequences slightly alarming. The shortness of the game is another. I've played it for about a weekend-and-a-bit and I'm apparently more than half way through the game already. On games that are dependent on story (Like Resident Evil 4), this is forgivable, but in an action-based FPS, this is just plain lazy.
But then again, as Ico taught us, it's not the quality of the destination, it's the quality of the journey, right?