Star Wars Racer and Commando Combo
'The Force' In Star Wars Returns In Full 'Force'
During the later quarter of 2021, LucasFilms Games in collaboration with Aspyr Games has re-released four of their games during the 2000s era. Arguably one of the highest points of the franchise's gaming history, beginning with the late 90s, Star Wars has seen a variety of games across different genres. Star Wars Racer and Commando Combo offer a petri dish sample of the franchise's heyday with Episode 1 Racer and Republic Commando, two very distinct games.
Star Wars Episode 1 Racer was released in 1999 on PC, N64, and Dreamcast originally, with an HD remaster released in 2020 on the Switch, PS4 and Xbox One. Banking on the success of the original movie and its pod racing sport, players could choose from a number of pilots and iconic tracks from the movie. On the other end of the spectrum, Star Wars Republic Commando is the second game included in the bundle, being more of an outlier. Released exclusively for the Xbox and PC in 2005, Republic Commando was remastered earlier in 2021 on the PS4 and Switch. The original game was already backward compatible with the Xbox One in 2017.
Star Wars Episode 1 Racer
One thing to note about both titles is that they appear on the PS4 and Nintendo Switch as individual titles. This furthers the notion that both compilations are mere bundles of existing titles that players can purchase via PSN. I'll hold off on whether or not this bundle is a "steal," knowing this information as I talk about Episode 1 Racer's HD Remaster. As mentioned earlier, the remaster was released on modern consoles in 2020, offering more than a coat of new paint.
Perhaps the biggest improvement from the original title is the inclusion of widescreen support, increasing more of the track's real estate. In the original, courses felt crunched to fit the 4:3 ratio. This was fine as most displays used CRTs but with recent technology, seeing the game in 16:9 glory feels like a new experience. It reminded me of playing such games in the arcade as a kid with its large widescreen displays. This was the first time I felt that "arcade experience" translate well to a console port.
There are several techniques introduced in this game that gives it a layer of depth. Each pod is controlled by two "thrusters," with the R2 button accelerating the craft. To go even faster, the player must reach top speed then increase their thruster speed by tilting the left analog stick forward. At that point, the players can use their boost at the discretion of their engine temperature. Overdo the boost and your craft will explode.
The controls take some time to get used to as later stages in the game's Tournament mode will require mastery to navigate. After a while of playing, players will get the handle of controlling their craft, which is where the fun begins. The success of Episode 1 Racer was enough to give a sequel, Racer Revenge. However, racing games and Star Wars retain a stagnant relationship, yet one can dream of a new modern pod racing game someday.
Star Wars Republic Commando
For many Star Wars console fans, this is a game that many had missed out on in the 2000s unless you had an Xbox. Players had missed out on what many consider one of the best Star Wars titles and considering its date of release I can see why. Released in 2005, Republic Commando is an FPS where players take on the role of a Clone Trooper. What's unique about this title is that they are a part of a quartet of troopers known as the "Republic Commandos." Joining the protagonist are Scorch, Fixer, and Sev.
Republic Commando was released before the time of Modern Warfare, mere months shy from a major FPS renaissance. This makes the gameplay all the more impressive as it felt like a modern shooter. The controls for certain actions were a bit weird (Triangle is jump and pushing L3 allows you to aim down sights). However, with mapping, the controls can be adjusted to feel as familiar as a Battlefield or Call of Duty game.
The heart and soul of this game are your fellow comrades, all of whom fight alongside you as you fight against wildlife and droids. Each commando has a distinct personality and character banter, making the gameplay feel intimate. This properly fills the potential "dead silence" rather than "go here, complete objective, go there, repeat." Each Commando can be tasked to do a certain action like rigging explosives, breaching through security, and healing at health depots.
The team-based aspect of Republic Commando reminded me of specific Rainbow Six titles where team communication is key. Although it's simplified to the point where the player points and the CPU commits, this layer of gameplay is what makes Republic Commando unique. Even players who may not be the best FPS fan will find enjoyment out of this title as I have.
The Combo Pack May Not Be Worth It Depending On Variables
Although two great Star Wars titles are included in the bundle pack, it may not be worth it to buy the bundle itself. That all depends on accessibility to own the digital versions overall. There are no additional features to set apart from simply purchasing Episode 1 Racer and Republic Commando separately via digital. This is because both games are retailed at $14.99 while the combo pack is $29.99.
Occasionally, I've seen the combo pack go on sale for $25 which would make it a deal were it not for the individual titles also going on sale for cheaper, together. Plus, players will need to have the physical disc inserted in order to play any of the two games, which is a non-issue with the digital versions. However, owning a physical copy of two classic Star Wars games makes Star Wars Racer and Commando Combo a must-buy for fans.
Star Wars Racer and Commando Combo is available on the PS4 and the Switch.