Star Wars: Republic Commando is fun, but ultimately not very challenging. The recharge and resurrection of your team ends up making the game a test of stamina and rejuvenation rather than skill. The team commands are easy and fun, but the fact that everything is pre-programmed for you makes it a game of connect-the-dots. You can only place your team members where you are intended to. The game stops you making mistakes. It’s like playing with the training wheels on.
Brothers in Arms is playing with the training wheels off. Confusion, the fog of war, mistakes are all part of the gameplay and the challenge. The game can be frustrating but it (mostly) plays fair, making your failures primarily your own fault. You can’t play this game as a run-and-gun shooter. Planning and coordination are required to succeed. Find, Fix, Flank and Finish. The initial levels act as a gentle tutorial that get you used to commanding troops to support each other.
The user interface is pretty clever, but it takes a little getting used to. It is all too easy to almost finish a level and end up slaughtering your team due to an errant click — you meant to say “fire on” rather than “move next to” the machine-gun nest. The satisfaction of completing a mission with your squad still alive is so much the sweeter for the challenge. The command interface is fairly similar to the approach used in Republic Commando, but with fewer affordances to cue you to the “correct” selection.
The lack of health packs, ammo bonuses, in-game music, not to mention the screaming and the blood makes for a game that sits well alongside Spielberg’s movie and the Band of Brothers series. Gritty and gruesome.