Star Wars: Republic Commando
Original Release: 2005, Platforms: Windows, Xbox
Star Wars has always been a franchise that can get a little bogged down in its Jedi vs Sith battles; not so with Republic Commando. This was one of the few games to barely feature the Force at all, offering only a glimpse of Yoda at the very end of the game. Instead, the player is put in command of an elite squad of Clone Troopers, taking on the priority targets and general grunt work that the Jedi themselves can't always be involved in.
The game goes to great lengths to paint Star Wars battles in a new light. Remember those droids from the prequel trilogy that seemed like they'd fall apart if Obi-Wan nudged them gently? They're a lot more imposing from the perspective of a soldier, coming at you in swarms that require quick tactical thinking to overcome. And then there's the super battle droids, towering two feet about you like a walking tank that absorbs a lot of damage before going down. But the most terrifying change has to be the Wookies. Forget Chewbacca's powerful, yet comforting presence, these Wookies are immensely threatening thanks to broad shoulders and thick muscles that practically filled the screen. Thankfully, they're on your side.
While the game was short and was practically begging for a co-op mode, its squad-based approach remained engaging all the same. Campaigns took you from Genosis, to an occupied Star Destroyer, the a mission on Kashyyyk just before Revenge of the Sith, positioning teammates and using their unique abilities to progress through the single-player campaign. It's a gameplay style I'd love to see Star Wars take on again, even if it jumps ahead to the original trilogy or JJ Abrams timelines.