Commandos 2: Men of Courage
A sweeping generalisation it may well be, but unlike us high and mighty tommy Englander pig-dogs, Germans seem quite comfortable pulling their cultural skeletons out of the wardrobe. Take the subject of war for instance; when it comes to computer games where Nazis get killed on screen, they love it.
Just to back up my point, the original Commandos has sold more than two million copies worldwide, 500,000 of which were bought by people with mullets. That's a lot of mullets, I think you'll agree.
Anyway, Commandos 2 is coming out and it looks great. As before, the aim is to get your covert specialists through the war alive, and at the same time save prisoners, blow bridges and generally disrupt the German war effort from behind enemy lines.
Returning for a second tour of duty are the characters from game one, each of whom will have been through some extra training, meaning they'll have new skills to make use of - such as being able to swim underwater. Three new characters will be making their debut (a thief, a lady called Natasha and, maybe, a dog), as will a number of walk-in parts from regular soldiers, which players will be able to control, albeit with limitations. The idea, it seems, is to give players a few characters at whose loss the game doesn't have to be restarted. Obviously, such troops, though handy in firefight, shouldn't be relied upon to do a commandos work.
The intelligence of the Germans has been beefed up considerably, with a noticeable difference in behaviour between the German ranks. Officers will point and shout and will always graciously let his NCOs into a room before himself - usually into a hail of bullets - fun to watch if nothing else.
Pyro are aiming for approximately 70 to 80 hours of gameplay, so the number of missions could change from the planned 12, but considering the size of the levels (one even accurately maps the entire grounds of Colditz Castle) that seems unlikely.
As well as the Colditz mission, there is plenty that borrows from the war movies of our youth. There's a nod to the final battle of Saving Private Ryan, a few choice moments from Where Eagles Dare, plus a rather famous bridge across the river Kwai (hopefully your task is to blow it rather than build it).
Vehicles will be more integral to success this time around, and there'll be more of them. Taking control of the tank will of course be the highlight, and if you manage to crew it with two of your men, you can make short work of any retreating Germans. Watching the turret cannon recoil while the tank rolls back on its tracks is truly a work of art in terms of animation.
Commandos 2, though some months away, is certainly worth getting excited about. The fact that you can choose which characters you want to take on each mission, as well as start each mission in a number of different places, just goes to show how much Pyro has listened to fans of the original game. We are promised an easier time of it this time around, with a rich and fully interactive environment to play toy soldiers in. If you're British, you're going to love it. If you're German, as I partially am, you're going to love it even more.
Download Commandos 2: Men of Courage
Gott im Himmel! There's no doubt about it -Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines was a bloody hard game. If you played it, you can no doubt imagine the scenario: studying the map for hours on end before making a single move; setting up a multiplicity of cameras to capture the viewpoint from every conceivable position; painstakingly mapping out the perfect route in your mind; then moving your soldier slightly more than an inch to your right five seconds later and getting filled with more holes than an explosion in a sieve factory. Ho hum, time to start again (unless you constantly used the quicksave key, you lily-livered scum).
Commandos required almost perfect timing as you navigated your team of hardened warriors past countless dangers in order to complete your objectives. The fact that you had to keep a close eye on several people at once, all entirely essential to your success, sputtering & forward inch by inch, checking every route and every escape point, didn't make life any easier. To some, it was strategy heaven, to others it was as exciting as defragging the hard drive - but bollocks to that lot, eh? They didn't get this sequel rammed up the commission pipe, did they?
Let Loose The Dogs Of War
Thankfully, to ease things a tad for the less cerebral among us, the skills exclusive to each member are available to all others in a reduced capacity, meaning that losing one doesn't mean having to start all over again (not to say you shouldn't keep all your men intact). Whatever the case, there are some new cases joining the original line-up (Green Beret, spy, driver sniper, sapper, dance instructor and marine). First off there's an obedient dog by the name of Whisky, aiding you in your continuing assault against the march of fascism. As can probably be guessed, Whisky doesn't have much in the way of special abilities, but he is able to act as delivery boy, shuttling weapons and equipment between team members without attracting that bully Hun's attention. Of course, it isn't long before the other side is fighting back, placing freshly mown lawns and other dogs' arses in the way of our wily canine's destinations.
Oh, and call us sick and wrong, but the chance to strap a barrel-load of explosives on to the dog's back and throw his favourite ball through the window of the nearest Nazi mess hall sounds like a winning tactic. But you don't have to worry your pretty little heads about inflicting such cruelty on poor old Whisky, animal lovers: chances are he'll never make it past Level 6's 'Sausage Factor mission.
Of course, if you're going to have a dog in the game, you're best to balance it out with a bit of skirt as well, aren't you? Step forward Natasha Nikochevski, seductress extraordinaire. Natasha has the enviable ability to turn the enemies' heads in her direction as she pouts and glides, distracting Jerry as our boys sneak past and give them a right good shoeing (Natasha letting fly a hefty kick to the Fuhrers as well). Mind you, with the war going on as long as it did, what with every man being locked up for months on end with nothing but a company of sweaty, grunting males, they might as well have sent in a walrus wearing a blonde wig for precisely the same effect. Or, if we're to believe the more extremes of anti-Nazi propaganda, they could just send in the dog (see, boys and girls, didn't we tell you that a barking bomb's the only humane way to an honourable end for our loveable hound?).
Then there's Lupin, the thief who sneaks about in the shadows avoiding the guards' detection far more easily than anyone else on the team. He'll be used for picking pockets and getting past locked doors then. And let's not forget the chance to give minor commands to NPCs, setting up ambushes and decoys to aid you in your violent crusade.
Huns Ur Buy, Huns Up
From the footage we've seen, the animation of each character is looking mighty impressive. While die cartoonish look of the original is still retained, the models have been given a thorough working to ensure that they look as realistic in their environment as possible. The backgrounds, too, show a higher level of artistic detail than we've seen before. The Sim City 2000-alike ability to rotate the landscape through 90-degree horizontal increments is a welcome inclusion for those who were irritated when inconveniently placed structures obscured the action. Even better, though, is the news that the all-new interior locations are fully rotatable through a full 360 degrees. Ignoring the fact that the rooms seem to reside in an existentially lightless void, it's a nice touch and should allow you to traverse the claustrophobic confines of bases and barracks with much greater strategic precision.
It also helps that the resolution has been upped to today's cosmetic requirements of 1024x768 instead of the shoddy 640x480 (today's resolution equivalent of Brian May). Besides, it's a good job that the resolution's been increased because the playing areas are reportedly far bigger in size than before (not that they weren't big enough to do the job last time). Although to level this out, instead of the 24 missions of the first, the number's been halved to a dozen (though Pyro promises that just as much time will be spent playing the game). The PC Speculate-O-Tron keeps its fingers crossed (which is a bit hard for a machine, believe me) that the large areas don't lead to sloppy play dynamics as the lengthy missions drag on interminably. Still, early days, eh?
The Reich Stuff
It was always a surprise that the original Commandos was such a big hit. It never relied on a flashy campaign or over-hyped enthusiasm to sell it. Whether it's just because it's a good game or whether it's got anything to do with the post-post-WW2 generation's unconscious desire to re-enact the glory and machismo of war in a disillusioned, slack society is anyone's guess (or someone qualified to write about the subject at least). Whatever the case, it all looks rather delicious. While most improvements seem to be generally cosmetic, here's hoping that the large interactive environments and additional characters lead to something truly special in the play department. We've already had one data disk looking remarkably similar to the original, we don't need another.
However, from the looks of tilings the sequel promises to be much more than that - and we haven't even mentioned the new weapons, realistically modelled vehicles, new AI and obligatory multiplayer mode. That should even the odds quite a bit when Commandos 2 is released in a couple of months.
Spain is probably thelast place you'd expect to find a World War II classic. After all, during the conflict, the country was recovering from the ravages of a Civil War that had left the nation physically and spiritually broken, where brother had slain brother and neighbours condemned lifelong friends to the firing squad. And while Franco's dictatorship had friendly relations with Hitler, Spain never became personally involved in the war. Gonzo Suarez, the project head and main visionary behind Commandos, pointed out to me that Spain benefited greatly during WWII, perhaps referring as much to the success of the first game as to the consequences of this being a neutral country in such a devastating war.
The original Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines was a huge sleeper hit - to borrow a Hollywood term - in 1998 that surprised everyone by sitting at the top of the charts for 15 weeks in the UK and selling consistently throughout Europe. What makes it more extraordinary is that it was an extremely difficult game aimed at hardcore strategists that somehow managed to cross over to the average garnet. "There was hardly any promotion and we were aiming to sell around 15,000 copies at most," says Gonzo, who was as surprised at the game's massive success (it sold closer to 1.5 million) as anyone. "I think the main reason was just word of mouth. People bought it not really knowing what to expect, became completely addicted and started telling all their friends about it. That gives a game a longevity that all the adverts in the world can't buy." But it's not just a small group of Spanish friends who couldn't stop talking about it, the game was a true international success, even in places you wouldn't expect shooting German soldiers to be all that popular. "In Germany it flew off the shelves, it stayed at number one for 16 weeks. They really like their strategy games hard and thorough over there, although when the German press first saw it they looked so serious and tight-lipped I was convinced they hated it. But when the reviews came out it was clear they loved it."
It's been a long journey for Gonzo though, who started out working in advertising and cinema 24 years ago, up until the rime a Spectrum landed on his lap in 1983. "It was little more than a calculator with memory, hut I was fascinated and played around with it until I got into the games industry in '84 with Opera Soft. I made about six games with them and went independent in 1990, around the time the industry fell apart in this country." It was at that time when a publisher called Erbe brought down its prices and managed to bring the industry down with them. According to Gonzo, the consequences of that crash can still be felt today, and it was only in 1996 that he was able to start work on Commandos. But even then it was an uphill struggle. "It's not easy to make a game in Spain. Most of the talent has gone abroad and there's very little investment, so it's quite hard. There's only really three big teams in this country and, after 17 years, I'm practically the grandfather of the industry. Most of the people who were working when I started out all retired in the early '90s. One of the toughest things making this game was to build a good enough team and make sure we brought all the best people. There are people who are great programmers, but have no experience making computer games, so you have to train them up. But because there's only three teams, at least what little talent there is isn't completely diluted."
But Gonzo is nothing if not tough. His heavy build and strong features go hand-in-hand with the fact that he used to be a boxer. "I was never a professional boxer, I was only an amateur. I love contact sport. You can never foresee what's going to happen and you can only work with what's in front of you. That gives your life a more vital rhythm." That vitality is apparent during the presentation held in a luxurious Madrid hotel. Gonzo doesn't speak English, so he stands behind Jon Beltran - the talented lead programmer - telling him what to do. He is a natural leader and strides through the press room like a general briefing foreign troops. He also seems a little nervous, and his eyes twinkle while Jon translates everything he says. He looks like an excited father as he shows off the myriad of details the game possesses and manages to stun even the most cynical of journalists present.
Commandos 2 is just what a sequel should be. Ir rakes the idea of the original and catapults it to a whole new level. Gonzo shows us the thief climbing walls, peeking through windows, hiding under beds and stealing from Nazi soldiers. He shows us the commando, swinging from cables and diving underwater among schools of fish. He shows us the sniper aiming from a window inside a building, soldiers in the street and officers sitting in a room in another building. He shows us all the vehicles you can drive and the massive, detailed maps of the missions, including a full replica of the Eiffel Tower and a stunning recreation of Colditz.
Later I asked him how they managed to capture so much detail and whether they had the chance to visit all the locations in the game. "Well, although we had a much bigger budget this time round we still couldn't move around that much," he says. "We visited the most accessible places, like Paris. We did get to see Japan, but that was only because there was a conference there. Wherever we could, we took digital photographs, but most of the research was done back in the office. We have about 40 square metres of World War II books, so we were very well informed. And, of course, whenever you need to find out a niggly little detail, there's always the Internet."
One thing that Gonzo is quite keen to make clear from the start is that Commandos 2 is nowhere near as difficult as the first game, which was never designed with mass appeal in mind. The new game has three difficulty settings, so die-hard fans of the original's near-impossible gameplay will still be able to play in that style, while most of us switch to an enjoyable challenge. That isn't to say that playing on the lowest setting is a breeze. "The first time you come to the game even the easiest setting is difficult," explains Gonzo. "You might even feel a bit lost and wonder how to approach it, but this only lasts 20-25 minutes, and you soon get the hang of it. Once you do you'll want to play on the medium difficulty setting at least. Someone who's just spent the best part of Pound-40 on your game is usually willing to spend that time learning. Not every game has to be pick up and play."
I tried out the first mission, and can confirm that even the easiest setting is quite a challenge. It's also incredibly addictive and involving. This is the kind of difficulty that kept me glued to Hidden & Dangerous, and I spent the better part of an afternoon playing it over and over until I managed to finish it. You'll be happy to know that you can now save at any stage too, so the nerve-wracking frustration we all experienced with Behind Enemy Lines should be a thing of the past. This game is clearly geared to a much wider audience. And there are few subjects able to command as much attention as World War II.
Shooting Nazis has always been acceptable, but you can't get away from the fact that there's a massive entertainment industry built around one of the biggest atrocities in human history. If you think about it. Star Wars is crammed with atrocities and is considered apt children's viewing. The Empire wipes out whole worlds, killing millions of people. And what about the storm troopers that our heroes so merrily blast away? How many of them are young men of Luke's age who don't really want to be there? Of course, the evil Empire is closely based on the Third Reich. I asked Gonzo why he thought people are fascinated by such a horrific war.
"The horror doesn't clash with the fascination. All wars are horrid, but when a human being is put in such an extreme situation, he is in touch with himself in a way that most people never experience. That is what fascinates people. Saving Private Ryan, despite the rubbish beginning and ending (referring to the modern-day flag-waving and gushing sentimentality of the old man visiting the graves with his family) really shows you both the horror and the fascination of the war. Another reason it's such an attractive period is that suddenly our western civilisation couldn't understand how, being so developed culturally and socially, something like this could happen. It's like a trauma that has affected our whole society."
He also reminds us that this was the first great war to be properly documented in all its aspects. "We've seen it on film, not just in cinema but in documentaries and newsreels made at the time. Then there are all the photographs, the books written by experts and survivors. This is a good situation when you're making a game, as you don't have to worry about introducing the player into a world, and you can take advantage of all that general knowledge to establish a believable context for the gameplay."
Adventure Depth And Replayability
Commandos 2 really tries to capture that sense of adventure you get in great war films like The Great Escape and The Dirty Dozen. In fact, the unfinished code used for the presentation gives it all away in the names of the levels. There was a Saving Private Ryan mission, an Escape From Colditz and a Bridge Over The River Kwai to name a few. "That is very much the spirit that Commandos tries to recreate, that epic and heroic feel. Another thing it tries to do is bring to mind those derailed models you can't play with because they're made of lead. When you bring those two things together, you start to get a sense of what Commandos is all about. The first game was more of an extremely hard puzzle, while this one looks more to the grand adventures of those films.''
Gonzo refuses to be draw n specifically on which films he has borrowed from, but he does explain that the Invasion mode is heavily based on Savin# Private Ryan. In this mode you are given command of a group of soldiers outside your core of characters, which you can give orders to. but can't directly control. You can tell them to cover a certain area, lie down and wait and effectively set up ambushes. "It's that bit where they're waiting in the half-destroyed village for the arrival of the Germans and lay a trap for them. I really wanted to put that in the game. I'm only sorry we won't have time to do some sort of versus mode based on that, where one player could hold the village while another one tries to invade it."
After taking a chance with the first one (several other publishers turned it down). Eidos is keen to turn this into a blockbuster title. The budget is around the $7 million mark and the concept is epic and ambitious. But were Pyro under any pressure to produce a sequel or did Gonzo really want to do it? His answer is unequivocal. 'This is something I really wanted to do, although I don't want to do a third one, which I'm sure there'll be pressure to do. I've already spent five years doing Commandos and I'm ready to move on to something different. I love my job but, after 17 years, I'm also tired of it, so I only want to work on new things that really excite me. I've no desire to work for two and a half years on a title that doesn't interest me. I wouldn't be capable of doing a job just for the money. It's not that I don't like money, but I don't want to work on shit. You should only work on things you love, that are worthwhile. Even if you fail, it's better to fail doing something you want than have success with something you don't."
This is a man who wants to make a difference to the games world. He's a storyteller like Warren Spector and Peter Molyncux, a man Gonzo has a lot of admiration for. "He's not afraid to try something completely new. Black & White seems like a strange game, combining god games with strategy and Tamagotchi-type creatures, but at least it's new. And I like people who take a chance and risk their reputation on something original. You can't live in the shadow of your successes. Rut I still want my next game to have the same sense of depth as Commandos and 1 want it to lx? replayable. like StarCraft or Diablo. Thai's the secret of a great game: depth and replavability. It should have a coherent and well-developed world you can play in, even if it isn't realistic. Because you're only ever as good as your last game or, if you're very lucky, your game before last." With Commandos 2 shaping up to be one of the more interesting propositions this year, there's no danger of Gonzo Suarez being forgotten just yet.
Commandos 2... coming to a console near you...
If you're worried the PC game has been dumbed down so it can be ported to the PS2 and Dreamcast, you shouldn't be. The console version is very different, givinc you direct control over the characters in a Metal Gear Solid-style of gameplay. It looks good, but is more about action than strategy. Gonzo is hoping to make it into the Japanese market as well. "I have a great respect and admiration for the Japanese. Commandos 2 Is intended to be a big super-production, which is something the Japanese are very good at I want to create something that takes your breath away and then makes you want to play it all again. That is something the Japanese do." But he admits it won't be easy. "The Japanese can be very touchy, and in Commandos 2, the Japanese are your enemy. The Germans took it well, but I'm not sure what the Japanese will make of It".
Not As Much a strategy game as a wonderful WWII adventure full of brainteasers, Commandos 2 presents a miniature world as rich in detail as any ship-in-a-bottle. The scale might be tiny, but the levels feel huge, with Colditz Castle, the Eiffel Tower and other locations brought to life with flair and imagination. If, like me, you gave up on the first Commandos about two minutes into the very first mission because of the insanely high difficulty level, don't be put off from trying the sequel. It's much more approachable and easy to get to grips with. Once you get used to the mechanics of the game you won't even notice how artificial they are (enemy soldiers' line of sight shown with bright green arcs, sound ripples indicating hearing range and so on) and you'll just get caught up in the classic comic book feel of it, admiring the scenery and the myriad touches of originality in the process. It won't please everyone, of course. Some will find the painstaking process of distracting/knocking-out/tying-up guards too repetitive and the impatient will still think it too difficult. But it's their loss.
Whether you're manoeuvring your sniper to a high-rise position inside a giant Buddha to take out a general, or simply figuring out how the hell to orchestrate a seemingly impossible rescue, Commandos 2 is addictive, enjoyable and constantly surprising. It may not have flashy 3D graphics or even a proper storyline, but that doesn't stop it from being one of the best games of the last couple of years.
The early 1940s were hard times. Young men were sent away to war to lose life, limbs and mind, countries were turned to rubble and rationing forced the nation to live on a diet of powdered egg and hot gravel.
Well, if they thought they had it tough they should have tried playing Commandos. Many a hardened journalist has been brought to his knees while playing the World War II strategy bestseller. The insanely high difficulty level, unforgiving gameplay and the fact that you couldn't save in-game saw you repeatedly restarting levels, only to see your soldiers dead before you knew what was going on. It's a testament to the game's quality that, although it was so demanding it should have been confined to a modest fanbase of hardcore gamers, it became a massive hit, topping every chart in the computer-playing world.
Well, Commandos 2 is not only more accessible, it's also much better looking, immensely playable and quite probably the most detailed game we've ever seen. It gsenrestobe an even bigger hit. This is a real world miniaturised to fit onto your screen, not some chalked up sketch. There are 12 missions spread out across ten locations. And if you think 12 isn't that many, you haven't taken in our comments about them being huge.
You start off in a Normandy village, devastated by bombings (not unlike the one in Saving Private Ryart) and occupied by Germans. This is the smallest map in the game, but it will still take you around three to five hours to complete. There are dozens of buildings, a river you need to cross, loads of Nazis and a big gunfire battle raging on between Allied and German soldiers at one end of the level.
Another map has a full-size replica of the Eiffel Tower, which you can explore fully, and another an absolutely enormous aircraft carrier. There are changes of scenery with a tropical island of crystal clear waters and a submarine base in the snow-covered Iceland. WWII buffs will probably enjoy the level on Colditz the most; the prison duplicated in such astounding detail you could spend all week just looking at it, never mind playing in it. And it just might take you a week to complete some of the levels, although the fact that there's no set path, and no right way to complete a level encourages exploration and experimentation.
But what's really incredible about Commandos 2 is the overwhelming sense of actually being there, the total immersion in a realistic surrounding. This feeling is not uncommon to good first-person games, or even third-person ones, where you move through the environment and use the screen as an extension of your eyes; but in a top-down strategy game?
But it's the perfectly balanced (if occasionally tilting to a mammoth challenge) gameplay that will keep you coming back again and again. No matter how many times you fail, you always manage to get that little bit further, and the sense of achievement easily surpasses the frustration you might feel now and again. There is just so much to see, so much to do, that you simply have to keep going if only to see what happens next. The best way to show you is to give you a few examples.
In the Iceland map, cute little waddling penguins will be alarmed and bring attention to you if they spot you, while polar bears will attack you. In rather hotter climates, you'll find an island with a shipwrecked loony who is perfect for diversions and a group of Japanese school children that you need to rescue. But this being the perfect pinnacle of attention to detail (sorry, there's that word again) the kids run away frightened, calling for help from the German soldiers as soon as they see your scruffy, square-jawed strangers. First you need to find their teacher on another part of the island. When they see him, they'll calm down and come with you quietly.
If you decide to swim underwater, there are not only schools of tropical fish, but also piranhas and sharks competing for a piece of your flesh. Your machine-gun doesn't work in the water, so what do you do? How about getting out and spraying the sea with bullets from the large stationary guns mounted on the shore?
There are so many examples like these we could go on forever, but we'll squeeze a couple more delightful moments, just to whet your appetite even further. Like the way your thief can use his rat to distract soldiers or how you can give Whiskey a grenade and tell him to drop it at the feet of a bunch of Nazis, who are still wondering what a dog is doing there when their eyeballs explode.
Want to kill a high-ranking officer entrenched in a room at the top floor of a heavily guarded building? No problem. Simply send your sniper to a nearby structure, find a suitable window and you can target him across the street. In fact, windows are a valuable feature in the game. You can climb in and out of them, shoot through them and even stick your head through to spy into the interior.
Is anyone left cynical enough to be unimpressed? Perhaps we should tell you that you can drive all sorts of vehicles (the aircraft carrier is so big you need a jeep to get from one end to the other) and even command groups of soldiers outside your group. You can't control them directly but you can give them different stances and tell them who and when to attack. They're perfect to cause diversions and to set up massive ambushes.
What else can we possibly say? The interface is easy to use and a considerable improvement on the last one. You can interact with everything in sight and you can play the whole thing in multiplayer co-op mode. (We'll be adding to this single-player review with an online mark next issue if servers are up and running.) A hearing range has been added to the extremely helpful line of sight of your enemies, making stealth even more important. You can tie up unconscious soldiers and steal their clothes. And while these won't let you get away completely undetected if you get too close to the enemy, they serve their purpose from a prudent distance.
The gameplay might still be too fiddly for some, requiring real patience and perseverance. But the only real criticism we can think of is that it's just too big, too overwhelming and dare we say it, slightly repetitive in nature. The fact that the very first level takes more than three or four hours on an Easy setting might put first-timers off, but hopefully the challenging one-more-go-and-I'll-finish-it mentality will mean that even more people buy, play and complete this sequel.
It does so many things you feel like cowering in awe at both its grandeur and the gargantuan task ahead of you. To use the WWII film analogy the game so closely observes, it's a three-hour epic (or 50-hour epic, if you will) with an all-star cast, shot on location all over the world with an unlimited budget. Not only that, it's the DVD the deleted scenes. And you'll want to watch it again and again.
Sequels to successful games are always suspicious creatures, products of a business impulse rather than the creative drive of an artist, made to make money and cash in on that success rather than developing a genuine artistic vision. Not Commandos 2. Gonzo Suarez is a visionary on a par with Peter Molyneux or Warren Spector, not the organ-grinder to a corporate machine. The game shares with other sequels the higher budget, the better graphics, the more-of-everything-only-bigger and the number 2. But it's more like The Empire Strikes Back and The Godfather Part II, with its own glorious battle of Hoth and Havana scenes. It's a continuation with a life of its own that doesn't just rehash old ideas. And you simply must play it.
If it's a WWII film, it's in Commandos 2
World War II isn't just an historical event ot monstrous proportions, where millions of people died and whole continents suffered horribly. It's part of our mythology. It resides in our collective consciousness, where it can be reshaped into a world of endless fascination. Books, comics and especially films have constructed another WWII. One full of heroes and anti-heroes, of larger-than-life characters and extreme situations. It's almost like an alien universe (in many ways, Star Wars is a WWII film in space). And It's in these films that Commandos 2 has looked for inspiration. And boy has it found it. From Saving Private Ryan to The Guns of Navarone, passing through the level set on Bridge Over The River Kwai, the game steals and adapts from the very best, making each mission an epic WWII film in its own right.
Following the release for the PC, Eidos has taken their action strategy game, Commandos 2: Men of Courage and released it on the Playstation 2. Set during World War II, the army has recognized the need for a specially trained group of men capable of infiltrating the enemy and causing chaos. From this the Commandos were created as eight trained specialists with different skills and abilities will attempt to complete their missions, helping win the war against the Third Reich.
As you take the Commandos through the twelve missions, they'll encounter and interact with over eleven different environments as they steal enemy uniforms and weapons, climb poles, swing from cables, and use vehicles. If you're concerned about there only being twelve missions, don't be, as it takes some time to finish them. Most will have to restart a number of times as you try different strategies for each mission. Unfortunately, console gamers have historically not had the same patience as PC gamers and may get frustrated attempting to finish the missions.
The graphics also may frustrate console gamers as the focus of this game is the strategy element. The graphics aren't bad with well developed backgrounds, but the commandos are small and not detailed well. In addition, icons are used throughout the game to select an action for a specific commando. These icons are extremely difficult to see and it takes some time to get used to recognizing the action of each icon.
This game requires more patience then the average console game, and strategy fans will probably be the only ones that fully appreciate it. Although it is good to see different genres coming to the Playstation 2, Commandos 2: Men of Courage has a few issues that keep it from breaking into the mainstream.
Woooooooooo Hooooooooo. The boys are back in town. Inferno, Tiny, Fins, Tread, Duke -- all your favorites from the original Commandos are back after some much needed R&R, and now they’re ready to take on the German and Japanese armies. You’ll be sneaking into enemy bases, stealing Enigma machines to help the war effort, flying in hot air balloons and posing as a German officer, all in the name of democracy. Commandos 2 comes with two training missions and ten game missions. While this may seem small in size, you have to remember that a full install for this game is a huge three GB. This gives you an idea of how large the maps are for the ten missions, not to mention the bonus missions if you and your commandos find the hidden bonuses throughout the game. Throw in Multiplayer and you have one huge commando sandwich on your hands. Commandos is as good a game as they come in regards to the RTS genre. All of the missions look beautiful, with huge attention to detail and challenging objectives. What are you waiting for? Sharpen up your bayonet and read on.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Commandos 2 is a real-time strategy game that puts you in charge of nine commandos during WWII. Each mission has a list of objectives that must be completed for the mission to be considered successful, and at the end of the mission you are graded on how well the mission was executed. Commandos 2 has the same feel as most RTS games with a "look down" view over the entire map. All actions that your Commandos perform can be done using either the point and click method or hot-key method. I highly recommend that you learn to use all of the hot keys; it just takes too much time to be pointing and clicking, especially when a German patrol needs quick killing.
One of the best aspects of Commandos 2 is the ability to play missions and find a different way to complete them. I like to sneak nice and quiet in Commandos, then stand up and rip out my enemy's throat with my knife. Other players might prefer shooting everything, but it really doesn’t matter because most times the missions can be completed playing either style. You’ll also notice that it will take your entire group of commandos to complete a mission. Each one of your commandos has special skills that only they can use, so if you’re in need of explosives only your Sapper commando can do the job for you, which really makes you learn each commandos skills and how to use them best. Another thing that will have you drooling all over your green beret will be the huge number of weapons you can use to subdue, kill, incapacitate or just generally raise some hell. Commandos 2 had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. The game is that good at sucking you in. I would find myself holding my breath as a German guard passed by Tiny just out of view. I would also wait tensely for a few seconds after taking that same guard out, wondering if the alarm was going to sound.
Unfortunately there are usually bad points to a game and I’m saddened to report there are a few in Commandos 2. The first thing that really sucks is the save feature. Why is there no instant quick save in the game? In this type of game it is a must to have a Hot Key quick save -- I don’t want to have to hit the escape button and then save. The entire save process screws up the whole flow of the game. My other rant has to do with the mission briefings. I really wish they would have included a replay button on the mission briefs because they go entirely too fast and it would be nice to go back and view the movie mission brief instead of having to read it. Okay I’m done, other than that, I’m a happy commando.
I really feel that Commandos 2 is a single player game that is best enjoyed by yourself with a cold brew. I found it was extremely difficult to play with people that I’d never met before because they didn’t really know my style of play, which at times turned missions into a total nightmare. But there is good news to be had. I had my buddy buy a copy of the game and we had a blast playing missions together. The reason it worked well was because normally we’d take turns playing on my computer, so we have each learned how the other likes to play the game. Now when we play online, it works very well because of our teamwork.
Can you say the word beautiful? If not, then you’d better learn because that’s exactly what you’re going to be repeating over and over when you see the different missions throughout the game. The attention to detail is amazing. My favorite mission has to be Mission Two because of the size and beauty of the map. You must covertly enter a German submarine base and rescue some allied soldiers and their sub, and then blow the whole place up with some remote bombs. What made this mission my favorite was the attention to detail concerning the German base. There are mess halls filled with German soldiers and a fuel depot that is being repaired by workmen. I could go on and on for days about all the eye candy that is included in each mission, but just trust me when I say that the graphics will suck you in like a black hole and keep you coming back for more. Another thing that will really pop out at you is the wonderful use of colors in the game, everything is so vibrant but not loud. This is one game that is pleasing to the eye in every way.
The music is absolutely wonderful in Commandos 2. During tense scenes in the game the music will pick up speed and sound a little more ominous, but if you’re in no immediate danger the music stays at a mellow pace. The entire musical soundtrack has a distinct WWII feel to it which really draws you into the game even more. I did find that mission briefings were sometimes difficult to understand and I could never pinpoint why that was the case, aside from being poorly recorded. If you’ve ever played any of the earlier installments of Commandos you will notice right from the start that the voices of your Commandos characters really suck big time. The very first Commandos games had a cast of voices for the characters that was great. Each voice fit that character perfectly and sadly they were not able to reach that goal in Commandos 2, but if you’ve never played this series of games before then that won’t be an issue. I do need to point out that the character voices also get a bit repetitive when issuing commands, but you’ll hardly notice because of how hard you’re concentrating on reaching your mission objectives.
PII 300 MHz or better, Windows 98SE or ME, 32MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM, DirectX 8.0 or higher, 2GB hard disk space, DirectX compliant sound card, and a DirectX 8.0 Video Card with 12MB VRAM.
The only complaint I have with the manual has to do with the fact that there was no "Hot Key" card enclosed in the game. Commandos 2 has such a huge list of hot keys that it is absolutely necessary for a hot key card. The other thing that bothered me about the manual is that nowhere does it tell you that you must play with CD#3; you just have to figure it out on your own. Things like that should be very straightforward in documentation.
If you’re looking for a tough and challenging RTS game then you should stop reading this review and get your butt down to the local software store and buy this game. I know for a fact that this fall I will be spending many a sleepless night taking my commandos on treacherous missions in hopes of killing as many Nazis as possible. On that note: feed the dog, kiss the wife goodbye, and tell work that you’re very ,very sick then start playing Commandos 2, and don’t blame me when you’re staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night thinking about how you could have completed the mission a better way. 89/100 enough said!!!!