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Commandos 2: Men of Courage
Review By:  Christopher Coey
Developer:  Pyro
Publisher:  Eidos
# of Players:  1
Genre:  Strategy
ESRB:  Teen
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  11-6-02

Immediately upon starting this game youíll begin to notice what will become an ongoing problem: load times and waiting. As you are working your way through the tutorials (which I highly recommend if you want to stand a chance at completing this game), at times youíll find choppy camera controls, and minor clipping problems around walls and doors. About an hour and a half later, youíll be ready to play the game.

Once you start the first training mission youíll then be thinking: what the hell am I supposed to do? Yes, you did the training program. You listened to the mission briefing. But what do you do? Through trial and error, youíll eventually figure things out. Thatís about the best I can do as far as strategy hints: Youíll eventually figure things out. This game is complex, and complicated. The manual is long and unfortunately a rather necessary read given the number of functions and abilities available to you throughout the game. The controls are at times awkward, especially while swimming underwater, so practice while you can.

The best thing I can say about this game is that it reminds me somewhat of X-Com: UFO Defense, and Syndicate. Two of my all-time favorite games (PC only), but they were made years ago and this game supposed to be cutting edge. My biggest problem with this game is that at certain points during a mission, you might screw up something crucial and render the mission unaccomplishable, but the game doesnít tell you so. You just have to decide for yourself that you canít finish, and then restart. And itís easy to screw up missions. You might, for instance, accidentally shoot the only anti-tank mine in the level which you later need to take out a tank in order to finish the mission. But you wonít know that until the end when you find that you canít blow up the tank, and all of your men are dead. That could be after a lot of gameplay, wasted gameplay (Iíll talk lots more on wasted time later.)

As I mentioned, the missions can be difficult. During the game, after finding certain weapons or equipment items, some new abilities become available to your characters. However, the small detail of most of the graphics makes things often confusing and difficult to see. Luckily, there are a couple of help functions. First, a notepad which lists all of the mission objectives, and provides a map with arrows. Thereís even a Ďgoal arrowí function that points to where you need to be next in order to complete the current objective. Problem is, even with these help functions, itís still not always clear what needs to be done. Youíll be checking the notepad a LOT. The missions are convoluted and confusing.

For instance: in the very first mission, I thought I had completed everything. Every Objective and Clue in the notebook was highlighted and checked. My main character was exactly where he was supposed to be, but nothing was happening. As it turns out, I needed to revive a secondary character that had fallen. Once she was revived and spotted by an enemy, the mission cleared. The things is, as long as a fallen character (read: killed) was carrying a first aid kit, they can then revive themselves. In other words, a dead character can reach into their backpack, pull out a first aid kit, and heal themselves (on normal difficulty setting.) Not very realistic. But, you can actually use it as a strategy; By running into a sensitive area, getting spotted, alerting the enemy and being shot dead. You can then wait for the enemy soldiers to examine your body, realize that youíre dead and call off the alarm. They then go about their duties. But, you can revive yourself afterwards, and now youíve made it into the sensitive area.

The gameplay elements of this game are exceptionally good. As I mentioned, the idea isnít new, but itís an underused genre in my mind. Iím not really sure exactly which genre it is, but I know itís underused. The game is sort of an action/strategy game with puzzle elements, set in a mostly real-time ĺ perspective view. However, although the basic core of the game has the makings of an outstanding title, the overall design is significantly flawed.

Upon close inspection there is incredible detail put into each level. Since the graphics engine for the outdoor settings is not fully 3D (mostly pre-rendered), there is limited camera control. You can adjust the screen 90-degree in any directing to get the best angle to complete whichever task you are working on, but in general, the designers did a satisfying job arranging the levels. Once inside a building, the engine switches to full 3D, with a fully rotatable camera. Even though there is extreme detail throughout the game, the character designs are rather dull. And I donít mean dull boring; I mean dull and grainy. The levels have a grainy quality as well, and there is so much detail crammed into every inch, it gets confusing; almost too richly, densely detailed. Because of the graininess, the lackluster music, and the chopping in-game animations, the game has a sort of PSone feel to it. Itís a weird contrast. Even more of a contrast is the high detail cut-scenes that could only be done on the PS2 (except for the crappy water animations.)

Iím torn over this game. I enjoy a lot of the elements, but the glitches and general structure make it extremely frustrating. Mostly because the levels take forever to complete. During one level early on, I played for around 2 or 3 hours, absentmindedly not bothering to make any in-game saves since most of what I was doing was pretty simple. Near the end of the level, after positioning one of my men safely out of the way on the roof of a building, my other man placed a charge in one of the rooms of the same building. How was I suppose to know that this particular charge was going to level the whole building, thus killing my man on the roof, and ending my game? Thereís 3 hours Iíll never get back. On another occasion, deep into a level, one of my men was shot while climbing a ladder. He was far from any of my other men, and it was a couple of hours (and many saves later) before I could get to him. Upon reviving him, it turns out that he was stuck, apparently, between the ladder and the floor, unable to move. Unfortunately, I needed to have all my men on the escape boat in order to clear the level. Since all of my in-game saves for the past 2 hours had been after his being shot, they were all useless. Another 2 hours lost from a game glitch. That about 5 hours or more of wasted time, that I had to completely retrace and redo. And that was only to get to the fourth mission in the game. There are 12 in all, plus an additional bonus level found in most of the missions.

Itís not that the game is overly difficult. In fact, once you get the quirky controls in hand, the normal difficulty level shouldnít pose much of a treat to most gamers. What I found however, was that if you want to clear all the objectives, instead of the stealth game that this title claims to be, itís more like a bloodbath; As you slink around corners and take out every enemy on the level one by one. If I can offer one word of advice though, never get caught in a gunfight if you might run out of ammo. Itís basically an automatic death. The button combinations needed to pull of the weapons list, highlight a new weapon, go back into action, and take aim, will take you far longer than your heath bar can sustain you.

HIGHS:

  • Interesting mix of strategy and real-time action
  • Wide variety of characters and actions
  • Based on real life events and missions

LOWS:

  • Difficult control scheme
  • Mission objectives are very specific, often overly challenging
  • Horrendous load times and choppy, glitchy graphics are unacceptable

FINAL VERDICT:

My final verdict for this game is a mix one. There is a lot going on and it has interesting gameplay elements. The missions are based on actual historical events (although the developers admit that they altered some events to suit their own needs), and the graphics are intricately detailed. On the other hand, the gameplay elements are mostly repeated ad nasium, and there are frequent graphical glitches, as well as an overall grainy quality. The missions are far too long, and often require an hour at a time to complete one simple objective. So in the end, I donít know who to recommend this game to. It doesnít have enough action to satisfy the action fans, and the strategy isnít really all that deep most of the time. Yet, it can be entertaining. If you have enough time to invest in the missions, and like the idea of a World War II Commando simulation, this is a fair choice.

Overall Score: 6.2

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