Written by  :  Zovni (10665)
Written on  :  Mar 12, 2003
Rating  :  3.25 Stars3.25 Stars3.25 Stars3.25 Stars3.25 Stars

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Awkward puzzle exercise that thinks it's some innovative tactical squad-based game.

The Good

Love the graphics, they are extremely detailed pre-rendered sprites viewed from an isometric perspective, but the detail is awesome! You have plenty of resolution settings as well as the option to split the screen in different views (to keep an eye on each of your commandos) as well as a surprisingly good zoom option which manages to keep most of the detail intact even if it does start to blow sprites up into little pixellated horrors. Still everything has an impressive level of detail and the levels are lovingly designed, varied in their design and truly interesting to explore, populated by a wide array of enemies and vehicles and giving a very war-movie like feel to it all, kind of like a serious Metal Slug (if you can look past the enormeous gameplay differences).

The interface and production values are dead-on for the game, and you have a very simple WWII-themed, mouse-driven interface with full hot-key support (a must, since the game is in real-time). You can easily pinpoint the line-of-sight of enemy guards and you can go prone or standing depending on the situation. Sound effects are scarse but solid and the game has some really spiffy cutscenes which make use of archival WW2 footage given new meaning by the use of voiceovers and other tricks. The characters are very well designed and have enough charisma to make you... uh... "not hate them" throughout the course of the god-forsaken game, well, all except for the stupid sniper and it's goddamned accent...!

The Bad

The one real big problem with Commandos is that it's got some weird personality disorder. This is a multiple-character puzzle game in the same vein as The Lost Vikings or Fury of the Furries only played from an isometric perspective and not some sort of innovative real-time tactical squad-game or strategy hybrid. Sure, the game does incorporate some elemenents from those genres, but the game it's an exercise in puzzle-solving first and foremost with the main challenges being figuring out how to sneak past the nazi guards and complete your objectives, be it blow some shit up, rescue someone, kill some nazi officer or some other thing. As with most puzzle games the result when things go right is a real ego boost, as Hannibal used to say: "I love it when a plan comes together"... Yeah, it sure feels good to see everything working efficiently and as you planned it, but just as on most puzzle games, you can get seriously cock-locked whenever you fail to figure out just what the hell the designers wanted you to do E-X-A-C-T-L-Y, and while that alone is a frustrating obstacle that reduces the gameplay enjoyment, when you couple it with the elements borrowed from other genres you get frustration central, and one of the most obnoxious try-die-reload games ever conceived.

The premise calls for you to use the skills of 6 different soldiers accordingly, but they are far from being "special" forces of any kind. Outside of their particular specialty they are all pretty much vanilla, and the incredible level of specialization means that gameplay usually reduces to getting the requisite character for whatever lies ahead and solving things on your own while you leave the pack behind, and then when you get stuck and need someone else's skills, just replace your "lead" character and continue. This aspect of gameplay is emphasized by the particular disposition the commandos have to just forget about the war whenever they are not selected. Many, many times one of your characters will get killed just because you were doing something elsewhere, and that is because the commandos have no AI whatsoever and just sit back and relax whenever they get discovered and start eating lead, or stand perfectly still as a vehicle drives over them... A byproduct of puzzle gaming? Maybe, but how the hell is one supposed to get tabs on all characters in a real-time game of this type? I can only imagine the hell it would have been if X-com's tactical parts had been real-time instead of turn based...wait, no, I don't have to imagine them, I have Commandos to illustrate it for me!! You can only move, change stance and shoot (with the crappy pistols) whenever you have more than one commando selected, and they do not continue to fire or anything unless you keep clicking that mouse button.. yay! Plus, the game goes for a "realistic" damage model, meaning that one or two shots and you are out... I still can't understand it... If the designers didn't bother to give us decent party management options why didn't they just use a lone commando with all the skills on him? Why force the player to manage six useless characters when only one can be used effectively at a time and the game design forces you into rigid, pre-set puzzle sequences??? Is it to get a bite out of the tactical squad-based market?? Even if there is zero tactical elements to speak of and you have even less control of your squad members???

The Bottom Line

The truth is that Commandos tries, but the focuss on a tactical squad-based style doesn't work within a game that's essentially a real-time puzzle solver that requires more timing and multiple reloads to get things right instead of a strategic approach.

If Commandos had ditched the real-time element and added more realistic tactical components (such as line-of-fire and range calculations), AI for your characters and got rid of some stupid puzzle elements (only six fucking bullets for the sniper?? Are the allied spec ops on a budget??) then it would have been an interesting WW2-themed squad-based tactical game. On the other hand, if Commandos wanted to be really good at what it is, then it should have ditched the multiple character angle and used a lone Commando to get things done, maybe add some npcs to spice things up a bit... As it is now Commandos does neither and is one big puzzle-tactical mess that doesn't please anyone except those with far too much time on their hands and the patience to endure one of the most awkwardly designed puzzle games ever.