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Platform

Playstation 2

 

Genre

Strategy

 

Publisher

Eidos

 

Developer

Pyro Studios

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q3 2002

 

 

- Eye-catching, though low-res, graphics

 - Varied mission structure and game play

- Multiple methods of approaching a level

 

 

- Controls are awkward and overly complex

 

 

Review: Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive (PC)

Review: Fallout Tactics (PC)

 

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Commandos 2

Score: 7.3 / 10

If you already have Commandos 2 for the PC, stop reading now.  There is nothing in the PS2 version to recommend the game over the older, vastly superior PC version.  In fact, there are many reasons not to buy the game if you have access to the PC version.  One reason, however, really stands out.  The controls.  Already a bear to control on the keyboard and mouse-blessed PC, the game becomes physical torture when mapped to the Dual Shock 2.  I’m not the type of person who detests the idea of porting PC games to consoles, but here, it seems like a bad idea.  However, if you are in the “PC’s are for work/consoles are for fun” crowd, Commandos 2 can be a worthwhile diversion as long as you are willing to put in some serious “boot camp” time.  

 

commandos-2-1.jpg (73437 bytes)          commandos-2-2.jpg (68074 bytes)

 

For the uninitiated, Commandos 2 is a squad-based, real-time strategy game.  Players take on the role of a unit of Commandos during WWII and attempt to complete a variety (a nice variety actually) of missions.  Each mission is, in turn, divided up into various objectives.  Most of these objectives must be completed in order, but some choices are present.

 

Graphically, Commandos 2 fairs pretty well.  Not quite as sharp as the high-resolution PC version, the PS2 edition still looks good.  The levels are lush and colorful, with plenty of cool little details to make the game world feel more like the real world.  That world is seen from the (fairly traditional for strategy games) 2.5D, isometric perspective.  The character models and animation are lifted straight from the PC version, and they are definitely above average, even when compared to other recently released PS2 games.  So, at least the long wait between the two editions didn’t do much harm to the graphical impact of the game.

 

commandos-2-3.jpg (27556 bytes)          commandos-2-4.jpg (71165 bytes)

 

And, really, the long development time isn’t to blame for much.  I got the feeling from playing that the developers did everything in their power to make this an enjoyable experience.  The main problem seems to be that Commandos 2 is simply not a console game.  Though turn-based strategy games have been able to successfully move back and forth between consoles and PC’s, real-time strategy games simply have a harder time.  The real-time aspect means making decisions quickly (which is not a problem here), but also acting on those decisions quickly.  Unfortunately, that is where the problem lies.  The controls have been mapped logically to the Dual Shock 2, but the game simply requires too much input, too fast in order to be successful.

 

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Here’s a breakdown of the controls:  [L2], toggle between stand and crawl; [L1], toggle between Offensive mode and interaction mode (more on this later); [R2], rotate view and zoom (used in conjunction with right analog stick); [R1], Change options in Interaction mode; [select], opens Sight Indicator, Notebook, Detect Enemies, Objects and Map; [up or down on directional pad], cycles through available offensive items; [left or right on directional pad], 

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cycles through possible targets, flip through Notebook when open]; [X button], Select currently highlighted option or mode; [O button], Direct action options; [Triangle button], Cancel action/Exit; [Square button], Display Character Select bar; [Start button], Pause game/Display option menu/Skip intro.  Now, put away your books, get out a blank sheet of paper and a pen, and we will have a quiz.  I mean, seriously, if this was a turn-based game, something like Heroes of Might and Magic or Tactics Ogre, such controls would be no problem.  But trying to remember what does what, and when, in a real-time environment, ends up being more like work than fun.

 

To its credit, Commandos 2 includes multiple tutorial modes to get the player adjusted to the controls, but even these could be frustrating.  The big villain is the need to toggle constantly between the two different modes.  This requirement is obviously a necessity when converting the complicated PC controls to a system with about a hundred less buttons available, but, nevertheless, it feels clunky and frustrating.

 

Once a player gets used to the controls (though it can take a whole evening), Commandos 2 is pretty enjoyable.  The missions offer a variety of objectives.  The story benefits from the WWII (the last black and white, good vs. evil war) theme just as the Medal of Honor series does.  It is hard to fight WWII era Germans without getting at least a little bit of the old “I’m fighting on the side of justice” juices flowing, and those feelings are definitely present here.

 

The ability to rotate the camera 360 degrees is also a neat touch for a real-time strategy game.  It allows the player to check out options fully before heading in.  Often, a little tour around the environment will reveal a much easier route of attack than the more obvious choice.  Combining the easy scouting of the area with the amazing amount of things that you can get your commandos to do (climb, swing on ropes, crawl through small openings, swim through bodies of water, commandeer vehicles, etc.) gives a very nice feeling that each player can attack the game in a way that matches their personality.  Though the game requires a mixture of stealth, puzzle-like maneuvering, and outright combat, the amount of time spent on each of these actions will vary from player to player.

 

commandos-2-5.jpg (52596 bytes)          commandos-2-6.jpg (62643 bytes)

 

So, obviously, Commandos 2 is not a total loss — far from it actually.  It simply seems like an animal taken out of its native habitat and dropped in the middle of some alien world.  If you have a PC, I can think of no reason to recommend the PS2 version.  If you don’t have the PC version, and have no interest in playing games on the PC — and have the patience to work around a steep learning curve — Commandos 2 offers a fun, relatively long experience that is pretty unique on the home consoles.

 

- Tolen Dante

(October 5, 2002)

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