Commandos 2: Men of Courage
by Eidos Interactive
Commandos was the surprise classic game when it was released in 1999. Using World War II as the backdrop Commandos took an unusual step in that it did not concentrate on grand battles but focused on small operations with you controlling only a handful of specialists. What was the real surprise about the game was the amount of strategy involved. You couldn't just go into these missions with all guns blazing, you had to use stealth, cunning but above all brains. The missions were difficult but very rewarding. The nature of the game with its few character gave it a personal charm that had never before been seen in a strategy game.
So two years on then and we have the hugely anticipated sequel, Commandos 2 Men of Courage. You are probably wondering what's new in the sequel so here are just some of the new features. There are three new characters; they are Lupin 'The Thief', Natasha 'The Seductress' and Whiskey the dog. The characters are not so rigid in their abilities this time and you will find them more versatile although they still have their individual specialities. Characters can exchange items with Whiskey the dog being able to transport documents etc. between characters when contact is impossible or awkward. The game engine has been completely rewritten and you can now rotate the map at 90 degree angles when you are outside and to any angle you want when you are inside buildings. The strategy involved in the game has increased dramatically and you will need to rotate the map to see all of your options/enemies. Pyro Studios have also included three difficulty settings with the easiest (and I use the term loosely) being called normal and giving you those extra seconds to move your character out of harms way. An important new feature is to display a sound indicator. If you turn this on in the game options you see a kind of sound wave rippling from your character when they are making a noise. This enables you to see how much noise you are making and whether that noise is in the enemies range.
If you thought the original game was complicated you'll be in for a shock with this sequel. There are two tutorials and ten missions. In case you are thinking that ten missions maybe not be enough, then think again. Some of the missions are huge and will take you days to complete. As we mentioned earlier the easier setting allows you a little more breathing space than you had in the original game but it is anything but easy in the normal sense of the word. The tutorials are a bit of a disappointment in that they kind of leave you on your own without describing in detail what you need to do. Certain actions can only be activated by hotkeys such as holding the shift key down to gag the guards. The tutorial makes no attempt to learn you the hotkeys and so, leaves you in the dark. I noticed that you can access a list of controls from within the game and the readme file gives you a list of the hotkeys but the tutorial should have spelled it out for the player especially as the manual does not list the hotkeys. In the tutorials, as in the missions, you are verbally given instructions as to what to do but not how to do it, as the verbal instructions are not subtitled (although the mission background is given out textually). You must refer to the objectives button to read what must be done. The cutscenes within the missions are not subtitled either and you have to recheck the mission objectives. The instructions are broken down into a numbered list. Clicking on an objective highlights the location of the map where that objective is to be carried out.
Graphically the game is fantastic. Commandos 2 is probably the finest looking 2D game in existence and the detail is amazing. The one exception to this is the zoom feature. Zoom right in and the graphics become so pixelated as to make the feature useless but having said that zooming out full distance does have its uses as you can see where everything is. If the graphics are excellent then the quality of the animation is out of this world. When you play the game just take a moment to watch the enemy soldiers walk around, they are so life like and the same can be said about your character's animations such as swimming, walking, climbing through windows etc. they are incredible and Pyro Studios deserve an award for this alone.
The quality of the missions is also first class. Missions include such tasks as destroying the bridge over the river Kwai, escaping from Castle Colditz and Saving Private Smith. Does that sound like a list of movies to you? Well the game plays like a list of movies. The atmosphere is outstanding. Yes the deaf gamer does lose a little of the atmosphere because of the lack of subtitles and the need to constantly check the mission objective but believe me when I say if you even remotely liked the original game then Commandos 2 will give you a gaming experience like no other game could.
Commandos 2 is easily the finest World War II game ever made and it would take a miracle for anyone (other than Pyro Studios with Commandos 3) to create a game that surpasses this masterpiece. It is a shame that subtitles were not used and that the tutorials are a let down but believe me when you get into the game and learn the hot keys (print the readme file it will help) you will not be able to put this game down for the 40+ hours or so that it takes just to complete it on the easiest of difficulty settings. There are also a couple of bonus missions in there and the game is significantly different enough to play through on the higher difficulty settings. This is a game that despite its lack of subtitles you will not want to miss, especially if you enjoyed the first game.
Overall Game Rating: 8.1/10 A work of art. Had the mission briefings and cutscenes been subtitled the score would have virtually perfect.
Quality of text: 5/10 Mission briefings and mid-mission cutscenes should have been subtitled but the mission backgrounds are given in text and you can check your objectives at any time.
Graphics: 9.5/10 Superb. Only the poor zooming in graphics are less than perfect.
Interface:8/10 Loads of hotkeys to learn but otherwise very good.
Gameplay:10/10 The gameplay is beyond description. Pyro Studios have created a very special game indeed.