Commandos 2: Men of Courage (XBOX)
by Eidos Interactive
One of the main attractions with the XBOX as a console is how painless it is to port a PC title to it, when compared with the difficulty that's involved with porting to the PlayStation 2. Obviously the architecture of the XBOX allows this to be so with it's built in hard drive and 64MB of memory. We have already seen one PC only title, Championship Manager, ported wonderfully to the XBOX.
There are plenty of unique and resourceful characters at your disposal to help you through the 12 missions. There's Lupin 'The Thief', Natasha 'The Seductress', Whiskey the dog, Jack 'Butcher' O'Hara and Thomas Hancock 'Fireman' to name but a few. Characters can exchange items with Whiskey the dog. He is able to transport documents etc. between characters when contact is impossible or awkward.
Of course the burning question is 'what's the control system like'? Well if you've played the PC Commandos games then having to use the gamepad with multiple button presses simply to select a character seems like pure hell. Just attempting to carry out simple objectives is five times longer than on the PC version. Of course if you haven't played the PC version then you won't understand what I'm saying to the full extent and will find it easier to become accustomed to the control system. Of course learning a control system has to be given time with some games and after a couple of hours I found myself becoming used to it. In fairness to Pyro Studios they have crafted multiple tutorials for the XBOX version that drums the control system into you.
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. A feature on the PC version was the sound indicator. If you turned this on in the game options, you see a kind of sound wave rippling from your character when they are making a noise. This enabled you to see how much noise you were making and whether that noise is in the enemies hearing range. Sadly the XBOX version doesn't have this feature and this makes the game that little bit harder for the deaf gamer.
The difficulty in Commandos 2 will come as a shock to those who have never played either version on a PC. There are two tutorials and ten missions. In case you are thinking that ten missions may not be enough, then think again. Some of the missions are huge and will take you days to complete. Thankfully you can save at any point, the save times (and the load times) are much improved upon from the PS2 version, and this serves to avoid unnecessary frustration. The easier of the three difficulty settings allows you a little more breathing space but it is anything but easy in the true sense of the word.
Like in the PS2 version, the tutorials in the XBOX version are much improved upon from the PC version. The training has been broken into many individual parts and all parts can be accessed at any time. The verbal information is not subtitled but the basic instructions and explanation of how to do things are given in text. The cutscenes within the missions are not subtitled and you'll have to recheck the mission log to learn your objectives.
Thankfully the graphics improve significantly upon the PS2 version and whilst are not as good as the PC version, they are clearer than the PS2 version and make the game easier because smaller items are easier to see. Pyro have allowed for the smaller characters by making it possible to highlight the enemies if you so wish. This makes the enemies turn red and highly visible. You can also make objective items light up too which again goes someway to compensating for the small nature of the graphics.
The quality of the missions is 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 some of the atmosphere because of the lack of subtitles and the need to constantly check the mission objectives but believe me when I say Commandos 2 will give you a unique and enjoyable gaming experience.
Commandos 2 is easily one of the best World War II games ever made. It is a shame that subtitles were not used. But believe me when you get into the game and learn the awkward control system you will not be able to put this game down for the many hours 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 enjoy a real challenge in your games.
Overall Game Rating: 8.0/10 Commandos 2 arrives on the XBOX and visually improves upon the PS2 version. Awkward controls take time to learn but once you have you'll grow to love the game. If you have a PC though, and prefer point 'n' click to multiple button presses then you would be better off with the PC version because it is far easier to control.
Deaf Gamers comment: Like the PC version there aren't any subtitles in the main missions. The XBOX version does have a much improved tutorial system but even this is not fully subtitled. The sound ripple from the PC version has also been taken out, which is a shame.