There are two kinds of complexitythe
welcome sort that one finds in a Shakespearean sonnet or an excellent bottle of wine, and
the unwelcome sort that one finds in a tax form or a crazy girlfriend. The first is
interesting, the second frustrating. And Commandos 2--while very often a complex,
interesting gamecan also be a complex, frustrating game.
Commandos 2 is the long-awaited
sequel to 1998s Commandos, a game noted for its razors-edge thrills, beautiful
maps, puzzle-like missions, and insane level of difficulty. And while Commandos 2 is much
bigger (the maps are enormous), more varied (you get new operatives and even get to fight
against the Japanese), and even prettier than the original, the learning curve is just as
steep. Some steps have been taken to make the missions less dependant on split-second
timing and more on planning, but a fiddly interface and absolutely terrible manual and
tutorial amp up the frustration factor to at times almost intolerable levels.
those of you unfamiliar with the original Commandos, the game gives you command of a group
of World War II vintage special-forces types whose missions take them far behind enemy
lines. Stealth is at a premium. Most missions involve wending ones way through a
labyrinth of enemy guards and soldiers, avoiding them when possible, taking them out
silently and quickly when not. Since the entire map and all enemy soldiers are viewable
from the missions get-go (talk about great intelligence) you can leisurely plot out
your plan of attack, and at its best Commandos 2 offers an almost chess-like experience of
carefully thinking out moves well in advance. Except with machine guns and stuff. Since
your operatives are almost always outnumbered, detection by the enemy (either through
being sighted, making a loud noise, or leaving dead bodies lying around) typically leads
to terminal mission failure. Frequent saves are recommended.
your charges are uniquely equipped for such missions. Your roster of characters includes a
muscle-bound Green Beret, a skilled Mechanic who can commandeer enemy vehicles, a Spy who
is also a master of disguise, a Sniper, a Demolitions Expert, a Secret Agent (think
Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle) and a Thief who comes armed with a rat and a dog. To
successfully complete the enormous and complex (in a good way) missions, youll have
to use their various special skills. Various commandos can set traps, pick locks, blow
stuff up real good, take over tanks, climb walls, seduce or distract guards, use scuba
gear, and disguise themselves as enemy officers.
is absolutely beautiful, too. The effect is cinematic in the extreme, and the
"its like Im in a movie" effect is very much in play here,
especially since Commandos 2 offers occasional tips of the hat to the Hollywood
blockbusters that have so evidently inspired it. Sound is also excellent, and can offer
useful gameplay hints, especially when one of your agents is making a little too much
all the games strengths and evident care that went into constructing the missions,
the games learning curve is needlessly steep. The tutorials are worse than
uselesstheyre essentially mini-missions that offer no instruction and require
lots of fumbling through the manual whilst trying to obtain obscure information. While the
tutorials arent much use in learning the games mechanics, they do offer an
excellent preview of what youll be going through while trying to learn the game. For
instance, youll probably want to lob a grenade through a window at some time, but
exactly how this is done is not immediately evident. Youll therefore have to stop
playing and look it up in the manual. Want to exchange items with another team member?
Youll again have to look it up in the manual--which, by the way, is extremely poorly
organized and perversely printed white-on-light gray. Reading it, or even thinking about
it now, is a very unpleasant experience.
is a shame, because with a more context-sensitive interface and a decent tutorial and
manual, Commandos 2 could have been a classic. Its the kind of thinking mans
game thats not for everybody, but if you love seeing a plan come together and have a
naturally patient disposition, playing Commandos 2 is time well spent.