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Commandos 2: Men of Courage Review

publisher: Eidos Interactive
developer: Pyro Studios
genre: Strategy

PII-300, 64MB RAM, 2GB HDD, 12MB 3D accelerator
ESRB rating: T

release date: Sep 24, 01
» All About Commandos 2: Men of Courage on ActionTrip

My name is Dejan, I am 25, and I am an addict ... It all started two years ago... A friend of mine gave me a suspicious looking CD labeled Commandos or something like that. It all seemed na´ve at first, but soon my life changed completely. I started organizing my days in a way that I can devote all my time to it... forgot about food, girls, sleep...

Yup, this is a true story of an, otherwise completely normal person (me, that is) from the period when I first saw the Pyro Studios' Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines. Even though this game is a real-time strategy, its specific concept made it interesting enough that even those who were not the too fond of the genre got to like it. Due to its success, the game got several successors, some of which turned out to be great games as well, especially the brilliant Desperados. Regardless of that, most of the gaming population could hardly wait to see Tiny and his companions once more. Unfortunately, it was a long wait, as the original release date got delayed for a year and a half.

All this time I couldn't help wandering what the Spaniards are up to... Did they really have so much work on a game which was never meant to be technically innovative as much as playable? Well, it seems they did, as Commandos 2 really introduces a lot of both technical and gameplay novelties.

First thing you get to notice is the new engine which uses a combination of pre-rendered backgrounds and 3D models. I guess there are a lot of people who (like myself) find 3D graphics unnecessary in a video game, which partially owes its looks to its beautiful 2D graphics, but I had to change my mind at the very first site of the game. All characters and movable objects are made out of polygons, but they look as good as if they had been hand-drawn. It is futile trying to explain this, just look at the characters in the screenshots, and you'll get the picture. A lot of characters are specific; you'll see Germans taking a shower, various mechanics doing their job, etc. all of them perfectly animated. All their moves have been done so good that it really looks as if you had actors walking around the screen. Try to make one of your soldiers run, and then tell him to stop or lie down all of a sudden, and see how he reacts, make him climb a ladder, reload a weapon or tie down an unconscious enemy soldier... The animation is definitely breathtaking.

The same goes for the pre-rendered backgrounds. They look even better than the backgrounds in the original Commandos. They are rich in detail and create a perfect setting for the game. I don't think the entire game contains a pixel in a wrong place. One more thing: the background objects can be visibly damaged by shots and explosions.

The view is much the same as it was in Commandos, with one big difference: all maps have been pre-rendered from four angles, so that you can rotate the terrain. This will give you a better insight in the terrain, but I must admit that at first I kept getting lost when rotating the screen, as it instantly switches to another camera. I frequently completely lost my character after I rotated the view, so I never used this feature in critical moments or when enemies were too near. In confined spaces, on the other hand (in Commandos 2, you can enter literally any building), this has been done much better and you can gradually rotate the camera. This was a pleasant surprise and the 3D engine doing this really looks great. The only flaw here is the fact that confined spaces seem so small and... well confined. It seems that this entire sequel deals with room combat.

The game supports several resolutions, but changing them will only result in you being able to see a smaller or larger part of the map. Choosing a higher resolution won't result in better picture quality, it will just let you see a wider area. This is one of the rare games where the players will willingly choose to play on the lowest possible resolution setting in order to have a good insight in the situation. You are probably wandering what about that ugly pixelization when you zoom-in; well, it's still here. It would be too much to expect from the programmers to solve this problem while the engine still uses pre-rendered bitmaps for backgrounds. The only thing they should have done is get rid of the useless and ugly zoom, which makes a single soldier take up literally half of the screen.

As for the characters, the game features all the characters from the first part: Tiny, Sniper, Mariner, Sapper, Driver, Spy, and introduces two more: Lupin - the thief, and Natasha the seductress. Lupin is a very interesting character with high speed and agility, (he can climb cliffs and walls, etc.) and proficiency in "thievly" things like breaking&entering, sneaking, stealing and blackjacking. On the other hand, as he is not-so-good at killing folks, he is best-used as a silent support to Tiny with a knife in his teeth. Oh, and Lupin likes animals, and in certain missions he will be followed by a dog or mouse, who are mostly used for distracting the enemy. Natasha is practically identical to Spy... apart from her being able to carry the gun and distract a soldier by seducing him. She has nothing too new or characteristic that would distinguish her as a character or improve the gameplay. She only appears in a couple of missions, and won't leave much of an impression. It is a real shame that the relatively small number of missions ever gave us a chance to really get to know and experience all characters properly...

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9.0   Excellent

Extremely catchy game, detailed graphics, fantastic animation;

Few sounds, messing about the inventory, confined spaces and cameras can gat a bit tedious.


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