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Commandos 3: Destination Berlin Review
publisher: Eidos Interactive
developer: Pyro Studios
PIII 600MHz , 128MB RAM, 32MB Video Card, 2GB HD
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Oct 14, 03
|» All About Commandos 3: Destination Berlin on ActionTrip|
It's always nice to see an underdog make it big in this industry. It's such a rare occurrence these days, but when it happens, it warms the heart. Several years back the gods looked favorably upon the Spanish boys (niņos? - Six) at Pyro Studios; they managed to overcome all the obstacles and launch Commandos which became one of the finer tactical strategy games on the market. The game had just the right blend of unique gameplay elements and detailed, appealing eye-candy to win over the hearts and minds of true strategy fans. Many would complain that it was too difficult, but it was the difficulty and the meticulous approach to mission planning that made it so appealing. I remember spending days planning my moves and trying to beat levels without raising a single alarm...
Clean zee kitchen sink! Zat's an order!
Stand and deliver! Your life or your lupins!
That was back in the day, however. Nowadays a lot of things have changed. "Commandos" is a well established franchise with a devoted fan base and plenty of marketing muscle behind it. It is also a franchise that has lost the creative touch of its original designers, as most of the team that has worked on the previous Commandos games left Pyro Studios a few months ago to form a new game studio. Does this show in the third incarnation in the series? That's what we're here to find out.
The dirty half-dozen is back in action, folks. The Sniper, Spy, Green Beret, Diver, Thief and Sapper are once again geared up to wreak some serious havoc behind enemy lines and hit the Nazis where it hurts them most - right in the heart of the Third Reich - the city of Berlin (Which would be the destination mentioned in the game's title "Destination Berlin"....uhm....yeah. There's a reason I'm only the editor, folks. - Six). The game spans three different campaigns. From the frozen ruins of Stalingrad, to the forests of central Europe and onto the beaches of Normandy, your select few will be fighting the Nazis, butchering, sapping, thieving, deceiving... doing pretty much everything we're used to seeing them do in the past. Once again, the accent of this game is on the specific abilities of your characters and how you need to use their strengths and weaknesses in order to complete various tricky assignments. One new and refreshing thing about this is that, this time around, all of your characters are equipped to handle various types of firearms and only the specialist weapons; like the Sapper's remote bomb, or "Duke's" sniper; will be exclusive to specific characters. This feature is emphasized even more than in the second installment. It's clear to see that the game's core gameplay mechanics have matured, in a sense that many of the smaller nagging drawbacks from the previous games have been dealt with successfully. Granted, the game is still pretty hard for veterans and newcomers alike. The interface has gone through some changes, so even the more experienced Commandos players will have to adjust to it a bit. The interface has mostly changed for the better, but some of the point and click options can appear a little sluggish when the action heats up and you're required to perform a quick series of moves. One great new addition to it though is the ability to order your teammates to lay down covering fire on a designated spot. That way you can organize ambushes and make sure that your guys aren't caught with their pants down by the nasty Nazi villains. Also, I can't remember if you could do this in Commandos 2 or not, but it comes as mighty handy that you can now peek through keyholes and manholes before entering or exiting at an unknown location. Use this option a lot, as it might frequently save you from unpleasant situations like finding yourself face to face with a squad of vicious soldiers.
Even with all these gameplay additions, however, it will be very hard to finish some of the missions. Certain mission objectives seem pretty vague and the maps are bigger than before, forcing you to wander around more and guess what needs to be done next. On the plus side, this means that you can take various different approaches to reaching your goal. The accent on non-linearity is certainly nice, but this also means that you'll be in a lot of hit and miss situations where you'll have to reload your quick save position over and over again until you get things right. The way that the German soldiers and their patrols have been laid out on the map increases the game difficulty even further.
It's really tough to move around and not get spotted, especially when you're not allowed to raise a single alarm. You'll need to zoom in and out a lot, and use the F5 key to highlight all the German troops on the map. As usual, the game's difficulty calls for some creative thinking and a bit of planning on the side of the player, but that is exactly why I love this game to begin with. Another thing I'd like to point out here in regards to difficulty is the addition of a fairly atypical sniper vs. sniper mission where "Duke" will have to outsmart an ace German sniper. You not only have to plan your actions right, you also need to time your moves and use your reflexes, which adds a nice action-flavored touch to the gameplay. It's a shame the game doesn't features more missions like that.
Those 'chutes will make fine panties someday.
From here, we go to Berlin... Into the lion's den.
From a visual standpoint and in terms of the musical soundtrack, Commandos 3 comes off as a lot more professional, engaging and atmospheric than any of its predecessors. The new particle effects system works marvelously; weather effects and the explosions look spectacular, and the isometric 2D backgrounds are just as detailed and well designed as they were in the previous games. Voice acting is colorful, with lots of fun accents and it successfully conveys the emotions of the characters. The same can be said about the epic and nicely paced soundtrack. While the game has retained the 2D look of the outdoor environments (coupled with full 3D characters) the indoor environments have went through a bit of a makeover. They are now modeled in full 3D, just like the characters, which gives you a chance to rotate the camera better and get a superior overview of the interior.
Even though the latest Commandos game is still a must-play for true tactical strategy aficionados I can't help but notice that this latest sequel doesn't bring anything truly new to the series. It's apparent that most of the truly creative thinking behind this franchise left with the ex Pyro employees. Like it or not, Commandos 3 mostly rehashes the old concepts and doesn't bring any true innovation to the table. Wait, scratch that. I should say doesn't bring any true innovation to the single-player game. This time around you can actually engage in a game of multiplayer and play a deathmatch game for up to 12 players. It might not be as fun as the single game, but it's certainly a welcome addition to the series.
But to get back to the single-player campaign; as I said, no groundbreaking features are evident in the single-player, and to makes matters worse, some of the mission design loses a bit of steam in the later stages of the game. Sure the three different campaigns provide for some visually unique settings, but it seemed to me that a number of assignments were definitely too "routine" and run of the mill type of assignments, which stands in stark contrast to the excellent opening Stalingrad mission (the one with the German sniper). The fact that some of these missions are time-limited didn't do a lot for me in terms of making the tasks more suspenseful.
On the whole, Commandos 3 can be regarded as a solid addition to the franchise. Many of its trademark characteristics, like the difficulty and accent on tactical gameplay, make a much welcomed return and I'm grateful for them. Visually, the Commandos universe seems more atmospheric and immersive than ever before, and the addition of multiplayer increases the game's replay value. But even with all this the franchise seems to lack more creativity both in terms of mission design and expanding the concepts that were introduced in the original. I dearly missed more colorful characters, more varied mission tasks and a bit lengthier single-player experience. I guess a "short" single-player campaign is nothing new nowadays, but it did take me around three days to finish the single-player campaign.
The choice is now up to you my dear reader...
8.5 Very Good
Some nice interface additions, engaging and fun for the most part, multiplayer, visual improvements and voice acting make it the most atmospheric Commandos game yet;
Lacks more creative input in terms of mission design, characters; some vague mission objectives, less significant interface glitches and bugs.
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