Commandos: Strike Force Review
publisher: Eidos Interactive
developer: Pyro Studios
PIV 1800, 512MB RAM, 3.5GB HDD, 64MB video card
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Apr 04, 06
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I've been a long time fan of the Commandos strategy series. I've been following its progress from the times of Pyro's humble beginnings, to the point where half the team left to pursue other interests, after the series garnered quite a bit of prestige with the fans and critics alike.
The original Commandos game was refreshing because it didn't follow the pattern of a classic RTS game. Instead, it focused on fewer specialized characters and on the purely strategic approach of calculating the best routes and timing the runs of your commando units. The game was a much 'purer' strategy if you will, than many other RTS games on the market, and that constituted the majority of its appeal in my eyes.
As you can imagine, I was a bit weary, therefore, to hear that what's left of Pyro Studios has been busy working on the FPS iteration of my beloved strategy series. Hell, I was ready to cry out "bloody hell!" even before I played the game. After all, what sane person isn't fed up with WWII titles (in any genre) by now?
The good news is that (despite my possibly unconscious efforts to deny it) Commandos: Strike Force does follow in the prestigious line of the spirit of the Commandos series, at least in general. Unfortunately for the developers (and EIDOS, the publisher), they have picked just about the worse possible level to show all the features of the game. The Norwegian dockyard fight in the demo looks like a bleak copy of a scripted Call of Duty-like clone, which honestly isn't what Commandos: Strike Force is about. Then again, because of the specifics of the FPS genre, not every commando unit has the same type of role as it did in the strategy series.
Furthermore, not all of the specialized units are present in the FPS title. This time around, players will be limited to just three members of the Strike Force team. From the press release: "The Green Beret, Francis O'Brien, specializes in offensive tactics, utilizing skills such as dual wielding his machine guns or getting up close and personal with his melee attacks. William Hawkins, the Sniper, brings the word precision to a new level as he can hold his breath to line up the perfect shot. The Spy, George Brown, is the epitome of stealth combat as he can use various disguises to sneak his way into enemy territory where he can set up a vicious strike."
Going back to the specifics of the FPS genre, as I said, some of these oh-so-familiar characters simply won't have the same impact on the gameplay as they did in the strategy games. This mostly goes for The Green Beret, possibly the most popular (and distinctive) character in the series who looks nothing like his old self, nor are his stealth kills with the knife as important as they once were. This effectively makes O'Brien the least effective (and the least fun to play) member of the Strike Force team. On the other hand, The Spy, George Brown, assumes a much greater role, and has a much more dominating on screen presence when it comes to the narrative. Gameplay-wise, playing the Spy-focused missions really takes you back. The missions are lengthy and often broken down into several different segments, which are littered with primary and secondary objectives. The levels in these missions are generally well designed, forcing you to use disguise as well as different tactical approach to finishing your tasks. These are pretty hard to boot, which has always been a defining characteristic of the Commandos series.
The narrative in between the missions is well done, which when coupled with the often challenging gameplay, should give you enough of an incentive to play on. The problem is that due to the nature of the FPS genre, some of the abilities and the appeal of the characters like the Green Beret couldn't be translated well into the first-person genre, consequently making the more action-packed missions a bit dreary and bland.
Overall, however, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the spirit of the old games somehow managed to live on in the FPS iteration. Granted, tactics are not as heavily emphasized as they were, but one must commend Pyro for giving the player several paths for completing the objectives, as well as giving it their best shot to emulate the environment and the tactical layout of the strategy games. They've done a far better job than I expected them to (Even if we disregard the fact that my expectations weren't set very high to begin with).
From a technical standpoint, the game is average in almost every regard. It looks average (the RenderWare engine), it sounds average, and the AI reacts averagely to your actions. Then again, you could argue that all of these elements combined are good enough not to detract you from the gameplay itself, which in my book is definitely good enough.
Commandos: Strike Force is not a bad game. In fact, it's a pretty good game. It does offer LAN and WAN compatibility, so multiplayer is another aspect you should take into consideration. Is it worth $30 bucks? I believe so. Would I buy it? Not entirely sure. Even though the game itself is good, I'm too tired of the WWII setting to even considering purchasing a game set in the period. If you are not yet sick to the point of vomiting until you dry retch at the mere thought of yet another WWII shooter then you may want to give this one a shot. Likewise, Commandos fans that are willing to experiment, however, should pick this one up. I think they might enjoy certain segments of the experience.
Game gets slightly higher score due to its innovative approach to FPS mission design, challenging but in a good way, price tag;
Not as deep or challenging as the strategy games but close, Green Beret's role, tech behind the times, some repetitive and highly annoying voice overs, WWII setting makes me cringe (highly subjective, not affecting the score much).
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