System Requirements
CPU: PII 300 HDD: 2GB RAM: 32MB OS: Windows 9X/ME VIDEO: 12 MB DirectX 8 SOUND: 16-bit Direct X 8 compatible sound card CD-ROM: 4x CD-ROM drive or faster required Multiplayer: 56K modem or better Rated T for violence
The game industry is obsessed with World War II! It?s currently flooding the market with WWII-themed games ? some are good and some are not so good. It must be Providence, then, that allows so many of these games to be truly quality works. We are even more fortunate that Pyro Studios has taken one of the most neglected genres in modern gaming (the squad-based RTS) and transposed this most tumultuous time in world history onto it, the result being the truly exceptional Commandos 2: Men of Courage.


This game, unlike many RTS?s nowadays, completely lacks a coherent plot. It begins by treating the player to a video explaining the situation: the time is the early 1940?s and Hitler?s numerically superior war machine is sweeping across western Europe. Desperate for a solution, the concept for the commando is born. Operating in small squads, these highly trained soldiers will use their skills and cunning to infiltrate enemy positions and perform myriad assignments previously thought suicidal: intelligence gathering, sabotage, rescue missions, etc. The player takes command of one such squad, taking them through twelve challenging missions, hoping to contribute to the turning of the tide.

Game Play

The game itself features a selection of nine commandos, each having their own strengths, weaknesses, and special abilities. At the beginning of a mission, the player is assigned a certain number of these commandos to work with, is given objectives, and must find a way to complete it. This gives the game itself an incredibly versatile premise: give the player a certain number of a total of nine commandos, give an objective, plop him on a map, and see what happens. The simple fact is that there is no single way to complete a mission ? walkthroughs are, for the most part, pointless.


A warning to all those who don?t believe in utilizing their higher logic faculties during gaming: this game will strain your brain! The sheer number of factors and possibilities to be considered is staggering. Walk into a room with two men reading a map, and a dozen possibilities could conceivably be used for dispatching them. In any case, the player must become accustomed to approaching Commandos 2 like a tough chess match: assessing the situation, visualizing and re-visualizing the possibilities, choosing a course of action, and executing the plan with the utmost precision. Like any other RTS, however, the game is unpredictable, and a quick reload must always be handy (save often!). Also, the thought required for some tasks as simple as removing a single guard can stretch into the use of many minutes, making Commandos 2 a time-sink like nothing else. This game is so good at programming one?s mind to think logically in combat situations, however, that I?m somewhat surprised that some far-sighted special ops trainers aren?t using it train modern day commandos. At the end of the game, all those annoying guards, snipers, and patrol leaders will be dropping like flies to your sharpened sense of timing and tactical strategy. Who says gaming isn?t good for your brain?!

Learning Curve

The inherent complexity of Commandos 2 leads to the mentioning of its greatest weakness: the game?s lack of a proper tutorial to help new players acclimate to its steep learning curve. The fact is that Commandos 2 accommodates so many possible actions and has so many tough missions that to dump a new player behind a bush in western Europe with two commandos and a directive to clear a roadblock without any previous instruction is truly pushing the envelope of unacceptability. I suppose that the designers assumed that players would give heavy use to the game manual, but the unnerving problem with this assumption is that the manual itself fails to address a myriad of key game issues. It?s very easy to get very lost at first, and this fact alone may motivate some newbies to throw up their hands in frustration and give up altogether on a truly superior game.


Another possible gripe is the way the game sacrifices some realism for continuity or just plain fun. Enemy soldiers only respond to certain stimuli: that is, sound and sight. Each is possessed with a field of vision and a certain sensitivity to sound, and they can only see your commandos within a certain distance in front of them. It is then conceivable that three guards, each standing five feet apart and looking in the same direction, can each be subsequently knocked out, tied up, and dragged off without the others being the wiser. If they do detect you, they?ll be screaming for alarm and shooting at you faster than any human is capable. The game has three difficulty settings that affect an enemy?s long range reaction time (before he recognizes you as an enemy) and the damage done by weapons, but nothing can reduce some of the inanely unrealistic aspects of the game, like an officer?s lightning-fast pistol draw speed.


The interface is typical RTS bird?s-eye top-down view, with the option to zoom in or out. The maps themselves are absurdly detailed, with numerous rooms, doors, and ledges to be accessed. The sheer detail brooks a good deal of options, but is also mostly responsible for the game?s huge memory requirements. This insane amount of detail can frequently add to the problem of simply finding your commandos on the maps ? a problem that the developers have gone to certain lengths to fix. The map can be rotated to four different camera positions at ninety degree angles to one another, and if this doesn?t work, an optional menu at the top of the screen allows commandos to be selected at the click of a portrait, outlining their figures in the process. Also, buttons can be held down that outline the locations of all interactive elements on a map, as well as all enemies. The pointer is used, in conjunction with the critical use of hotkeys, to direct the commandos. Basic actions with objects are directed through the holding of the Shift key, while other, more advanced, procedures are done through their selection on a menu at the side of the screen or through the (recommended) hotkeys. Why are hotkeys recommended? Simply because the advanced actions menu isn?t nearly big enough! With that said, most objects or features in a room can be interacted with. Boxes, pieces of furniture, and soldiers (usually dead) can be searched for needed items, and windows, doors, and ladders can be looked through, sniped from, and even, in a pinch, jumped through. The commandos themselves all have inventories that can be filled with equipment from the many sources scattered around the map. As you?ve probably already deduced, a lot of that equipment can only be used by certain commandos. In the end, the interface can be a challenging beast to master, but is, all around, well designed and nicely thought out. Successful play, especially in the later missions, requires a near memorization of the interface and hotkey system (the game manual is little help), but rewards with an intuitive system for performing actions.


The graphics are decent, albeit not overwhelming, and slightly grainy at low resolutions or high zoom. The outdoors maps are technically two dimensional, but are given the appearance of three dimensions with the rotational properties of the camera. Indoor environments are fully three dimensional, however. In the end, aside from the beautifully rendered environments, the graphics can be somewhat underwhelming, which is fine, as the gameplay is C2?s real strong point anyways.


The sound is another merely acceptable aspect of the game, with run-of-the-mill sounds for gunshots, explosions, fist impacts, etc. As I said for the graphics, there?s nothing really wrong with this ? there?s just nothing that really jumps out at you?except for one thing. The screams and yells of alarm made by the enemy soldiers are so loud, annoying, and well voice-acted that you?ll be motivated to be careful just to keep from having to hear them again. Seriously, if there?s anything in the gaming world that will produce an unnatural loathing of the Germans or Japanese (or both) of WWII, it?s this. After hours playing at a long, tough mission, nothing could be more irritating than having an unnoticed guard stumble upon a carefully hidden commando and begin yelling and shooting. The music score is a collection of about two or three tracks, one of which is chosen at the beginning of a load and loop-plays. This can be either atmospheric or irritating, depending on the situation and the player.


Multiplayer consists of a co-op mode where each player chooses a color and a selection of the nine commandos in the game, and then participates in a cooperative attempt to beat a single-player mission, whether from the beginning or from a save in the middle of one. Multiplayer is currently available from GameSpy Arcade.


As for stability, Commandos 2 is relatively stable, but does sport a number of annoying bugs and in-game crashes, many of which are too bizarre and erratic to fully document. One such crash involves approaching a heavily wounded commando and administering first aid ? sometimes the game crashes to the desktop, sometimes it doesn?t. It?s yet another reason to save often. Most of these problems seem to be the result of hardware conflicts, and should be dealt with accordingly (update your hardware drivers and read the game documentation).


At the surface, offensive content is relatively light. Killing is, naturally, a simple fact of the game, and in a variety of ways. Guards will be stabbed, shot, incinerated, blown away, and poisoned, among other methods of demise. One pet peeve I had with the game was the way that killing was portrayed as the most effective method of disposing of an enemy. Sure they could be knocked out and tied up (or drugged), but they would occasionally escape, and if found and liberated, would raise the alarm. Killing allows for simple and quick searching and disposal of the body. Commandos 2 also sports one or two minor swear words, with the occasional good-natured insult exchanged between the commandos themselves. Also, the only female commando on the team can use her considerable powers of seductive feminine charm to distract enemies and infiltrate installations.

Final Thoughts

And for the final verdict! Commandos 2: Men of Courage, while hampered by stability issues and its steep learning curve, is a masterfully executed game with a great interface and an excellent emphasis on open-ended tactics. Maps are beautifully done and the missions are well-varied enough to keep the game engaging until the end. The game is quite cerebral and requires a tremendous amount of logical thought. For anyone looking for a thinking gamer?s RTS, Commandos 2 will deliver.

Final Ratings

Game Play: A Graphics: C+ Sound: C+ Interface: B+ Stability: C Story: B+ Offensive Content: B-

Overall: B

Author?s Lean: B+ (pro?s: engaging, logical game play - beautiful maps - lots of minutiae to explore - mostly intuitive, well designed interface - great atmosphere; cons: so-so graphics and sound ? interface quirks ? steep learning curve with inadequate newbie tutorials/introductions ? missions frustratingly hard at times; final verdict: a real brain-strainer that will keep your occupied and feeling smart for a long time. Play C2 after a long round of some less intelligence-intensive game, like Unreal)

About the Author

Cheryl Gress

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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