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It's been a while since the last installment of the "Commando" series hit the home front. In fact, it's been so long a while that in the absence of the series several major squad-based titles have since then moved onto the scene and set new precedents and milestones for games of the this genre and won much praise among the militant masses. That said, enter "Commandos: Strike Force," the newest installment of the Commando series.
The question, though, is does this somewhat of an old-school shooter have what it takes to stand out in today's already heavily populated genre of games where competition is so thick you can cut it with a knife? Or like an ex-soldier who hasn't seen war for quite some time, is this game riddled with rust and destined to meet a very short and untimely end?
Well to make a long story short, the answer is yes, Commando: Strike Force does indeed stand out amongst most games in its genre"..Unfortunately however "standing out" in this case is a "bad thing." Why do you ask? Well, I thought you'd never ask.
Let us start with the big one: lack of originality. You hear those words so often these days in the gaming community but only when there is already an existing surplus of games already out on the market and your game, barring its "new release" price tag, doesn't really bring anything new and refreshing to the table. So instead of mentioning something new and refreshing about Commandos: Strike Force, I think I'll just kind of go out on a limb and say that if I had to describe this game in one sentence I would say it is your standard first-person shooter with the "generic" look of a "Medal of Honor" title, boasting but a tidbit of truly memorable moments of "heroism" such as seen before in the "Call of Duty" series, and a few pages of "kill and seek" freshly torn from the "Hitman" series.
CSF does attempt to be different by taking the "stealthy" approach to this style of game but ultimately hugs tight to the usual first-person shooter "protocol" eventually drowning out that hint of new flavor before game's end. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this game is a total flop by no means. I'm just being "real" and letting the gaming masses know that this is nothing we haven't seen before in one game or another of this genre at some point.
Graphically, the game is above average but doesn't really leave a lot of room to brag about. It does have that authentic World War II look we've seen so many times before and manages to set the mood fairly well. My only real gripe about the graphics lies in the lack of polish. The game has somewhat of a faintly dull and hazy look to it. This could have been intentionally done to help set the tone but I think a little more clarity might have gone a long ways. Despite all that, though, the graphics are pretty ok.
Audio is pretty solid, toting all the bells and whistles of a WWII game. Sound and sound effects are always crucial in games like this and the "Eidos/Pyro" team done a pretty good job on nailing this aspect of the game. No complaints there.
The storyline revolves around three special force heroes, each with their own special gifts and talents. Captain Francis O'brien is a cold and calculating green beret who's mental and physical strength rival that of any in his class. Colonel George Brown specializes in "spy tactics." His stealth and language skills allow him to get close and eliminate enemy targets without attracting too much attention. Finally, rounding off the group is Lieutenant William Hawkins, the team's long range sniper specialist. He's often referred to as the joker of the pack, but his deadly accuracy with a rifle, precision with a knife and all around field skills are nothing to make fun of. Together this especially talented group of soldiers can weather any situation including close combat, covert action, raids, ambushes, hostage rescues and reconnaissance.
The game play overall is merely satisfying. Of course, in order to complete the mission objectives assigned to your team you'll have to call on each member's individual gifts and talents to pull the operation off successfully. O'brien is your close combat specialist. Assault is his montage. When you want to get some damage done this is the man to call on. He can handle all sorts of fire arms and even dual wield some. He can also use medical skills to heal his squad mates on the battle field, making him that much more valuable to the team.
You'll need to call on Hawkins to pick off a specific target or targets from a distance when close range combat is not a good idea. It's real easy to get into the sniper role. You'll have to stealth your way through enemy lines, using throwing blades to reach vantage points where you can do what you do best: Lay things to rest from a distance.
Brown's role as the spy is arguably one of the coolest features of the game. You can use him to sneak up behind enemy soldiers and snuff them out his handy garrote. Afterwards you can take their clothing and play the imposter role which is a lot of fun. It's important whose clothes you choose to take on due to the fact that you can only fool those enemies whose rank is lower than your outfit. Spying is definitely one of the highlights of the game play.
As wonderful as all of those game play elements are there is one aspect of game play that seems to drop the ball in a big way. The overall AI of the game is shotty. Enemy soldiers aren't as diligent in seeking you out for lengthy periods of time as seen in other games if you happen to get spotted so it sort of takes away from the real and eminent danger of a war situation. Likewise, your own team members will often give up their cover to step out into the open and engage the enemy, forcing you to either watch them die a needless death or risk your own neck trying to save them. It's these kinds of elements that really take away from the game play and keeping it from being as good as it could be.
The bottom line is that Commandos: Strike Force, while it does have a few moments of glory, is ultimately a title that has arrived a little late on a scene that is already thriving with a lot of stiff competition. The genre is just too heavily populated not to be picky different aspects of the game and so I'd be willing to bet that more times than likely another more popular game of choice would be chosen in its place. For those that have a hardcore interest in military games I would highly suggest renting this one first before you go put your hard-earned dollars on it at the stores. 3 out of 5 possible GiN gems is all I can give a game like this which in my book comes off as just "ok."
Jevon Jenkins enjoys all types of games, especially those where the programmer's imagination is evident. He can be reached at : firstname.lastname@example.org.