Real-Time Strategy games rarely appear on consoles. Though the games are huge successes on PC’s, the genre has never really successfully crossed over to the console format. Attempts have been made of course, but the only one that ever really sold well was Starcraft for the N64.
Despite all of this, companies still periodically make attempts to bring RTS’ to the console format, as is the case Eidos’ latest offering, Commandos 2. The game, developed by Pyro Studios, is a great entry in the RTS genre, although it is plagued by many of the same things that have held console RTS games back before.
The game’s core gameplay is somewhat different than that of a normal RTS. See, instead of getting a gigantic army to do war with, you are instead given nine different characters to work with. These characters all have special talents, which range from thievery to "persuasion" of the enemy (can you say big breasts?)
Working with these characters you are given missions of various types, which rely much more on strategy and stealth than broad open warfare. It is in this where the game really shines. The strategy you need to use to beat levels is complex, although it never really gets too complicated. The wide range of characters also give a unique form of strategy as well, a type that is not seen very much in the video game world, making the gameplay still feel original (unlike most RTS’ these days.)
The problem Commandos faces is that it’s just too frigging difficult. Aside from only being able to save at the end of the sometimes monstrously long levels, the game also gives you very little margin for error. If an enemy spots you, game over. If a gun goes off, game over. The list goes on and on. In the end, this just mounts up to a lot of frustration that isn’t very welcome in any gaming session.
Another element that complements the frustration is the game’s controls. Console RTS games have always had a history of being too complex for their own good, and unfortunately, Commandos 2 fits exactly with that stereotype. Though the controls work well once learned, they’re very hard to pick up on, even after you’ve delved into the game’s hour-long tutorial. This really works against Commandos 2, as it will surely turn many people away after only the first mission.
The original PC version of Commandos was released a year before this console version, and the graphics reflect it. Though there are some very detailed and good looking environments to be found in Commandos, along with some very good-looking animations, the majority of the graphics look pretty bland. Environment models look rough around the edges, and the game also features a pretty washed out color palette to attribute to the insipidness.
The game’s audio on the other hand, isn’t colorless at all. The game’s orchestra music sounds professionally made, and meshes together well with the game. The same level of quality can be found in the sound effects, as each action on screen has a corresponding and realistic-sounding sound effect to go with it.
In the end, Commandos 2 is a pretty decent game. The game’s strategic gameplay is too die for, and it’s only made better by the game’s awesome audio and array of characters. The game is held back however, by some super-difficult to grasp controls. If you’re a console RTS fan, and you think you can deal with some really unintuitive controls, go ahead and pick up Commandos 2. Just remember, it’s not going to be a walk in the park.