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Commandos Strike Force review

Great
AT A GLANCE
  • The brilliantly loud guns
  • The satisfaction of completing a mission after much careful planning
  • Enemy soldier animation: it's convincing and oddly engaging
  • The slow progress
  • Limited textures and structures
  • Gaping holes in the story

We have a lot of favourite bits from Strike Force. That must mean it's quite good.

History would suggest otherwise. Previous conversions of 2D strategy games to 3D action games have not been pretty. Converting the sedate, point-and-click puzzles of the previous Commandos games to FPS is a dangerous business.

The 2D games were about sneaking through German encampments with a team of rugged specialists. Each had a specific role: the Sniper sniped, the Green Beret slit the throats of baddies and hauled away corpses. There was a driver, a diver and a dog. It was a puzzle game, albeit one that saw you chewing your nails and sweating with tension.

Strike Force retains that spirit, but there are concessions. Chief among them: the number of characters under your control has been boiled down to just three. They're the spy, Green Beret, and sniper.

The Green Beret is the easiest to describe - he's just a big brutish run-and-gun type. He'll carry two sub-machineguns into a fight, blow chunks out of baddies with a big old shotgun, and generally make like a meat-head.

The sniper is a slower, more obvious stealth character. He ventilates goons from afar, but also carries a pack of six throwing knives.

Most interesting though, by a long way, is the spy. His special skill: wearing German clothes and speaking Nazi.

Why is this fun? It's a system that gradually extends your power and reach across a level. You begin afraid and alone, but gradually, as you progress, that feeling is replaced by a sense of power. You find yourself wandering freely, exploring, considering your options.

Even better, levels in which the spy plays a fundamental role are deep, complicated, and always interesting. Completing each mission requires tackling submissions.

To steal the truck, you'll need to engineer a train accident, thus dispersing most of the guards; to assassinate the general, you'll first have to sneak your way into a separate area and disable any alarms.

Let's make it clear: these complications aren't a problem. They're a positive. Those who did play the earlier Commandos games will remember the gruelling, multi-hour sessions spent carefully plotting your way through a fortified position. Finishing most of the missions in Commandos leaves you in the same state: exhausted and happy.

  1. The German officers have commandeered these small boats to move infantry across the river
  2. We've been asked to repel a German attack on this vital bridgehead
  3. I've moved the Green Beret from the bridge bottleneck in case any of the boats manage to cross

Where does it fall down? Unfortunately, Strike Force tries to compete with the other big World War II games: Call of Duty and Brothers in Arms. Some levels drop the Green Beret, the sniper, and a small contingent of Allied troops into half-hearted gun battles.

The problem: we've seen a lot of astonishing, choreographed violence already - Strike Force suffers in comparison. It's just not as perfectly scripted or as deviously balanced as the big boy World War II games.

There is a bigger flaw, however. It becomes clear, via gaping holes in the story, that scenarios and levels have been viciously cut from the game with no attempt to paper over the cracks.

As for how the game looks, those who remember the gorgeous 2D art of previous games have good reason to worry: how could any 3D game possibly maintain that level of immaculate detail? It can't. But it can come close.

As this is a cross-platform release, the textures and structures are limited by that lowest common denominator, PS2. That's resulted in some bland character models and odd-looking faces. Don't start crying yet, though. More than in any recent game, these levels feel natural - as if weathered and aged.

Even if the level designers were limited by the available technology, it never feels like they had to scale back their imagination.

Enemy soldier animation, too, is oddly engaging. They evoke a certain sympathy as they kick at the dust, scratch their backsides and polish their rifles. They look bored, but professional.

The sound, meanwhile, is nothing short of heart-stopping. Much of the incidental noise is deliberately muted - you'll be reaching to turn up the volume. But the guns are brilliantly, disproportionately loud. That first sniper rifle shot will leave your ears ringing.

Despite its slow pace and somewhat incoherent story, Commandos Strike Force's sneaky gameplay and affinity to its 2D strategy origins make it unlike others in the expansive WWII-shooter field.

More Info

Release date: Apr 04 2006 - PS2, PC, Xbox (US)
Available Platforms: PS2, PC, Xbox
Genre: Shooter
Published by: Eidos
Developed by: Pyro Studios
ESRB Rating:
Rating Pending
PEGI Rating:
16+

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