Commandos 2: Men of Courage

5The World War II commando movie, though not as popular today, has been a Hollywood staple for half a century. The Commandos series from Eidos has taken the drama and action of these movies and molded them into a tense computer game. Commandos 2: Men of Courage exploits this exciting idea even further. The sequel to 1998’s highly regarded but impossibly difficult strategy game, Commandos 2 once again finds Tiny and his crew behind enemy lines, disrupting supply lines, blowing up bridges, and assassinating Nazis.

Set during World War II, Commandos 2 features 12 regular missions (including two training missions) and eight bonus missions, which you can unlock by finding clues during the course of the regular missions. The action unfolds in locations such as Burma, France, and the Arctic. You usually begin each mission with just a handful of objectives and then, during the course of executing the mission, additional objectives are added. As in its forebear, Commandos 2 puts you in control of a group of highly trained operatives, each endowed with a very specific set of skills. The folks under your control include Tiny, a Green Beret who wields a knife with lethal accuracy; Spooky, a spy who can disguise himself as the enemy; Inferno, an explosives expert; and Natasha, who is adept at using her natural “attributes†to aid the war against fascism.

The real beauty behind Commandos 2, though, is that every mission will have you on the edge of your seat. Whether it’s sneaking Tiny past an enemy guard without being seen, distracting one guard while you kill another, or taking out a guard with a throwing knife seconds before he sounds an alarm, there’s a tension in the game that’s real and palpable. Success hinges not on your ability simply to kill the enemy, but in the ability to create and execute a successful plan of attack while coordinating your forces, which are often spread across the map.

There are a total of eight operatives, but generally you can use only three or four (and sometimes only one) during a mission. You don’t get to choose the makeup of your squad — the game decides that for you. The highly skilled nature of the commandos is both the game’s best feature and its biggest headache. Coordinating talents is a daunting task, but when you pull it off — like ordering Natasha to distract a guard so Tiny can sneak up and cut his throat — it’s extremely rewarding. However, the inability of many characters to perform simple tasks, like driving, gets annoying. I’ve never been through special-ops training, but I’m quite capable of rowing a boat and driving a car. Yet, in the game, only one of your guys can row a boat.

19_1Because of these restrictions, the game’s missions are rather linear in nature. There are a few opportunities to blaze your own trail — for instance, the mission where you must destroy the engines of a destroyer offers two routes to obtain the explosives — but it’s pretty obvious that you’re supposed to play the game in a specific way. And again, Commandos 2 is hard. Very hard. Some of the missions will take several hours of quick-saving to finish, and one mission actually took me eight hours to complete.

So the same tension that powered the original Commandos is back, and so is the insane difficulty setting. Make no mistake: if you’re the impulsive type, Commandos 2 will make you angry and probably indulge a few rage quits. But if you have the methodical patience of a Swiss watch maker, being careful to get every little detail just right, then the game will offer plenty of hard-earned thrills for your extra effort.

System Requirements: Pentium 166 Mhz, 32 MB RAM, Win 95/98/NT4/2000

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