In Commandos 2: Men of Courage, you're charged with commanding a small group of elite Allied operatives deep behind enemy lines during World War II. The direct approach isn't always the best approach, and at every turn, your commandos will be avoiding the patrols of German or Japanese forces. In this respect, Commandos 2 is quite a bit like its predecessor, the innovative 1998 real-time tactical combat game that mixed elements of stealth, action, and puzzle solving. Spanish developer Pyro Studios' sequel, originally released for the PC last year, took the core gameplay of the original and added plenty of great new ideas, ultimately creating a highly challenging, sophisticated experience that was even better than the first. The new PlayStation 2 version is largely the same. But since the PS2 version loses the crispness of the original's graphics and some of the game's other fine touches in translation, it can't be recommended over the PC version, let alone wholly recommended in its own right, except to those looking for an extremely tough PS2 action strategy game.
Commandos 2 is a decent port of an outstanding PC game.
In Commandos 2, you'll have to do such things as rescue Allied soldiers, sabotage powerful sea vessels, assassinate key enemy officials, get your hands on important documents, and much more. The objectives are plentiful and varied, and the game will take you to a wide variety of real-world settings, but the overall number of missions in Commandos 2 seems small--there are only 10 main missions. You must play through them all sequentially, even though they aren't necessarily related to one another, and the relative length and difficulty of each mission doesn't necessarily increase from one mission to the next.
Make no mistake, though. By any standards, all these missions are huge, and you'll typically spend many hours trying to accomplish the laundry list of objectives in each one. There's also decent incentive to replay each mission, since a number of smaller bonus levels can be unlocked if you thoroughly explore the main missions. Additionally, the game's two higher difficulty settings noticeably affect the way enemy guards react, requiring you to take different paths to success. But before you can get into the main missions, you must first get through two "training" levels. These smaller missions drop you straight into enemy territory, forcing you to learn the intricacies of Commandos 2's complex gameplay the hard way. Unlike the original PC version, the PlayStation 2 version of Commandos 2 does offer a supplemental step-by-step tutorial that consists of a great many lessons that explain all the dozens of different types of actions available in the game. The tutorial takes a while to finish and still doesn't guarantee you'll have an easy time getting started with the actual game, but it's better than nothing.
The PC version of Commandos 2 features razor-sharp high-resolution graphics that look spectacular. The PlayStation 2 version looks good, but the lower resolution and washed-out colors really hurt the game, not just aesthetically but also in terms of the gameplay. The characters are fully 3D and well animated, but they're tiny, so you might get frustrated at not being able to spot all the guards in an area at a glance. A marginally useful zoom feature doesn't solve the problem, as it just takes away your ability to see enough of your surroundings. The prerendered mission maps are very big, but important details such as lockboxes or sniper posts can be difficult to spot. Some technical issues also cropped up in the translation--the game will sometimes pause briefly but annoyingly as you execute different commands. At any rate, you'll appreciate the way everything is to scale. Gigantic Japanese bombers, aircraft carriers, Allied submarines, and German castles are just some of the many things you'll get to see. The sound in Commandos 2 is about as good as the visuals. Your characters' responses are limited and will quickly grow old, but otherwise, the game's ambient effects are well done and its musical score is outstanding--it sounds like it's straight out of an action film. It's intense at times and suspenseful at times, and it helps set the tone for each individual mission.
The gameplay combines action, stealth, strategy, and puzzle solving.
The colorful cast of characters at your disposal comes mostly from the previous Commandos games and includes a powerful Green Beret, a deadly marine, a spy capable of disguising himself as the enemy, a sapper (demolitions expert), a mechanic who can commandeer enemy vehicles, a master sniper, and a seductive secret agent. New additions to the roster include a fleet-footed thief and a bull terrier whose barking can distract your foes. You'll also join forces with Allied troops who you can control in many of the missions. Each character is versatile and has a wide variety of skills. This gives you many strategic options during play and, for better or worse, eliminates much of the puzzlelike feel of the original game's missions. The game's sole remaining puzzle element lies in the fact that you can't choose which commandos or starting equipment you'll bring into the missions--you'll just have to make do with what you get.
The gameplay demands extreme precision. As you approach each mission objective, you'll have to take note of all the enemy guards standing between you and victory. You can spend lots of time just examining every square inch of the map from your godlike isometric vantage point, observing enemy patrols and looking for openings or weaknesses. Mission objectives generally aren't time-sensitive, so you can afford to strategize at your leisure. And though you can take missions at your own pace, the situations always get very tense whenever you're preparing to strike. This constant buildup and release of tension is well maintained throughout the game.
The key to finishing the missions lies in staying hidden while secretly eliminating guards who bar your passage. You'll see enemy guards' lines of sight represented with sweeping colored cones. By pressing the Select button, you can either check the line of sight of one guard at a time or place a marker anywhere on the map that will show you whether or not that point is visible to any guards. When possible, you can run, walk, and crawl about, as well as swim and drive vehicles. You can climb ladders and ledges. The thief can scale walls, the marine can remain underwater indefinitely, the sniper can take aim from telephone poles, and the Green Beret can climb hand over hand across wires. You can eliminate guards in a variety of ways. The Green Beret is adept at knifing them, but most other characters can simply punch out guards, who'll come to their senses later. Good thing you can tie them up, too.
It can be difficult to discern what's going on at any moment.