Commandos 2: Men of Courage takes place in the wartorn times of WWII where you will need to successfully lead your men through a series of missions based on the actual events of the war. It is immediately apparent that Pyro Studios went to great lengths to keep the game as close to reality as possible; enemies don’t mindlessly wander to and fro like robots, and taking them out isn’t always a simple point-and-click affair. Truth be told, Commandos 2 is excruciatingly difficult and requires a few hours of training just to comprehend the basics. This is an almost-perfect direct port of the PC game of the same name but graphics and gameplay dynamics are tweaked to conform to the PS2’s limitations.
Each mission has its own unique set of objectives that can be tackled in a variety of ways; remaining undetected is always the best way to conduct your business. The main objectives usually consist of such tasks as rescue, reconnaissance, assault, and defend operations. There are a total of ten unique missions in all and while that may not sound like much, keep in mind that these missions cannot be breezed through without breaking a sweat; quite the opposite actually, every inch of progress that you make will be well-earned and thoroughly thought out. One wrong move can easily mean the difference between life and death in this game. Expect to invest a hefty amount of time attempting to complete the many objectives in each stage.
There are a total of three levels of difficulty in Commandos 2 -- normal, hard, and very hard. The mission objectives will not change based on the amount of difficulty you’ve chosen but the enemies will be a hell of a lot smarter, faster, and deadlier; not to mention valuable tools and provisions will also be in short supply on higher difficulty levels. The gameplay dynamics are dreadfully complicated in this game, but luckily the developers included a very well rounded tutorial that guides you through its many intricacies step-by-step. The tutorial is broken into different categories specifically dealing with a certain facet of the game, like weapons, maneuvering, and item usage. There are just so many damn functions and actions in Commandos 2 that unless you go through the tutorial from top to bottom, there is no way that someone new to this game would stand a chance in the actual missions.
Aside from the overly complicated control-scheme, my main issue with this port is the fact that the graphics seem to blend into each other, making important item-boxes or fallen comrades difficult to spot among all the dull and washed-out organic life. This isn’t a problem on every mission but the low-res textures are perceptibly inferior to the PC version. In addition, some gamers might get frustrated at the game’s sloppy camera controls that are inexcusably unresponsive and awkward. Seeing behind structures is key to progressing through the game yet the only option to rotate the camera is to change the perspective by a minimum of 90 degrees in either direction (think The Sims PC). What is more is that whenever you rotate the perspective, it has to reload the entire scene, which interrupts the gameplay by more than a few seconds.
Avoiding detection as much as possible is important and luckily you’ll be able to scope out the enemies’ line-of-sight by hitting the Select button and choosing the appropriate command. You’ll be given a cursor that can be placed on a particular foe that will give you a graphical depiction of where he is focusing his attention, or you can drag the cursor to a desired position to see if a soldier will be able to see you from that location. There are two distinct levels of visibility that you need to be aware of so as to avoid detection. Basically, the further out you are in their line-of-sight, the better chance you’ll have of not raising their immediate attention.
Each of your team members will have the same basic abilities like walking, running, crawling, swimming, and climbing ladders. Some characters possess abilities that allow them to drive vehicles like jeeps and boats. While just about all of your team will be able to perform the majority of tasks, the uniquely trained members will prove to be more skilled in certain scenarios. For example, a sniper can climb onto an overhead pole and rain lead from above, the Green Beret can sneak up behind an enemy and stealth kill him with a knife, and the marine is far more adept at swimming underwater. Overall, the shear quantity of tactics that you can use is impressive. Abilities, like being able to melodically set a trap for the opponent wherein you’ll dig a hole just outside a door with a bottle of wine sitting just ahead of it, seem a little far-fetched and Wiley E. Coyote-esque, but I’m not about to complain about the game due to the wide assortment of tactics it boasts.
The featured cast of soldiers in Commandos 2 include such favorites as the multi-talented spy, demolitions expert, mechanic, sniper, female secret agent, marine, and Green Beret. Aside from these characters, who have already been included in previous iterations of the game, this version also includes such additions as a bull terrier that can distract the opposition from their current lookout, and a thief that can literally sneak directly behind an opponent without being detected. Each class of soldier has their own unique sets of attributes that they excel at and you’ll have to become intimately familiar with their abilities in order to maximize the success rate of the mission.
As previously stated, there is a plethora of different functions in Commandos 2 that will take considerable time to get the hang of, let alone master. What makes learning this game even more difficult is the fact that every object or action is represented by a small graphic that is supposed to depict its purpose. It would have been nice if the developers included a bit of text to fill you in as to whether the currently selected item is a weird-looking telephone or the first-aid kit that you need to revive a fallen comrade with. Trial and error should not be necessary just to figure out what item a particular graphic represents.
The various environments and objects in Commandos 2 are all completely to scale and the immensity of, say, an aircraft carrier, is effectively purported, especially when you take into consideration the size of the character you are controlling relative to his surroundings. The sound in Commandos 2 is fairly impressive, replete with believable ambient sound effects and stirring orchestrations. Each mission has its own unique soundtrack that successfully enhances the enjoyment of the game. However, the little one-word quips that each character emits after every action tends to get tiresome and annoying as you progress through the game.
There is no denying the overt level of difficulty that Commandos 2 boasts but thankfully, it isn’t completely unforgiving; you’ll have the option to save your game anywhere in a mission so that you don’t have to restart each time you bite the dust. In addition, while it will take the average gamer quite some time to get the hang of the game’s complex gameplay requirements, it is ultimately worth it due to the unprecedented amount of tactics that are at your disposal. The few glaring issues with the game do keep it from greatness, however. The fact that the PC version of this game, which was released last year and can now be had for considerably less than the PS2 version, is superior, there really isn’t much reason to buy the PS2 port unless your computer is antiquated and can’t meet the minimal system requirements. However, if you must play hardcore strategy games on your PS2, than Commandos 2 should fit the bill nicely.