Name: Commandos - Behind Enemy Lines
Region Reviewed: NTSC
Year of Release: 1998
I got my first PC back in 1998. I remember buying it from a friend, who had purchased a new one and wanted to get rid of his old piece of junk. For me, it was a chance to play those great games that I could only enjoy by visiting other friends: Stunts, B-17 Flying Fortress, the Larry games, Loom, and the list goes on. I don’t exactly remember the amount of RAM that old metal case had (probably 128MB) though I recall it being a Pentium 166 MMX, by today standards a thing of the ancient days long gone, but it was state of the art to me.
When I got into that world of PC gaming, I was soon looking for new gaming alternatives, I had tried the likes of Command & Conquer in my Saturn and wanted to get more and more strategy games, a genre I had not explored as a console geek. Always looking for new gems, I remember one afternoon as I was running in gym class, while trying to catch my breath, the same guy that had sold me the PC said: “Gabo, I've just heard of a great strategy game where you control only a handful of soldiers in some big missions. It is set in World War II”. A couple of weeks later I decided to look for it, and I found that the name of that game was COMMANDOS and, surprisingly, my MMX could handle it. I bought it almost right away, together with my ticket to low school grades but tons of hours of pure pixelated belic awesomeness.
Basically the game requires you to control a unit of commandos, ready to strike behind the enemy lines. Each one of the members of your unit possesses a unique ability that you need to use in certain stages of your mission in order to advance and achieve the objectives. Your squad is composed by an Irish Green Beret that can carry dead bodies, set up decoys to lure enemies into different places, and camouflage himself to avoid the enemy’s sights. Alongside the Green Beret, there’s a sniper which is essential to take out tricky sentinels and the like, though he has a limited amount of bullets, he can be extremely effective if you make each bullet count. The marine will handle all the rowing, scuba diving and missions where water related activities are in order. He is the guy you want to take to a fishing trip. Did I mention that he has a harpoon? A mustached sapper is responsible for setting up demolition charges and cut barbed wires to allow the team access to difficult areas, he can also set up bear traps that can kill enemy soldiers stealthily. The driver will handle mostly all vehicles (including tanks, trucks, bikes) and he is armed with a machine gun to cause major mayhem among the Nazi lines. Last but not least, you will have a spy within your ranks. This lad can dress as an enemy official, distract the troops and kill silently using poison.
The game has a total of 20 missions set in different combat fronts including: Norway, North Africa, France and Germany. The title is long and hard, sometimes too hard, but it is never unfair nor impossible. It may take you some time, but eventually if you plan your strategy right and combine the skills of your team, the mission will be accomplished and the reward will be pure satisfaction, though it may take a while.
Now that I mentioned rewards, it is important to point out that the game will not give you a better mark for killing more enemies, but for avoiding injuries during missions and I say ‘injuries’ because none of your commandos can die, in order to successfully complete the mission, you need them all in one piece.
Commandos presents an isometric perspective where you can set different cameras along the map to track different targets or situations. There is no ‘fog of war’ as with other games of the genre, which makes it easier for the player to plan his next move, something that is mandatory if you even plan to beat the first level. The characters are perfectly designed, Pyro did a great job also with the scenarios without repeating objects and transporting the player to those places, which only adds one brick to the almost perfect architecture of this game.
When it comes to the sound, I must admit that this is where the game falls flat. The absence of music during the action is somehow strange, but in my personal opinion not as important as some missing sounds. The voices of the enemies and the commandos are ok, some explosions and gun shots are realistic enough, however the environmental sounds are almost nonexistent. The sounds of birds in the trees are not there, so I assume there are no birds in France, Germany, Norway and North Africa, splashing waves cannot be heard either, and the sounds of motorboats and planes are eerily similar. There is an option which supposedly modifies the nature sounds, but I have not been able to notice any difference if I modify that setting.
Controls do not differ much from other strategy games out there, the mouse controls the actions of your squad members, the directions where they need to go, the stance they are required to take (crouched or standing), etc. Of course, there are some shortcuts that might come in handy to master, but they cannot be customized without editing the installation registry and do some annoying tweaks with notepad.
Worth noting though that when the game was originally released it could be played online in a co-op mode up to six players, one controlling each commando.
When reviewing this game, it is very difficult to compare it to other title as this was a genre-defining game at its time. Eidos published an expansion for this first entry titled Commandos Beyond the Call of Duty, and three sequels Commandos 2: Men of Courage, Commandos 3: Destination Berlin and Commandos: Strike Force, with new characters and gameplay elements but, in my opinion, despite the fact that some of them were good games, they were never able to grasp the feeling of the original in terms of innovation and pure adrenaline rush at every move. However, in 2001 Infogrames released a game called Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive, set in the wild west and it managed to capture the essence of the first Commandos. It simply nailed it.
If you are up to tough but rewarding challenges and love strategy games, stop reading this review and get this game, some websites offer very good prices for it, you will not regret it. Maybe your busy schedule and your family members will, though… See you in the field, Sargent.
Verdict:- A genre-defining title for the PC. Addictive as all excellent games are supposed to be, an absolute original entry to the PC library. Some sound flaws don’t make the game perfect, but it remains an outstanding piece of software nonetheless.
I fell in love with this game back in 1998, and I think I am renewing my vows today almost 16 years later. Who says I’m not in for long term relationships, huh?
Second Opinion:- WAR! What is it good for? Not nothing, as its the crux of oh so many vidya games...This is one! It's also a good means for Transbot to get you fleshlings in line.. Hehe.. Bzt.
Anyway, yes! This is one of those classics for those of the PC master race and is still readily available to this day. It also shows there was much more to Eidos than Tomb Raider.
Get up on it, folks. You like RTS? You like this. Simples.
Transbot Scores:- 7 out of 10