Commandos Battle Pack
Developer: Feral Interactive
Requirements: 500 MHz Mac with Mac OS X 10.2, 256 MB RAM, 1.85 GB disk space
Recommended: 867 MHz Mac, 32 MB VRAM, 2.5 GB disk space
Trial: Feature-limited (Commandos 3 Demo)
The Commandos Battle Pack includes two games, Commandos 2: Men of Courage and Commandos 3: Destination Berlin. Both are real-time strategy games from an overhead viewpoint, similar to Myth. The storylines follow WW II missions that take advantage of the commandos’ special skills and span much of Europe.
In each mission, you control one or more members of an elite Allied unit, usually facing off against vastly superior German forces behind enemy lines. The size difference means that stealth plays a big role, so save the trigger finger for the first-person shooters.
The Green Beret’s knife will silently dispatch enemies, but hide the body afterwards.
Both games install from the DVD, and you need it mounted to play. Included are print and PDF versions of the user manual. Keep the manual close at hand for Men of Courage, but you’ll need it less during Destination Berlin.
Note that the printable Keyboard Guide uses the default settings for Men of Courage. Destination Berlin, however, changes the default layout. If you want the same layout for both games, select “Use Commandos 2 shortcuts” from the setup options. This can affect how comfortable you feel moving from one game to the other.
Both games progress in a similar way. An intro storyline lays out the mission objective and shows you which commandos are involved (usually two or three, sometimes just one). Study the layout and movement of Nazi soldiers and vehicles on the map, explore buildings to find ammo or equipment, and slowly work your way through the objectives.
You start with the training missions, and it’s a good thing, too. (Don’t worry, they’re not insultingly simple.) After finishing them, you’ll have a better understanding of how to switch between commandos, use weapons, and maneuver around enemies.
Learning how to use the Thief from the tutorial.
You do a lot of crawling to avoid alerting enemies to your presence. Watch their fields of vision to find openings. You can usually get very close to soldiers without their knowledge—if you’re quiet about it.
Each commando’s name says something about his skills: Sniper, Thief, Spy, etc. The cut scenes and in-game responses have decent voice acting, giving each a little personality. (Too much would probably be a distraction.) Typical objectives include blowing something up, stealing something important, or contacting Allied spies already in the field.
Grenades can take out small vehicles and groups of enemies.
A major difference between Men of Courage and Destination Berlin is the mission help. In Men of Courage, you start with a primary objective that gains secondary goals as the mission proceeds. A checklist measures your progress and gives you pointers to the next important location.
In Destination Berlin, the creators apparently decided that was way too much help. You get a vague goal description, a little intro conversation, and no friendly checklist. It’s like night and day and can be very frustrating when you start playing Destination Berlin. To compound that, its manual is very sparse on gameplay. The Men of Courage version at least includes weapon-usage notes and more detail on the game controls.
The game supports Internet multi-player through GameRanger. However, I was unable to find GameRanger opponents after checking a number of times. If you do choose multi-player, Men of Courage has a co-operative mission mode, but Destination Berlin has competitive missions such as Capture the Flag.
The game graphics show care, even if they’re slightly dated. The maps in both games have sophisticated layouts of 3D areas, but are rendered well for an angled 2D viewpoint. There are four fixed outdoor viewpoints, which you switch between as needed. Indoors, you can freely rotate the camera. Sometimes, building angles hide spots you want to investigate, though (which can be frustrating).
The Sapper confronts a Nazi inside a town building.
Destination Berlin adds great weather effects, such as a driving snowstorm or plodding rain. You can zoom in and out to see action across the map, but play slows down notably when zoomed out. Players with good 3D cards will benefit.
Control in both games is much like Myth and other overhead real-time games. You scroll around the map, direct characters to one or more locations, and do a lot of clicking because fine-tuned locations are hard to specify on a wide view. Changing perspective is easy enough, but Commandos does little to solve the persistent interface issues of “Go there! No, there! Not around the fence!” and “Can’t you see the tank bearing down on you? Run!”
The Nazis respond to actions with some intelligence, but all Commando actions are up to the player. (However, you can tell them to watch an area and shoot anything that walks across it.)
Adding backup commands to your players would be a huge help, such as “Duck if someone starts shooting at you” or “Retreat to this safe area if a patrol comes around.” The clumsy nature of the controls basically demands a stealth game, since actually shooting it out with enemies quickly exposes how slowly your players react.
The red view means the Nazis have seen you. Get ready to reload your game.
Passing one of the Destination Berlin’s tutorial missions requires the Spy’s “Distract” skill. Thanks to IGN for noting that it requires a Control-click to open this command menu. The manual says nothing about it, but you can’t finish the training mission otherwise. After the Spy dons an officer’s uniform, Control-click the action commands.
My 32 MB Radeon 7500 video card provided clean graphics at 800x600 pixels, but action slowed down when zoomed out on the map. Higher-performance cards with more VRAM will no doubt perform better.
Learn and use the functions keys instead of clicking through the menus.
- F5 makes enemies glow red.
- F7 highlights boxes and building entrances.
- F9 does a “quick save” of your game.
- F11 is “quick load.”
You’ll use F9 and F11 a lot as you work through the mission, usually to recover after making a strategic mistake (i.e., wandering into a hail of bullets).
In 30-plus hours of gameplay, the game crashed a few times, but there were no repetitive bugs. Check the Feral Interactive site for updates just in case, but there were no patches at press time.
The two games have interesting storylines and challenging missions, but come with a third game called “How many times will you click in the wrong place and reload your game?”
There’s obviously care in the graphics and level design, and the challenge of overcoming hordes of enemies with just a handful of troops pulls you in. If only there were situational commands and improvements to the player movement, it would rate a Very Nice. As it is, Good will have to be good enough.