Developer: Pyro Studios
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Release Date: April 4, 2006
There comes a point in every gamer's career when he grows tired of the established genres and wishes that developers would try something new or drastically improve upon the established designs. With World War II shooters and me, that point came and went long ago. What else is there that can possibly be done with the World War II setting in an FPS? Sure, you can add more soldiers on screen, or up the detail level, or change the artificial intelligence so the enemies act smarter. Unfortunately, these changes do not a better game make. That's why the developer of the Commandos series decided to try and shake up their established franchise with some changes in their latest title, Commandos: Strike Force.
This title in the series takes a left turn away from the tactical aspects and gameplay that marked all of the earlier Commandos titles. Strike Force moves into the stealth action and first-person shooter territory, but doesn't manage to do either of them extraordinarily well. There are a number of things that might have worked well, but the whole package is pretty weak, and nothing really gels to the point where it feels natural or good.
In Strike Force, you play as one of three character classes. The Green Beret, Sniper, and Spy all provide different play options and offer a different approach from each other. Each level provides opportunities for each of the different soldier classes to utilize their unique skills. The Green Beret is obviously the powerhouse, the run-and-gun type that shoots first and asks questions later. The Sniper utilizes positioning and precision shooting in order to take out his enemies from a distance before infiltrating their base. Finally, the Spy is the one who makes complete use of stealth to silently kill and trick his way into the heart of the enemy defenses.
The only problem with each of the three classes is how boring and bland they all feel. Each class is unique, but each aspect of the classes has been done elsewhere, and done much better. For pure assault action like the Green Beret offers, the Call of Duty series has given us far more than Commandos Strike Force delivers. The Sniper is also half-hearted and doesn't live up to the experience that a dedicated shooter gives. Last, the Spy can't possibly live up to the type of stealth action that Metal Gear Solid or Splinter Cell has given us. So overall, the entire game ends up feeling just a bit generic and derivative.
The storyline is also your fairly typical World War II cookie-cutter plot, divided up into a series of missions. The missions do have an open-ended aspect to them, with some objectives that can be completed in an order of the player's choosing. Most of it boils down to sneaking your way past the guards or killing them by the dozen. There are different ways to do both, which helps add some variety. For instance, you can dress up in different uniforms from your fallen enemies in order to infiltrate the enemy camp. This works well, for the most part, but there are some annoying quirks to the way that the enemy recognizes you when you are wearing these uniforms.
One of the biggest complaints that will probably be leveled against Commandos Strike Force is how easy it is. This is especially true when you are playing as the Spy; you can sneak up on the enemies and choke them to death without a problem. When you're playing as the Green Beret, mowing down enemies really doesn't pose much of a problem if you've ever played an FPS before. There are other difficulty levels that you can choose from, so if you find the game being too easy, you can certainly up the challenge, but at the default level, the game is certainly too easy.
The game is made easier by the fact that you can even forget the various classes and just play the game as a Green Beret no matter what class you are. You can swap out weapons with the enemies that you kill, picking up their rifles and playing as a traditional shooter if you please. The only real restriction is that the Green Beret class can't pull off the stealthy maneuvering that the other two classes can, but in the end, it really doesn't matter, since the Green Beret is really the most effective class no matter how you cut it.
The graphics in Commandos Strike Force leave much to be desired. The textures are pretty muddy, and a lot of the environments are dark and dreary, making finer details hard to pick out. The models are fairly simple, but are well animated, especially when they are in the throes of death. During cut scenes, the characters don't move their mouths when speaking, giving them the all-too-familiar puppet look. While they are certainly not impressive, they are at least serviceable and get the job done without distracting the player from the actual game.
The audio at least is good, and probably the part of the game that received the most attention, and deserves the most praise. The music is appropriately cinematic and dramatic, filling the role of atmosphere provider quite nicely. It's certainly impressive and really helps to draw you in to the game. Equally as impressive are the voiceovers for the various characters. Each one of the playable characters has his own style, accent and mannerisms that get conveyed nicely through the voice acting. Sound effects and weapons fire are also done well, and the sense of being at war is certainly omnipresent, thanks to the intense exchanges of fire in some stages. Of course, in the stealth stages, there really isn't much to hear, and since many of the stages are played this way, the atmosphere suffers.
Multiplayer is an option, but with the popularity of other shooters out there, many people aren't playing this title online, choosing instead to play something more popular. The multiplayer portion is certainly serviceable, and is arguably more fun than the single- player game. Sneaking around and sniping people across the map can be a whole lot of fun, and Commandos Strike Force certainly is enjoyable in the multiplayer segment. Multiplayer helps to lengthen the experience you'll have with this title, since the single-player portion doesn't have a lot to offer a player who wants to play through multiple times.
Overall, Commandos Strike Force is a decidedly average title with little to distinguish it from the rest of the World War II shooters out there. It's certainly more of the same when it comes to the stealth action and FPS genres that it follows, and doesn't really rise above or try anything particularly new in order to provide that little bit of an edge that it needs to make it out of the realm of mediocrity. While the sound certainly has a lot to like, most everything else about Commandos Strike Force remains mired in the past. If you absolutely must have more World War II action and want to revisit a bygone era, then Commandos Strike Force might be right for you.
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