Kaelin Consulting

Mark W. Kaelin

I have over 25 years of experience in the electronic publishing industry. I was an editor for CBS Interactive for eleven years, where I was responsible for acquiring, editing, and writing technical content for daily publication on CBS Interactive properties TechRepublic.com and ZDNet.com. My duties included the recruitment and development of contributing talent. Prior to CBS Interactive, I was an editor with ProQuest for 12 years, where I developed, designed, edited, and maintained an array of university and business school supplemental curricula products. Before ProQuest, I was a public accountant for five years, specializing in tax preparation and in compilation and review engagements. In addition, I have performed independent consulting services over the last 30 years for various business clients.

Commandos 2: Men of Courage will test your fortitude

Originally published in January 2002.

Name: Commandos 2: Men of Courage
Genre: Action/Strategy
Operating System: Windows 9X/ME
Developer: Pyro Studios
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Multiplayer: No
Requires: Pentium II 350 MHz or better, 32MB RAM (128 MB recommended), Direct X compliant video and sound card, 3GB hard disk space.
Retail Price: $54.99
Street Price: $29.99

I have been playing computer games for twenty years now and I have been writing about them for about fifteen. In that time, I have played bad games and good games. I have been frustrated by bad game designs and I have been amazed by game innovations. I have played the best and the worst. But I cannot ever remember being as frustrated by a game as I have been frustrated by Commandos 2: Men of Courage from Pyro Studios and Eidos Interactive. The odd part is that Commandos 2 is excellently designed in all aspects. The frustration comes not from the game design but from the challenge of playing the game. And I loved every minute of it.

I cannot remember playing a game that challenged me at every turn like Commandos 2. Sometimes my strategy was wrong, sometimes my execution, but at no time did I run out of options. Those options, those seemingly infinite possibilities, kept me interested even as my frustration grew. The relief and feeling of accomplishment upon completing each mission was invigorating and visceral. This is a must have experience for any hard core strategy gamer worth their salt.

As an aside, I would like to emphasize that this game is not for the novice. If your normal speed is Windows Solitaire or Tetris, this is not a game for you. However, if you enjoy an actual gaming challenge in the strategy genre, then you cannot afford to miss Commandos 2.

Of course you realize this means war?

The premise is quite simple. You are the commander of an elite platoon of World War II commandos. You must lead your commandos through a series of strategic missions that, if successful, will guarantee victory for the Allies. Missions take place in Europe, the Arctic, and the South Pacific. To be considered a success, each mission must be completed with all personnel intact.

The joy of Commandos 2 derives from the elegant manner you complete your mission and solve the puzzles laid before you. It is elegant because there is no right way. Each of your commandos has special attributes for dispatching bad guys and the way you choose to use those attributes is entirely up to you. You may decide to use traps to clear a path to your objectives or you may decide that an ambush would be more effective. Or, maybe you will use a trained mouse or dog to distract the enemy as you move a commando in from behind. In several missions you will have the use of spies which, when dressed in enemy uniforms, can distract guards while other commandos complete their tasks. The key is that you have options and that you must use those options to develop and implement a strategy.

Developing a strategy is the first step. Once you have a strategy in place, you must execute it. And the execution must be nearly perfect or one of your commandos will end up dead and the mission will be a failure. Often your commando will have only seconds to complete a task and return to cover. Failure to do so means a whole heap of trouble in the form of machine gun carrying goose-steppers. The tension and suspense generated will make you squirm in your seat. This is definitely a game that requires the player to save early and often.

The battlefield in Commandos 2 is rendered in beautifully detailed 3D landscapes and interior buildings. The isometric view can be manipulated on the outside maps into one of four directions. Inside buildings, the view can be adjusted to display any direction. This is my one quibble with the game. While it is easy enough to work around, I would have preferred a map that I could view from any angle. A few untimely deaths during play were caused by the viewing angle I had no choice but to use. A little more flexibility would have been a great help in avoiding those problems.

The actual game interface is a minimalist’s dream. Just a few icons on the side, several keystroke shortcuts to remember, and a few mouse clicks to master. The concept is very intuitive for any experienced gamer. Which is good, because the manual is just a pamphlet that explains the basics but does very little to prepare the player for the strategic headaches that will be presented.

From a production standpoint, the game is nearly flawless. Especially noteworthy is the art work. Each mission map is exquisitely detailed and vibrant, with soldiers and civilians moving about oblivious to your commandos as they infiltrate the area using stealth and guile. The sound and music is very good, although I wish my commandos would use a few more phrases when answering my orders. Each commando has three possible answers to every command and they grow old very quickly.

Sometimes frustration is a good thing

Commandos 2: Men of Courage is a very rare game for me. I cannot remember a computer game providing me such a frustratingly wonderful challenge. The integrate missions and the stringent requirements for precision of execution kept me on my mental toes at all times. Nothing like a computer game that stimulates the mind – your logic and your problem solving skills never had such a work out.

If you are looking for a game to pleasantly pass the time while you watch television, I suggest you stick to solitaire. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a challenging computer game that will frustrate and delight you, Commandos 2: Men of Courage will fill that bill. And, because the by the time you read this the holidays will be over, I imagine this game will be on sale, which is even better. Don’t miss it.