Review: Commandos 2 – HD Remaster (Nintendo Switch)

Review: Commandos 2 – HD Remaster (Nintendo Switch)

I’d never played Commandos 2 before now, but I may as well have. This seminal real-time tactics strategy game has been so revered since its original release in 2001 that you can’t play a similar game without finding fans who’ll accuse it of being a Commandos 2 ripoff. My “ripoff” of choice was always Robin Hood: Legend of Sherwood. I’m hoping it’ll eventually become Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun with a Switch port.

So, while I wait, why not let Commandos 2 – HD Remaster become my Commandos 2 ripoff? It ends up there are quite a few reasons, at least on the Nintendo Switch.

Commandos 2 – HD Remaster comes to us from Yippee! Entertainment and Kalypso Media Group with the degree of visual polish you’d expect from an HD remaster; the game certainly looks better than the original Commandos 2: Men of Courage. It also boasts of updates to the controls, user interface, and tutorial. Sadly, these don’t do much to make this game playable without the aid of a keyboard and mouse.

The gameplay centers around the placement and control of a small band of soldiers who must achieve various mission objectives within enemy territory. This requires plenty of stealth; you sneak from cover to cover, avoiding the enemy’s line of sight as you learn more about the levels. There’s little hope of completing your mission in one shot as new enemies surface throughout, causing you to rethink your strategies on the fly. It’s a difficult game, but the levels are rewarding when you finally have everything you need to set up and execute the perfect plan.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot in this remaster that interferes with this process. Different soldiers have different skills, and using them can be a problem due to the controls. Moving the commands from a keyboard to a gaming controller is always a difficult challenge, and the results here are pretty annoying. Everything from shooting at enemies to picking up mines to even controlling the camera feels finicky and wrong. There’s a tutorial to help explain them, but I was still fumbling with them three or four levels into the game.

Is that my fault? Maybe. But when a game demands timing and precision, you don’t want a clunky UI to get in the way of that. The whole point of Commandos 2 is to provide a rush when you’re finally able to incapacitate the enemy and get past a particularly tricky obstacle. On the Switch, those moments are severely delayed because you couldn’t issue the right command at the right time because of a confusing control system.

Worse, various bugs will slow you down, too. My characters would occasionally quit responding to my commands for no apparent reason, and only restoring a saved game would get them moving again. That would be interesting if fear or PTSD somehow factored into gameplay, but no, these were just development issues.

These problems become more apparent as you dig deeper into the game, perhaps just because the levels get so demanding. There are only 10 of them, so the ones you get are pretty large and complex. That would normally be fine, but the amount of restarting required because of the difficulty exacerbated by buggy controls means you’ll be staring at the same scenes for a very long time. Save frequently.

The HD Remaster helps. I like that graphics in games such as this actually look like the things they’re supposed to be. It’s like playing war on a train set down in the den, and that’s fun. However, Commandos 2 – HD Remaster still comes across as a bit muddy and drab. It’s fine in docked mode. In handheld mode, however, it’s difficult to discern the details required to complete your missions efficiently.

I can say after finally playing Commandos 2 that I appreciate the ongoing love this game gets. The missions are varied and fun, and fulfilling them is thrilling. You’re not, however, going to love it on the Switch. If you’re a Windows user, the HD remaster is available on Steam for $10 less than this Switch port. The original is still there, too, for only $4.99. Either of those will make for a better tour of duty.

Published at Thu, 10 Dec 2020 14:12:51 +0000