Commanding an about face on the battlefield can be an excellent tactic and we're all for Pyro's decision to retreat from the trial-and-error strategy of the old Commandos franchise (Commandos 2, Issue 05, 7.9) and open a new front aimed squarely at the console action market. The isometric past has gone first-person and in a brave move given its lack of experience in this genre, Pyro will be taking on the big boys of Call of Duty, Medal of Honor and Brothers in Arms. We airdropped into Pyro Studios Madrid for the exclusive in-depth reconnaissance mission.
The Strike Force is a team of three commandos who will be deep behind enemy lines in three campaigns from World War II - Stalingrad, Norway and France. Which is good news, because we thought Strike Force might have been a military trade union. "Right! Down weapons lads, the Brass has cut the army pension again..." Commandos claims to have the unique aspect of using co-operative characters in the single-player campaigns, up to two characters in some missions being controlled by the player, switching between them for tactical support.
Of course swapping control of team-mates is not really unprecedented in Xbox shooters, notably the Conflict series (see page 048), but Pyro has been entrenched in the hardcore strategy desert long since that war was over, so we'll forgive their lack of the latest military intelligence. None of the characters carry over from the previous games, Pyro wanting to make a clean break, but it would have been nice to see some old faces for fans of the franchise and new fans wouldn't have known the difference, especially as the new characters' traits are
so similar anyway.
Often it will be the Sniper and Green Beret who aid each other through missions. The third Spy character is a loner and his infiltration missions are best completed solo. Switching between characters to help them advance (along with other non-controllable allies in some missions) is achieved using a HUD area that Pyro is calling the Dramatic Window. It sounds a bit Playschool, but this real-time screen acts as a monitor of your second controllable character's view and allows you to watch his status and position directly, also using the window to issue healing commands to your other character and non-playable allies.
When you relinquish control of a character, Artificial Intelligence will take over, but will be roughly equivalent to that of a Chav moping around the discount sport stores of a city centre shopping mall. Pyro did not want to make your AI character good enough to leave in position as a virtual gun turret so that you could sit back and leave your Xbox to play the game for you. You'll have to get your own hands dirty on these missions. Despite the fact that the game is set up for many hours of virtual co-op play, it's extremely disappointing that Pyro offer neither co-op multiplayer nor any decent explanation for its desertion. Almost a court martial offence and something we hope it will address in future releases.
Relating to the three characters of Green Beret, Sniper and Spy, Commandos: Strike Force will present three modes of play in action, stealth and infiltration, with many skills specific to each man. The Commando is your action man, with heavier assault weapons and a massive dagger that is great for close combat wet work but cannot be thrown. The Sniper, you'll be amazed to hear, is able to attach a magnified sight to his rifle and actually zoom in on more distant enemies for exceptionally accurate takedowns. A bullet-time effect comes into play when he holds his breath for a steadier shot. He is also able to throw stiletto knives to silently remove closer guards.