Just how easy is it to take an intricately planned, beautifully rendered death-trap of a strategy game and turn it into an FPS with all the same elements? We're huge fans of Commandos 2, and loved the way it approached the subject of WWII from such a fresh perspective. It was also bastard hard, mind you.
Scoot forward a couple of years and the next instalment has given up the compelling top- down puzzling and snooping, replacing it with a rather more familiar first-person mode. When we first found out we were gutted, but having played it, are we now a little less sceptical? Well, not quite.
Going first-person takes away the beauty of the series. All that isometric scenery was one of the selling points for us. It felt real, it felt unique, and it felt very much part of the whole Commandos mythology. Whereas so many first-person WWII shooters are churned out these days that it often takes a trained eye to spot the differences between games. That said, we get the feeling Commandos Strike Force is holding true to the originals.
We found ourselves swapping between men at will, enabling us to position each in such a way that our squad worked efficiently, and we could engage in the odd spot of costume-swapping with strangled Nazis, but whereas the emphasis used to be on the lack of combat, these days a game just ain't a game unless you're filling someone's ass with lead. You can even dual-wield, for pity's sake. That said, it's still vital to use stealth and forward-thinking to solve a level. Nazis are red-hot when it comes to spotting you, and you have to use all manner of tricks to throw them off the scent. The sniper may have to shoot out torches, or the Green Beret will have to toss a stone to distract them before going in with the garrotte. You also have to plant mines on specific stretches of road to get rid of pesky tanks, or roll gas grenades under the doors of enemy radio posts. It's all very snoopy-snoopy, but we still managed to clear a farmyard of Nazis with little more than a full-frontal attack and a throwing knife. Sure, it was an early level, but that kind of behaviour would have wiped us off the map in the previous titles.
We're certainly looking forward to the return of Commandos, but having played it a little, we're yet to be convinced, especially when Brothers in Arms has pretty much got the whole 'stealth/strategy FPS' thing sewn up. Perhaps later levels will revisit those classic moments creeping through half-lit corridors, and we'll experience the same cold terror as a soldier walks past. Until then we'll just keep hoping Whiskey makes an appearance. No Commandos game would be complete without him.