I'm going to come out of the gaming closet in this article. Although I seem to fit the criteria of being a PC dork - I am shortsighted, I have a website and I can count my female sexual conquests on one hand - I don't really like many computer games. To be honest, the only ones I play with anything approaching regularity are election simulators (I said I was a dork) or this funky game called Hollywood Mogul, which I'll get around to reviewing one day. I also quite like old adventure games and a very select few strategy games. By select few, I mean two. One is the Commandos series of games, the other is Desperados, which is for all intents and purposes just a carbon copy of Commandos but with men wearing chaps and no Wild West Germans. So what's this series all about, Alfie? You control a team of five or six men who are expert soldiers...commandos, if you will. With this hardy team you travel round Europe and Africa, battling Nazis during World War II and putting up with some of the worst voice-acting this side of a Japanese cartoon dubbed into English. There have been four editions in the series, which I'll explain right...now!
This game - the first, if you really need it explained - introduces you to the various commandos at your disposal. Over the course of the ensuing missions, you control a Green Beret, a sniper, a spy, a sapper, a driver, a diver, a baker, a butcher, a tailor and a clown. They've all got their own strengths and weaknesses. For example, the sapper can blow things up but he moves slower than Auschwitz's inmates did towards the showers. The Green Beret can do most anything but has the disability of speaking in a very bad faux Irish accent. When you order him to move around the map, he shouts "Coming! I'm coming!" which, if you're playing the game with speakers on loud, can be quite embarrassing for your parents to hear. But perhaps the most annoying factor of this game is the fact that if you click on, say, a wall the Green Beret can't climb, he'll shout "WISH OI COULD DO DAT!" I swear there is nothing more annoying than hearing that gypsy fuck screaming that phrase for the 500th time. The game is very tough, and you have to order your men to do things like blowing up bridges, killing Nazis (always a delight) and generally stopping Hitler's nefarious plans.
If the first game was a promising start, then this - a short add-on disc of extra missions - was like the guy who can't accept things are good and keeps on pushing himself further and further, alienating all his friends. The missions were insanely difficult and I've only just recovered from the six-month mental illness that was brought on by the Green Beret's helpful "WISH OI COULD DO DAT!" warnings. The spy is an equally annoying character, and whenever you order him to do something, he'll say "I see" in a really quite bad pretend-French voice. Indeed, I don't know whether the diver character is meant to be Australian, but he shouts "ROIT AWAY, SOIR!" when he gets orders. The only people that speak normally are the American driver and the upper-class English sniper. Just as it is in real life, then. You can also take on the role of a member of the Dutch resistance in this game - except it's a woman, and, as all sensible people know, women are no good at fighting. Only joking! Don't go e-mailing me with a bunch of accusations of sexism. Mostly because I won't bother replying. Still, at least the game was grounded in some kind of reality.
This is right about the point where the makers of the series had clearly started to either get bored with what they were doing, take the piss out of the people financing the game or drank and smoked too many illegal things before getting to work. Because not only can you control the same rag-tag team of commandos as before, but also there's another few options. As well as a fast-moving thief (again badly acted) you can control a dog and a rat. Let me put those two words in bold for you, just so you understand. The game lets you play as a dog and a rat. Exactly. That said, the missions are tough but not up at the same ridiculous difficulty level as the first game and the add-on missions. They even built in a few new features like actually being able to go inside buildings and explore them, and it's as close to perfection as the entire series ever got. Apart from the whole animal kingdom thing, it's a very solid strategy game and well worth your time. Or just another convenient thing to fill the hours between morning and night if you never leave your room.
This is the latest installment in the Commandos series, and the designers have threatened that if there's a fourth game it will be very different in style. Common sense that, to go and mess with a winning formula. If you thought the second full game was tough, don't even bother picking a copy of this one up. To give you a clue, let me explain the first level. You can choose from three campaigns - Normandy, Stalingrad and Berlin - and I went for Stalingrad. The first mission is to assassinate the best German sniper in the world. He shoots you if you're even 300 miles away. As my friend so eloquently put it, "Have I got past the first mission yet? WISH OI COULD DO DAT!" The sad thing is, you're not rewarded for beating this game. After completing any of the campaigns, you're not given a 'well done' message, it just goes on to the next campaign. The worst let down is the ending. After wasting hours of your life and swearing at the computer, you get a screen which says something like (in text) "Congratulations! You've defeated Hitler's army...or have you?!" Gee, thanks! I hope when the designers were talking about their huge changes planned for Commandos 4 that they meant the game would actually be good. Here's hoping...or is it?!
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