Review by Vic

"Strategy ain't nothin' but adventure misspelled..."

They told me this game was a strategy game, but they lied.

I'm a huge fan of two major genres in computer games. My first love is theadventure genre, where you take the role of a character solving various puzzlesto save the day. My close second is strategy, where planning and execution isthe top priority. Unfortunately, the current lack of solid, well-designedadventure games has left me existing solely on the food of strategy.

Imagine my surprise when I booted up Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines, and foundthat my new "pretty good" strategy toy was actually a "phenomenal" adventuregame.

Let me explain.

In some ways, Commandos is a strategy game. You have six soldiers with uniquespecial abilities ranging from disguise to boat usage to machine gun nestoperation. In order to complete each mission, you have to pick the rightsoldier's right special ability and use it at the right time.

In more ways, Commandos is an adventure game. You have six soldiers with uniquespecial abilities, and in order to solve each puzzle, you have to pick the rightsoldier's right special ability and use it at the right time.

The reason why it's more of an adventure game than a strategy game is that youroptions are severely limited. Most places in the game are railroaded and canonly be passed in one of maybe four ways. But four ways to solve a puzzle in an adventure game is a beautiful, rare gem.

But there are more reasons why Commandos is the best adventure game I've everseen. For starters, the puzzles make sense. You no longer have to open lockeddoors with weird gobbledygooks on them without knowing what's on the other side.You don't have to ask yourself, "Who in their right mind would leave thekey to a Very Important Door hidden underneath a rock that requires theoperation of a crane to move?" You know why you're solving the puzzles. Youknow what you're going after. You have to sneak your Green Beret past themachine gun nest so he can shove the gasoline barrels next to the satellitedish so you can blow it sky high and cripple the Bad Guy's communicationcapabilities. Makes sense.

Now how are you going to do it? Well, you can pick off the guy manning themachine gun nest and hide behind a door, killing the patrolling guards oneby one as they come running over to investigate. Or you can sneak up behindthe guy manning the machine gun nest, kill him, take the machine gun and mowdown the patrolling guards. Or you can stand behind cover from the machinegun nest, wait until the patrol nears a gasoling barrel, and blow them skyhigh.

Compared to other strategy games, your options are so limited that you feelcrippled and condemned to only one or two strategies. Compared to otheradventure games, however, you not only know why you're solving realisticpuzzles, but you have more than one way to solve them.

So, let's call Commandos an adventure game, and move on with the review.

The puzzles are not your typical adventure game puzzles. Most do not ONLYrequire heavy planning and thinking, but also precise execution. The result isthat, after a successful mission, you look back and say to yourself, "Damn.That was a pretty cool surgical strike." It also makes more than a fewexciting war stories.

The flip side is that the game is extremely difficult, not only with thecreativity end of it (which good adventure games always include), but also withthe dexterity end of it (which good adventure games shouldn't include). Timingis critical, and a missed click will end your mission really quickly.

This slight flaw is made much worse by the fact that you can not save in themiddle of a mission. This is perhaps my biggest complaint. An hour of sweatand nerve-wracking timing and headache-causing planning could be lost in onebotched maneuver, or two stray mouse clicks. This can get extremely frustratingwhen you're playing through the later, longer missions.

While the graphics aren't up to par with the latest in 3D technology, they don'treally need to be, either, and the simple isometric view saves a lot of lag anddistraction, leaving you alone with the puzzles and little else to break yourconcentration.

The sound is wonderful, however, and the voice acting (what little is included)is pretty good. The distinct accents and voices add real personality to yoursquad and make losing them not only unforgivable because of their usefulness,but also because you care about their well-being.

The last concern is the controls. How are they? Pretty durn good. The strayclicks are rare (although driving large vehicles is inanely difficult), and,for the number of options you have at your disposal (hide! climb! shoot! run!drive! stab! swim!), the controls are remarkably well designed. It takes alittle getting used to, but halfway through the first mission you should have itdown pat.

In the end, there is very little left out of the game that should have beenincluded, and almost nothing in the game that didn't add to the experience.While those looking for an innovative strategy game may be more than a littledisappointed, the adventure lovers out there will find in this game a creative,realistic, well-designed addition to their genre.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/01/99, Updated 11/01/99

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