Finally here it comes again: the third installment of the Commandos games, brought to us by the well-known Spanish developer Pyro Studios. Again, they’ve offered us even more action and variety than before, but still kept that chess-like gameplay for which the original Commandos game was famous.
As we enter the single player menu of the game, we are faced with taking a decision: which campaign should we choose... the tutorial campaign, Stalingrad, Central Europe or the Normandy campaign? For beginners, as well as veterans, it’s recommended to begin with the two tutorial missions present in the game. The tutorials will ease your way throughout the next missions, and they will teach you the basic commands of the game. Unfortunately, these tutorials are not deep enough; they do not cover some major aspects that you will have to discover on your own later on in the game, whilst dealing with those pesky Nazis. There is a storyline interconnecting the missions in each campaign, like for example in Central Europe campaign your mission is to prevent art treasures from being stolen out of the country by marauding Nazi troops, and in every mission from this campaign you'll be doing just that. Regrettably, there is no storyline connecting the three main campaigns.
Commandos 3 does not include any difficulty settings, so we all have to sip from the same bowl. The game is much more difficult than its predecessor, this affects both newcomers and veteran players! There are many more soldiers positioned throughout the maps, and in some missions you are not allowed to raise the alarm. Moreover, these are not the only two things that make this game so difficult. Commandos 3 also has an improved enemy AI, so its better not fool around with the Nazis too much. Each time you try the same thing, you get different reactions from the enemy. Enemy soldiers also act differently accordingly to the circumstances. For example: during a battle the enemy will advance only in groups, while a solitary guard might come by himself to investigate anything suspicious.
The other reason why the game seems harder, is that the producers changed the controls of the game, which were pretty similar for all those years since the first Commandos game. Controls are simpler if you are a newcomer to the game, but if you are not, you will definitely have to sweat a little bit in order to use them as your sixth sense. The game has undergone interface changes as well, some that are not very comfortable when you need to react extra quickly. There are two popup menus: one for weapons and one for special abilities, such as using uniforms, stealing and so on. The good part about this is that you do not have to memorize as many keys as in previous Commandos games. The bad part is that it can slow you down when wanting to quickly switch between weapons.
Just like in the previous games, each mission begins with a briefing of the current situation and your goals. However, in some missions the briefing is not as clear as it should be, meaning that it does not display exactly what you have to do, so you end up wandering around through the level and trying to figure out your objectives. The gameplay itself is basically the same as in every Commandos game. You guide your men through a total of twelve missions, which vary in objectives and map size, and as you might know, the most important element in the Commandos games is its characters. This time we get to control the old and improved dirty half-dozen: the Green Beret, the Sniper, the Diver, the Sapper, the Spy and the Thief. Some of you might have noticed the absence of three more veterans: the dog, Whiskey, the seductress Natasha and the Driver. They couldn’t make it into the boat this time. It is also sad to see that Diver makes appearance only in one mission.
Each character has special skills that only they can perform. For instance only the sniper can use a sniper rifle, while only the diver can throw knives and Tiny, the Green Beret, is the only one that can knife people down. Obviously, they all can do basic tasks such as shooting regular weapons (MP40, pistol, rifles), drive cars or throw grenades, an ability which was not present in the previous title. There are new weapons present in the game, such as the STG44, an assault rifle which for some strange reason Pyro made shoot more like a fastened pistol, and not like the real gun. The Green Beret and the Sapper can also use heavy machine guns positioned throughout some of the maps, and because of his strength, the Green Beret is capable of carrying this machine gun around.
They key to success in this game is to use each character wisely and when you most need his abilities. Even though Commandos 3 is more action oriented rather than stealth based, you won’t just have to go on shooting everyone like Rambo. Careful planning and tactical approach is still the main peculiarity of the game. To achieve success in every mission the first thing you will have to do is find out the enemy's positions and their patrol routes. Do not be disappointed, officer, if everything will not go the way you’ve planned it. As I’ve said before the game is much harder in comparison to preceding installments and far more challenging. Perseverance and careful planning are the answers. You are able to see the enemy’s field of view by pressing the Tab key, so be sure to avoid his line of sight when sneaking to kill someone.
The maps have undergone some changes as well. Now instead of having one big map with many objectives, you have many smaller maps with only a few objectives. Do not worry though, for the game still features some huge maps as well. Bigger map size allows more approaches/interpretations of the way you play. Moreover, whenever you will play a mission for the second time you surely will not go the same way as you did before, as you will always find better routes and ways to accomplish the objectives. The game is not as repetitive as it was before, as it does not follow nearly the same track all the time, and this is why the role of the action based part of the game is important. These moments pull you out from the dullness of throwing a pack of cigarettes and killing a soldier, so characteristic of the previous games.
Another aspect of why Commandos 3 is such a nice game is represented by its most beautiful graphics. The entire exterior is 2D, but from an artistic point of view it is made really well! It is so detailed that you even can count every leaf on the tree. But that's not all: this time Pyro decided to revamp the interior engine and make it fully 3D. In contrast, it is blocky and not as good as exterior. You see the exterior from an isometric perspective and you can rotate the camera four-ways. At certain situations, the position of the camera might get a little bit uncomfortable, as it does not reveal the area you so crucially need to see, which is usually behind buildings or trees. Luckily, there is a “show enemy” button, which comes in help in those situations.
Another stunning aspect of graphics are the weather effects. They are made so well that you feel like it is raining or snowing right in front of you. Finally, Pyro changed the way night missions look like. This time it looks like all the action really does happen during the night, and not in a blue light as it was in Commandos 2. Another awesome thing is the particle effects. The explosions are unbelievably detailed. All these points definitely help maintain a “commandoish” atmosphere. However, it is a real pity to see that such a sophisticated game as Commandos 3 does not support higher resolutions then 800x600; this is the only available resolution and it can’t be changed. Hopefully, the creators will change their mind and release a patch of some kind to solve this problem.
Yet again, the music for this game has been created by Mateo Pascual, the man behind the music from the previous Commandos titles and the game Praetorians. The music is very dramatic and definitely suits a game such as this one. Sometimes it sucks you into the game so much, that you just cannot wait to slice someone’s throat from behind. Character voices are also on the good side. One might think their accents sound a little bit too strong, however it just points out their personalities. Unfortunately, not everything is perfect with the sound. The sounds made by the shooting weapons are not that great. Some weapons sound bad, especially normal rifles, which, as a mater of fact, sound almost no different from the sniper rifle.
Probably the most awaited feature of this game is the multiplayer mode. At last, you can compete against your best friend, and what feeling is better than the one of you beating your best friend at a multiplayer game?
The game features two multiplayer modes: deathmatch and capture the flag, both of which are new in Commandos games. Unfortunately they came at the expense of a cooperative mode, which simply isn't there. There are some difficulties with the connection because there is no in-game server browser, thus the only way to connect is through LAN or GameSpy arcade, which does not work as well as it is supposed to do (e.g. game crashes). However if you will make it connect you will definitely enjoy those modes!
Whether you're a newcomer or a veteran player, you must play Commandos 3! Finish it in single player, then beat your friends in multiplayer. It is a fun game, with very nice graphics and music. It is a game that requires much thinking and planning, and it will make you lose many nights trying to finish it You might find it a little, bit hard but in the end you will be able to proudly say; “I have finished Commandos 3!”. And if it is first game you played from Commandos saga, definitely get the other 2 as well!