Commandos 2 HD (PS4) Review
Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Microsoft Xbox One and PC
Once, certain gaming genres were a province of the PC exclusively. Your point & click adventures, your real-time strategies, your turn-based strategies. Some attempts were made, here and there, to translate them for a console audience sometimes to surprising success; I still have fond memories of Discworld and Command & Conquer on the PlayStation. Yet, they remained predominantly a PC thing. It is only comparatively recently that it has become an actual trend to bring console ports of these genres as standard.
I promise you, we will get to Commandos 2 HD soon, but this is important.
The key to getting these ports right is understanding the vast difference between PC controls and console controls. PC has a massive array of keys available, as well as the absolute precision of a mouse. Consoles have maybe 10 buttons to press, outside of the movement controls. The more complex your controls system is on a PC, the harder you need to work to simplify it for console players so that it feels easy to understand and absorb. Most modern strategies are designed with consoles in mind so the control schemes remain streamlined, resulting in games as layered yet exhilarating as XCOM 2 or Divinity: Original Sin 2.
Commandos 2 HD, regrettably, hails from a time when the console port was not a concern and so the control scheme could be as exacting and detailed as a PC could handle. When it came to porting the title over, developers Yippee! Entertainment faced the decision on whether to simplify the experience with more streamlined perhaps more contextual controls or to keep the experience as it is. They opted to keep the complexity to the cost of playability.
You begin this game with a massive wall of text covering the screen, just what everyone wants when starting a game, an essay to read. The text breaks down every single button function before dropping you into a scenario where Nazi guards are everywhere and you have control of two commandos with very different skills. A good tutorial should ease you into the key mechanics that you will need when you need them, but essentially yelling everything at you at once and then abandoning you is not good game design. It leads to moments where you are attempting to tie up a guard you just knocked out but accidentally running a metal detector over their body just as their friend returns to shoot you.
A lot of Commandos 2 relies on trial and error, you are unlikely to know what awaits you in the next screen and if you mess up then you are most likely buggered because the game is unforgivingly tough on all errors. This means you keep chipping away at stages, working out where you went wrong and trying something else. This is a perfectly fine way to play a strategy game but it should not be the primary approach, there should at least be s faint chance of you pulling off a run from start to finish without any do-overs. Sadly, with the way levels are designed and the near-impenetrable control scheme, you will likely have many do-overs. I would accept a merciless learning curve if the controls were smoother. I would probably accept a convoluted control scheme if the game was even a little forgiving. I cannot abide both.
This is a real pity because I was excited to play Commandos 2 HD. I love a good, classic strategy game and the original Commandos 2 has such a great reputation but this was not a good port.