Reviewed on PC


Reviewed By: Tim Emmerich, Shepherd's Staff

Computer Platform: PC
Produced by: Eidos Interactive
Price Range: $20
Age level: 13+
ESRB Rating: Teen
System Requirements: P120, 16 MB RAM, Win 95/98, Direct X 5.2, 150 MB of uncompressed hard drive space, 1MB Fast SVGA card, 4X CD ROM

Genre: Action/adventure
Christian Rating: 3 of 5
   (some objectionable elements)
Gameplay: 4 of 5
Violence: 2 of 5
Adult Content: 5 of 5

Box art from 'Commandos, Behind Enemy Lines'
Shepherd's Staff rates Commandos as unacceptable.
In 1940, Europe has been crushed by the Axis powers. Great Britain still stands because of God's sculpting of the English Channel. Otherwise, the Germans would have waltzed through London by now. As Britain cowers on the defensive, they are being bombarded by bombs. Lieutenant Colonel Dudley Clark believes a team of commandos could help the war effort. These men are the best of the best with skills honed to perfection, physical strength unequaled, yet capable of steeling themselves as stealth is as important as any other attribute. Hence, these brave Commandos go Behind Enemy Lines.

Commandos is a real-time challenging strategy game. You direct a team of commandos on nearly impossible missions. Each Commando can be performing actions independently or you can group them together. Your team is given a set of objectives for every mission. You are free to implement your own strategy. Your strategy will change as you learn about each Commando's unique abilities. A debriefing follows each mission. Based on your speed of execution and how much damage your team sustained, you will be given merit points. Earn enough and increase in rank. Note that you start out as a lowly Lance Corporal!

There are six unique Commandos to direct in order to accomplish the mission. Potentially giving good replay value, the formula for success is not set in concrete. You can jump in the tank and blast away with its machine guns. Or you can get in the truck and speed around, running over guards in your path. Or you can crawl around to your mission objectives, slow but effective (and the only option in many missions).

This is not an easy game. Since you are in charge of a small team, you must use stealth. Once detected, it is very difficult to survive. So, save the game often! They have a quick save (Ctrl+S) and a quick load (Ctrl+L) feature.

Game Elements:

Screenshot from 'Commandes, Behind Enemy Lines'
Sound presentation is good. There are different voices for each commando albeit a fixed amount of actual responses from them and then it repeats. A nice feature is that the sound is screen (or focus) specific. As you scroll around the map and get closer to a sound source, you will only then hear it.

For history buffs, “Commandos” does an excellent job of setting each mission's stage. Some of the historical introductions even have old black and white film footage. After that, the specific battlefield will show the major objectives and some suggested strategy. As the campaigns shift from the cold fields of Norway to the desert heat of Egypt, the commandos' attire changes appropriately. Nice polishing touch.

The controls are acceptable. One annoying control is the right-click to disengage your current action (like holding a gun and right-click to put it away). This doesn't always seem to work on the first attempt. Also, there are some actions that will cause your commando to leave the crouch position! Like setting or picking up the bear trap. This can get you detected quickly, so beware. It is sometimes easy to accidentally click while trying a different action. Before you realize it, your commando who was supposed to be laying low is crawling right into the enemy's line of sight. Hence, it is important to save often. The “multiple cursor” method that highlights different options can be cumbersome as well.

The artificial intelligence (AI) is either really good or they spent a lot of time in tuning the guard's path & line of sight. An example of an omission in the tuning, the enemy guards do react to footprints in the snow, but completely ignore blood stains! Some guards are stationary, some patrol, and some do both by staying stationary until they go to investigate sounds or footprints. The guards are obviously 'programmed' to do certain things. Slinking between these many obstacles without getting detected is like solving a puzzle. This is where some of the strategy is required. As you remove some of these “puzzle pieces” it helps.

“Commandos” did a good job of integrating various vehicles. However, it takes getting used to driving a truck using a point & click method. You can drive a tank, truck, helicopter and others (although some you 'ride' in at the end of mission without getting to control them). There are some vehicles that are added for decoration like a neat train.

Box Contents:
The manual, albeit small, is well written. Although it may not be needed as much of the game gives excellent introductions to each scenario. Some useful things in the manual are what all the shortcut keys (hotkeys) are and a description of each commando. Also, there was a separate one sheet “guide” that informs you how to successfully complete Mission 1. Very useful for newbies.

Warning, warning: The gameplay is addictive! You will be saving and restoring a lot as you find a certain strategy alerts the enemy to your presence. Because the missions are difficult, your strategic mind will be challenged and you will find yourself asking “What if” scenarios. Pyro Studios did a good job in providing many alternative solutions. For example, you have choices in how you use your team member that is the spy. Once the spy obtains a SS uniform (can be found on clothes lines), he can distract a guard! No need to kill him unless he will see something he shouldn't. To demonstrate the violence in this game, a different Commando can come up and knife the distracted guard in the back. Or the “water” commando can shoot him in the back with a harpoon or gun, or the spy can poison him. Indeed, since the game is popular and there are follow-ons, the Commandos have picked up the nickname of the "dirty half dozen"!

Conclusion, Christians Beware:
“Commandos” is a wargame with killing and destruction involved. Some try to justify violence since it is associated with war. If you are an adult, then you can use your discernment to play it or not. There are some Christian alternatives (like “Catechumen” and "Saints of Virtue") available.

If you do play it, you will give your hard drive a work out as you will have to reload many times (so save often!). Also, look into the hint guides available on the Internet.

Year of Release—1998

Positive—This game, as well as the sequels, "Commados: Beyond the Call of Duty," and "Commandos II: Men of Courage," is one of the best games in the "real-time strategy" genre. If you like strategy games like “Starcraft,” "Dune 2000," or any of the “Command and Conquer” games, you will probably enjoy any of the “Commandos” games. I must warn you, however, that each of these games are quite difficult, it will probably take several hours to pass any given level in each of these games. Adult content is non-existent in the Commandos games, as is language. Pyro studios did a good job in keeping each of these games very clean. Violence is kept fairly low, although dead soldiers do often leave behind pools of blood. I was very pleased to discover that in Commandos II: Men of Courage, the player now has the option of knocking out enemy soldiers and then tieing them up, instead of killing them. In fact, the game actually promotes non-lethal force in that the fewer soldiers the player kills, the faster he will be promoted. In addition, the violence in all the Commandos games are placed within the context of a morally justifiable war against historic evil. Therefore, believers who give credence to the “Just War Theology,” as put forward by Ambrose of Milan, and his student Augustine, shouldn't object to the context of the violence in the game. However, if you have pacifist leanings, you may want to move along to something else, I can highly recommend several sports games out there, like Tony Hawk 2 (Skateboarding), Madden 2002 (Football), or even any of the Myst series of games. While the game may seem to progress slowly to players who like their action fast and furious, the game really builds the tension as the player has to watch the enemy patrols and then wait for the perfect moment to strike. This game has excellent gameplay, and in my opinion, it is one of the best strategy/action games ever made. There is very little blood, but quite a bit of violence (and yes, there are some Christian alternatives). But if you are into mind-boggling, edge-of-your-seat strategy/action, this is definitely the right game for you. My Ratings: [4/4]
   —Nathan Alterton, age 23

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Christian Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Films for Christ or the Christian Answers Network.

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