The Commandos series is one that I hold closely to my heart; firstly with the original game which I spent hours playing the demo of when I was younger and then with the sequel which was actually one of the first PC games that I ever finished. I loved it, with the need for strategy, patience, and some quick-thinking making for one heck of an exhilarating experience overall.
With the lovely memories of spending so many hours playing it when I was younger fresh in my mind, there was no way I was going to skip on Commandos 2 – HD Remaster on the Nintendo Switch. I mean, sure, the game is PROBABLY best played with a keyboard and mouse, but there’s still hope that it could work well with a controller… right?
Well, you can expect plenty of hiccups along the way, but Commandos 2 – HD Remaster does just about enough to make it worth you time on the Nintendo Switch… only if playing on PC isn’t an option, though.
Commandos 2 – HD Remaster takes you back into World War II, with the player taking control of a small group of soldiers and leading them behind enemy lines on an assortment of dangerous and strategy-orientated missions. Each member of your team brings with them unique abilities associated with their varying roles, with eight different classes available in total: The Green Beret, The Sniper, The Driver, The Sapper, The Diver, The Spy, The Thief, The Seductress. You’ve also got Whiskey the Dog to help you out on missions too, and believe me, he’s a good little doggy.
Each class plays in a specific way and encourages the player to take a methodical approach to their use, whether that’s when blending in as The Spy, sneakily infiltrating enemy camps as The Thief, causing explosive chaos as The Sapper, or simply picking off enemies in your path as The Sniper. The best part of all? You won’t succeed by using just one of them, with each member of the team you take into missions vital to your success. With multiple ways to approach missions though, it’s up to the player to work out the best way to complete their objective and make it out safely… it’s genuinely thrilling stuff.
I think it’s important to get one of the biggest issues with Commandos 2 – HD Remaster out of the way from the get-go: the controls, which haven’t really made that smooth of a transition from a mouse and keyboard to the Nintendo Switch’s JoyCons. There is a heck of a lot to take in as far as leading your little team of troopers is concerned, and honestly, seeing the in-game help display them as I started up was a little bit daunting in itself. Add to that some button combinations to do simple things such as moving the camera and you’ll quickly find that it’ll take a fair bit of time just to get used to actually commanding your team.
It’ll all click eventually and you should find yourself performing most actions fuss-free (though I was thankful that it only takes a quick button press to bring the controls back up), but it won’t stop Commandos 2 – HD Remaster from having an air of imprecision to it. Simple tasks such as interacting with an enemy or object in the environment can prove fiddly to perform, whilst reacting quickly to evade an incoming enemy’s attention isn’t as easy as it should be. Again, it’s something you do get used to, but I did miss the ease of simply being able to guide a cursor with the mouse and KNOW that I was going to be able to do exactly what I wanted to fuss-free.
The one saving grace is that you don’t have to aim your weapons to shoot them, with an auto-aim function in place when targeting foes. I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been to try aiming WITHOUT a cursor, so I was especially thankful for this. In fairness, a lot of aspects of the game’s controls have been refined to make the game play better with a controller… it’s just not always that effective.
As mentioned, you will get used to the controls the more you play and it’s probably going to be a lot easier for some players than others. I think having so much experience with the game in the first place probably hindered me a little, especially when my team didn’t do things as smoothly as they did in the original.
It’s a bit of a pain, but it is forgivable – especially since the core gameplay experience of Commandos 2 – HD Remaster is just as satisfying to play through now as it was back in 2001. The level design is fantastic throughout and offers the player plenty of different ways to approach each varied scenario they face (some of which will demand a stealthy approach, some of which will see all-guns blazing), the diverse selection of skills found with each character still feel mighty satisfying to use, the visuals look a heck of a lot sharper whilst still maintaining the charm from the original, whilst being able to play on the go on the Nintendo Switch is a real treat. I didn’t really run into any game-breaking issues (outside of getting stuck in the environment once) during my playthrough either, so everything manages to run pretty smoothly throughout too. Sure, there are some long load times to contest with, but they don’t really break up the action found in the main levels too badly.
I did find it hard to ignore the fact that the game feels very dated though, especially when compared to similar titles that have released recently such as the brilliant Desperados 3. Commandos 2 – HD Remaster is certainly a welcome blast to the past, but it’s also a reminder that it’s a nineteen-year-old game that hasn’t seen much added to it outside of some jazzed-up visuals. Is this a problem? Not for a returning gamer like me that appreciated the old-school experience that it offers, but those completely new to the series might find themselves a little underwhelmed by its offering – especially when you consider how janky it can actually be on console.
Commandos 2 – HD Remaster’s strategic gameplay is still incredibly satisfying in 2020, but some fiddly and imprecise controls do make it a little difficult to recommend on the Nintendo Switch.
Don’t get me wrong, when you get used to them (which can take a good hour or two) it’s certainly more than possible to enjoy the exhilarating escapade that the game offers, and sure, I loved being able to play through the game on a smaller screen in bed too – regardless of some of the frustrations I faced along the way.
I just know that Commandos 2 – HD Remaster would be a million times better to play with a keyboard and mouse, so I’d only really recommend diving in on console if you have no other way to experience the game.
Developer: Yippee Entertainment
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC