Commandos 3: Destination Berlin continues Pyro Studio's Commandos series of tactical games. Destination Berlin takes players to Stalingrad, Gestapo HQ in Berlin, Omaha Beach on D-day, and all across war-torn Europe. Destination Berlin features smaller maps with an emphasis on detail. Each scenario requires different tactics, and some missions can be solved in multiple ways, forcing players to continually reevaluate their strategies. Ambushes, stealth, sabotage, and demolitions are all viable paths of attack. Multiplayer options allow up to eight players to compete head-to-head over a LAN or the Internet.
Perhaps it's because of the compelling WWII setting, or the use of pyrotechnics, or the wonderfully detailed artwork, but despite several flaws, the third Commandos game is still an addictive diversion and better than most of its clones. Eidos and Pyro have brought Tiny McHale and the crew back for more skulking and shooting, and although the interface is still clumsy for the task and has even taken a step backward, the missions in the game can keep you coming for more.
What's new in the world of Commandos? Only a little, which is why playing Commandos 3 sometimes feels like playing Commandos 2.5. The various characters can all use a silent pummeling attack, and all can carry bodies out of sight, but these abilities, along with the inclusion of indoor environments, were things players started seeing in Commandos 2. The mission structure is different, and now the game is split into three campaigns of related missions, and you can play the campaigns in any order. But the gameplay concept of progressively taking down German sentries and demolishing military vehicles and emplacements is still largely true to the original Commandos installments.
There are some changes that aren't welcome, however. Commandos earned a reputation for being difficult because the slightest misstep could bring hordes of German soldiers after the commandos. The games demanded a precision that the interface sometimes did not deliver. It only gets worse in Commandos 3, where useful weapon and action hotkeys have been removed. It's a befuddling decision; now, if you want to switch a character's weapons, you must cycle through a list rather than click a single key to get the weapon ready. In frantic moments, it's very easy to lose control of the situation while fumbling for keys.
In addition, throw in a screen fixed at 800x600 resolution, a weird mix of 2D and 3D environments with different styles of view rotation, and a confusing policy of not having the view automatically switch to the selected commando, and even veterans of the game will find themselves struggling at times to keep their bearings. It's particularly harsh if you've played recent Commandos-style clones and seen how comfortable it is to play with the ability to pause.
The sometimes mediocre, sometimes bad interface is reason enough to avoid Commandos 3 if you're not a big fan. As you play, however, and get used to the game's mechanics, you'll find yourself steadily gaining ground on the missions and ultimately noticing that Commandos 3 is, in some ways, more forgiving than its predecessors. Although this makes the game easier, it also makes it more enjoyable to play.
In earlier games of the series, firing a single shot would trigger an alarm, which usually meant the end of the mission for Tiny and the gang. In Commandos 3, there is a stronger emphasis on giving players more flexibility to complete missions. If you want to play stealthy, you can. If you are loaded with weapons and ammunition and want to set up ambushes, you can do that too. Giving the commandos all a core set of skills may reduce the uniqueness of their personality, but it also makes each a more competent tool in solving the mission puzzles.
Now, firing a shot may not trigger an alarm if done out of earshot or inside a building, and with such weapons as sleeping gas, flamethrowers, knives, pummeling, and piano wire, there are other quiet ways to strike the enemy. The game rewards exploration, and there are often cases where trying a different approach can be made feasible by the discovery of a box of explosives or by taking a better weapon off the body of a defeated opponent.
Patience is definitely a virtue when playing. Reloads of saved games are a way of life in any Commandos game. The more forgiving game helps mitigate the effects of the poor interface, but timed missions and scripted events keep the players on their toes. This certainly adds suspense and variety, though some players may lament the introduction of such missions, which changes the classic nature of stealthy Commandos play that demanded meticulous planning but let you devise strategies at your own pace.
Commandos 3 also suffers from some information gaps. The tutorials aren't very thorough and don't explain some of the things the manual glosses over, which can lead to much confusion. For example, each commando can steal a German uniform and wear it as a disguise. The manual explains that officers and Gestapo members can see through it, but several times regular soldiers seem to be able to see through it also. Uniforms also seem to have numerical ratings attached to them that deteriorate over time, but the manual fails to explain this element. There are other components of the game that aren't explained properly, such as the "distract" ability or how to use sleeping gas grenades; I went through several missions skipping use of the gas grenades until I figured it out.
If you're a big Commandos fan, chances are you'll find something here to like. The movement and timing puzzles that make up the bulk of the gameplay can be tedious and frustrating, but completion of a mission always brings a rewarding sense of accomplishment. The interface quirks, some occasional crashes, and documentation gaps prevent Commandos 3 from being all it can be, but at the end of the day, it's good enough.
People who downloaded Commandos 3: Destination Berlin have also downloaded:
Commandos 2: Men of Courage, Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines, Commandos: Beyond the Call of Duty, Age of Empires III, Company of Heroes, Command & Conquer: Generals, Close Combat 5: Invasion Normandy, Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2
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