Blast From The Past
One miss-click away from defeat in Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines
We’re used to storming the beaches at Normandy in first-person shooters, and maybe even ordering armoured columns and infantry to storm a fortified town or base, but what about the missions no-one’s meant to know about? Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines was World War 2 in a new light.
You couldn’t just go guns blazing and call on tank reinforcements in Pyro Studios’ and Eidos Interactive’s real-time tactical stealth game. Well, you could, but the goal generally speaking was to remain as stealthy as possible so you could achieve your objectives without calling half the German army down on you. Naturally things wouldn’t always pan out as you’d intend, and sometimes things could turn into a bullet riddled mess.
It’s a waiting game. You get control of certain highly trained characters; a Green Beret, a Marine, a Driver, a Sapper, a Sniper and a Spy. Each of these guys has special talents only they possess, which forces you to change up your tactics for each of the 20 missions. The Spy for example can wear enemy uniforms and walk among them, the Green Beret is strong to move objects and climb rough surfaces, and the Marine can traverse water easily and has a freaking harpoon gun!
Never was so much owed by so many to so few
It was a deliciously tense affair. You’d only get certain characters depending on what the mission brief was, and then you’d have to carefully try and spot the patrol routes of enemies. Of course it got complicated if there were many interiors because Hans could exit and catch you knifing Fritz. It demanded a real precision from the player if you wanted to be in-and-out without so much of a whisper.
Just crossing a dirt road could mean the difference between success and failure, and the game was quite brutal at times with its ever changing real-time puzzles to solve. Enemy vision was represented by cones that were segmented between short and long. Getting spotted wasn’t always a bad thing because unless you took an aggressive act they would try to apprehend you. This gave you another way to lure in sentries for disposal.
Oh yes, and the absolute best part about all this? It features multiplayer, so you can play co-op. You and your friends can take control of the commandos and try – really try – and co-ordinate your actions.
Commandos was a critical success at launch and went on to spawn an expansion called Beyond the Call of Duty a year later in 1999. It was followed up by Commandos 2: Men of Courage in 2001 and Commandos 3: Destination Berlin in 2003. Each carried over the core game mechanics, which would expand your options for missions, but also the enemies own counter tactics and threats.
Where to get Commands: Behind Enemy Lines today
This real-time tactical masterpiece, and its great follow-ups, are readily available from the usual suspects like Steam and GOG.com. They’re ridiculously cheap considering how many hours you can sink into them.
The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan – a horror story with all your friends in it
(Supermassive/Bandai Namco – PC/Xbox One/PS4)
If you’re a PS4 owner who likes Heavy Rain (or Quantic Dream’s other games of that style) – or even something like Telltale’s The Walking Dead or Life is Strange – and being scared, you really should try Until Dawn. It’s a horror adventure where actions, dialogue, choosing which way to walk, or just faffing around examining objects can have consequences – sometimes fatal ones. It was a lot of fun.
Instead of making a sequel, developer Supermassive has joined up with Bandai Namco to create something brand new – and multiplatform – and yet in the same style. The Dark Pictures is the result, a similar horror game that plays in a familiar way to Until Dawn fans, except for two points. One, it’s an anthology series, so there are going to be multiple games with completely different stories – it’s a bit like The Twilight Zone or Tales From The Crypt, complete with weird presenter.
Second, it’s just been revealed that The Dark Pictures will be the first horror game of its type to have multiplayer. We got to try it out in the first episode, Man of Medan, and here’s how it went.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
We played the two-player co-op version of the multiplayer, and it worked really well. We started off as two soldiers in World War Two, at a carnival in China. A boxing game and a creepy fortune teller helped to get us used to the game’s controls – which are based on context-sensitive actions and quick-time events. Sometimes it’s just a matter of pushing a button, other times you have to move the thumbstick first – usually with good timing.
Dialogue always has three choices – two emotional reactions, and “say nothing” which can be the best way. Usually those two reactions can be divided into ‘nice’ or ‘angry’, but often Man of Medan flips the script and you’ll sometimes just get choices like ‘pompous’ and ‘belligerent’ (our favourite). And the great thing is, even just from the little we played, the ‘nice’ choice isn’t always the correct one. Later on, for example, we were nice to one character’s brother – and ended up pissing off his girlfriend. It’s really clever.
The Outer Limits
As for the multiplayer, two players take on the roles of different characters at a time, so you don’t get attached to one person – and often decisions you made as a previous character will affect you as the next, or you can react to them. Players can investigate and find things out on their own, or they can work together with their partner to solve things or take on problems together. There are consequences for everything, however – which is where the fun begins.
As for the story, it moves from the World War Two soldiers boarding the vessel Medan – where some sort of Ark of the Covenant-like object infects the crew and the ship, and things don’t go well for our first characters – to a group of friends investigating a shipwreck. One of them pisses off a group of sinister locals, who then come back later and threaten them. That’s when they encounter the ghost ship Medan, in the middle of a storm.
Sadly, that’s where our play ended. The game’s playing really well at the moment, with the multiplayer a really neat inclusion that seems to work really well. It actually adds to the tension, rather than relieves it – as you can’t communicate with your partner and you’ve no idea what decisions they’re going to make. The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan will be out August 30, and we can’t wait to play more of it. Even if we’ll be the first to die.