The battle for Hitler's brain.
In the waning years of WWII, the allies had broken through Fortress Europe and were slowly pushing their way to Berlin. From the West, the U.S. and Britain prepared and executed their D-Day assault to break German control of the French coastline. From the East, the Russians survived the siege at Stalingrad only to counterattack against the very heart of the German empire. This was a time of epic battles. But even in the midst of the chaos, a surgical strike team was needed to clear the way to advance whole armies into battle. That's where you come in, soldier.
Commandos 3: Destination Berlin continues the legacy of its predecessors by offering you a unique real time strategy game…assuming you have never played any of the past Commandos. Forget resource management and army building – here you only have your teammates and your wits to guide you. Missions have to be executed carefully if you are to succeed, and the quicksave button gets used a lot. Do you think you have what it takes?
The gameplay focuses more on stealth and cunning rather than brute strength. Each member of your squad has different skills that you must master in order to successfully complete the missions. Your team has shrunk a bit since the second installment, reducing a bit of the confusion. The Green Beret is the best guy for killing lots of enemy soldiers, the Sapper blows stuff up, the Thief and the Spy are your infiltration units, the Sniper slowly and methodically takes out the enemy, and the Diver…um, dives…but he only appears in one mission anyway.
Your missions usually involve some specific goal, be it taking out an enemy sniper or blowing something to kingdom come, although there are usually a number of secondary things you have to do in order to complete that goal. You have to control each teammate one at a time to use them most effectively. While this may slow down the pace a bit, it enhances the feeling of accomplishment you get from finishing a mission.
And finishing a mission is quite an accomplishment. The Commandos series is considered one of the toughest around, and Commandos 3 is no exception. You will die, a lot. You will fail, a lot. Trial and error is the name of the game, and if you don't have the patience to quicksave early and often, you won't last long. Each mission, once you figure it out, will take you anywhere from a half hour to several hours to complete. And while you still have numerous ways to solve most missions, occasionally there's only one way, forcing you to try over and over until you find that single successful scenario. While definitely not as hard as fighting in WWII yourself, Commandos 3 teaches you that war is hell and chances of survival are slim to none.
For better or for worse, Commandos 3 plays nearly identically to the other Commandos games. The graphics are still good, with a clever mix of 2D and 3D that leads to some very detailed environments, though high-end systems do not get used to their full potential due to the fixed 800x600 resolution. The building interiors are now polygonal, allowing you to rotate the view 360 degrees smoothly in order to view all the action. Unfortunately, the camera in interior locations is difficult to use and sometimes makes it hard to see everything. Hotkeys that highlight enemy positions help, but it still can become a visual jumble.
The action outside has its own problems. The camera is locked in an isometric perspective. This works great for seeing all the action, except that since many of the backgrounds are sprites, you can't rotate the viewing angle smoothly. In fact, the rotation of the camera downright sucks. It jumps from one angle to another with a slight delay each time. It tries to keep your guy in the middle of the screen, but on most maps, if you can see him from one angle, he's obscured in the next angle, making it hard to keep track of the location of both your character and the enemy. This adds to the difficulty, but not in a good way.
You are not alone in your battle, and the multiplayer mode is here to give you even more competition. However, Commandos 3 isn't really the best game for multiplayer. A game where stealth and cunning take center stage doesn't lend itself well to Deathmatch, and sadly you can't co-op the single player like in Commandos 2. Unfortunately, without the tools to create new levels, the online aspects of this game will be largely ignored.
Despite all its shortcomings, Commandos 3 is still a quality experience for the hardcore strategy gamer. The biggest drawback is that it's so similar to the older Commandos; frankly, you may have already experienced this battle before. Stupid interface issues and camera problems hurt it; by fixing some minor annoyances, this game could have exceeded the scope of earlier attempts. As it is, however, you are left feeling as though the developers substituted difficulty in the place of game design, and this just doesn't work as well the third time around.