Someone call the A-Team.
Strategy games often have a hard time making the adjustment from PC to console. Maybe it's the control limitations. Maybe it's the different audience. Maybe it's poor production.
In the case of Commandos 2 for the PS2, it's a little bit of all three. This direct port of the PC hit doesn't do its forbear justice.
The story in Commandos 2 involves a motley band of commandos (there's a marine, green-beret, demolitions expert, spy, hussy, dog and sniper) who are faced with huge tasks (killing so and so, retrieving such and such) which must be completed against all kinds of ridiculous odds. Unfortunately, some of the odds include a crappy tutorial and a terrible control scheme. However, if you're hardcore enough to take on this incredibly challenging game, you may actually enjoy Commandos 2.
But I didn't. My smile began to fade as soon as I checked out the 'command' list in the instruction booklet. Every single PS2 button is used. Now, every single button is on the control pad for a reason, and a game that utilizes them all is bound to have some involving gameplay, but it is obvious that the controls could have been streamlined.
For example, if a Neverwinter Nights style radial menu could have been applied to the R3 button, Commandos 2 might have been a lot more playable. Instead, you'll find yourself constantly stopping to figure out which button to press to bring up which menu or perform which action. It takes away from the game's fluidity and can be very frustrating.
As though a really intricate control scheme weren't enough, the Commandos 2 tutorial is just as daunting. Not only is the tutorial long, it also takes forever to load each lesson. Plus, each lesson is basic to the point of being extremely boring. You'll feel like skipping the tutorial altogether and going straight for the game.
Which would be a huge mistake, because nothing in Commandos 2 is intuitive. You cannot pick up and play this game. You must play through the tutorial and study the instruction manual as though preparing for a test because otherwise you will have no idea what's going on or what you can do about it.
Which is a shame, because in Commandos 2 you can do a lot. You can climb, crawl, swim, hog-tie enemy guards, distract them with the allure of your hussy for hire, blow stuff up and all sorts of other things. The details and interaction with the environment is great. Skills are usually particular to each of the Commandos (the demolitions expert is the only one who can plant bombs, while the Green-Beret is the throat-slasher extraordinaire), and you never get to choose who you want to bring along on a given mission or what they bring with them.
This makes Commandos 2 as much a puzzle game as a strategy one. How do you get from here to there with all these guards around? While there are usually several ways to complete a mission, most of the time you'll be happy enough just to discover one of them, as the missions are very difficult. I thought the Normal difficulty mode was pretty unforgiving, and then I played Hard. And then I stopped playing video games for the rest of the day.
It seems like some tips or hints or highlights would have greatly aided Commandos 2 because you won't always recognize that a given maneuver is a possibility. The ability to ask each character what he thinks he should do or some highlighted 'advantage points' would have made the game much more accessible and entertaining.
The camera also could have used some work. As opposed to seamlessly scrolling, you're presented with one of four angles (basically north, south, east, and west). Toggling between these angles is very discombobulating and it often takes a few moments to figure out exactly what you're looking at and from which angle.
Commandos 2 doesn't look nearly as good as it should. Even though it looks great in screenshots thanks to some beautifully crafted backgrounds, the smaller details are extremely blurry and confusing. A PC monitor is capable of high-resolutions - your TV isn't. This hurts, as icons that are impossible to decipher represent your gameplay options. Do I want my green-beret to perform the tan blob thingie, or the odd, white circle?
The music is decent, military fare, while the aural responses of your men to your commands lack any personality. Come to think of it, for such an interesting crew, personality is conspicuously absent. There is no smarmy dialogue between the hussy and the spy or veiled threats between the green-beret and the marine. Not even a little "I ain't got time to bleed." I guess they're not in a joking mood.
Commandos 2 is simply a subpar port of a pretty good PC strategy game. The difficult controls coupled with the difficult gameplay lead to a game that's just too difficult for most console gamers, and not in a good way. However, if you set out to enjoy this game and are meticulous in your efforts, you'll find a creative, demanding strategy game underneath the flaws.