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Commandos: Beyond the Call of Duty

With 20 mission's worth of experience under their collective belts, Inferno, Duke, Tiny, Tread, Spooky, and Fins are called on again to perform the impossible. Beyond The Call of Duty is a mission pack for Commandos, with eight new assignments for your group and a new storyline that will take you to Eastern Europe, Greece, and Germany. The commandos at your disposal are no different and their abilities haven't changed at all. However, the game itself has been changed some and features new additions and enhancements.

One of the first things you'll notice is that the maps have been greatly expanded and enhanced over those in the original. There's a lot more ground to cover than before, and, according to lead producer Eric Adams, it's more fraught with peril. "In Beyond The Call of Duty, there are nearly double the German guards with the addition of Panzer and Luftwaffe units." You'll notice a lot more detail in the maps as well, with double resolution in an effort to covey near photorealism. According to Adams, this "eye candy" is the reason for the increase to 32Mb RAM in the system requirements. Along with the new locations comes new terrain, with buildings and landscapes that nicely portray places like Bonn and Crete. You'll also find yourself traveling to the Channel Islands, Belgrade, and Holland. Said Adams, "There are some really inspired maps, like an active zoo (watch out for the lion cage), a secret airbase with an ME262 squadron, and some island action with naval mines."

In the original Commandos, you really only had one main objective on each mission. Granted, you usually had to reach multiple locations to finish it, but there was usually one main task (i.e., get to point A; blow it up; get out). Now you will have several objectives within a single mission (i.e., free a captured comrade; take someone prisoner; and then escape). In addition to the ever-popular "blowing things up" missions, you'll also need to perform some other tasks like assassination, sabotage, and the aforementioned kidnapping. One other item of note about the missions is that you'll get no "warm-up" missions like in Commandos, where the first three or four were fairly easy. Since there are only eight, the missions are a challenge right from the word "go" and leave off around the same difficulty as those missions in the mid to upper teens in the original.

While I felt like some of the missions in Commandos were certainly more difficult than others, I never felt like there was ever a mission that couldn't be solved simply by examining the terrain and looking for clues or opportunities. However, some gamers apparently felt that certain missions were too daunting, so there are now two difficulty levels to choose from. Said Adams, "Easy is geared to the new Commandos gamer or those who thought the original was too hard. Easy removes/replaces Germans for easier pathing to targets." Beyond that, there is no difference between the two modes with regard to the Germans and how well they can see or hear or how much time you have to finish the mission. A good example of how the two modes are different can be seen in this screenshot.

One of the things I noticed about the original was that some of the missions tended to rely heavily on the green beret, Tiny. "Having played four missions, there is more balance/reliance on all commandos," said Adams, "Although the Sniper still is mainly a bit player." A reason for this could be the big change to the distraction feature. Before, only Tiny could distract enemy soldiers with his acoustical device. This was part of the reason he was relied on so heavily, in addition to his ability to kill silently with his knife.

Now, every member of your commando team has the ability to distract an enemy guard using either a stone or cigarette pack. You can throw a stone to turn a German in the direction it hits. You can also hit a guard to make him investigate where the stone came from. The cigarette toss entices stationary guards away from their post to bend and retrieve the cigarettes. This helps take a little of the load off of Tiny and lets someone like Fins create a brief distraction and kill with his harpoon. It also means you don't have to run Tiny back and forth so much to constantly place and use his decoy.

Two of the weapons that have been added include a shotgun and a long-range, single-shot rifle. The shotgun in an interesting addition and is designed to kill with one shot. Adams noted that while it is both noisy and slow to reload, it is designed to be effective for an ambush once the alarm sounds. For quiet killing, you'll still need to rely on the knife, harpoon, or trap. Handcuffs have also been added to allow for German capture and control. This includes grabbing a kidnapping target or even a German who you can order to do various tasks. More weapons are said to be in the works and may be added before the game is finalized.

Like last time, the game will keep track of your progress according to the amount of time it takes you to finish the mission and how much damage your commandos have taken. You'll move up in rank through the mission pack depending on how well you perform. However, unlike in the original, there are no plans to require a certain rank in order to play the last mission. The multiplayer mode hasn't been changed at all and will allow players to try all eight missions, at either difficulty setting, with their friends.

With maps almost twice the size as before, new settings, multiple mission objectives, and the other additions, Beyond the Call of Duty looks to be an exciting and entertaining mission pack for a game that broke new ground in the real-time strategy genre. If you liked the original -- I thought it was the best and most addictive strategy game I played all year -- I think you'll like the mission pack. If you found yourself frustrated by some of the missions in Commandos, the easy mode should perhaps make things a little less aggravating for you. Those of you who, like me, enjoyed the challenge of each mission and the feeling of satisfaction that came with figuring it out, will get all they can handle in this expansion.


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