Have you played… Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines?

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Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

Commandos was hard. It looked like an RTS but it wasn’t like Red Alert. That confused me. Your small band of soldiers need to be in the right place, at the right time, or else the plan would go to hell. Levels were puzzles that required patience and timing. I don’t think I ever got past the first handful of levels. But I’m glad it existed, because it’s responsible for… well, look behind you and see.

Sneak attack! You’re dead by ninja. This is actually the Have You Played for Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun.

Have You Played… Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun?

Gotcha

Shadow Tactics came out late last year and adopted and improved most of the ideas of Commandos. You can time your stabs and ninja stars so that your team of assassins will strike in perfect unison. There is one particular thing they’ve kept from the crack WWII squad – the sniper reticule. One of your team has a gunpowder rifle with a crosshair that makes everything under your mouse cursor larger.

Tactically, you need to be in the right place to aim your shot. And the rifle is loud, alerting enemies to your presence if used too close to them. Apart from that, it’s fun to see a really specific visual effect from a 90s game suddenly pop up in a game from 2016. I realise that I’ve essentially smuggled a recommendation of a contemporary game inside the skin of what was supposed to be a retrospective of a beloved series. But I’m not sorry. It’s a better game.

43 Comments

  1. RuySan says:

    I got frustrated enough with Cannon Fodder to keep me of this kind of trial and error RTS’s for decades. I don’t know if Shadow Tactics is different enough in that regard, but i’m not too keen to find out.

    • Unclepauly says:

      There’s a demo on steam. You’re welcome

    • TheDandyGiraffe says:

      They have literally nothing in common. And if you’re afraid of the trial-and-error component, I’d say try Shadow Tactics anyway – the trial-and-error approach is actually just one way of playing these games, the “see all your plans fall apart and deal with the consequences on the go” attitude is equally valid.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    Well, you surprised me, I’ll give you that one.

    But I haven’t played either of these. Commandos always looked interesting, but I never got ’round to it, and I’ve never even heard of Shadow Tactics.

    • 6unn3r says:

      You cant play Commandos 2 or 3 on windows 10. Or at least I and many other cant’t because of reasons yet to be worked out. Legacy or not it wont run.

  3. c-Row says:

    I used to play this with my dad. He really liked the setting but he couldn’t keep up with the more twitchy moments so he took up the role of advisor and I sat there to execute his commands. Great times.

    Would be great if Mimimi would do a WW2-themed sequel next, seeing how all the tech already exists.

    • Lieutenant_Scrotes says:

      That sounds like a great bonding experience. The best gaming I had with my dad was him letting me win at Street Fighter or him kicking me off the Playstation to play Command and Conquer.

    • Werthead says:

      They’ve said that they want to explore different time periods and the series should continue (I think it sold reasonably well, thanks to strong reviews). They’re due to announce their next game in the next few months, I believe, and they said that Shadow Tactics fans will be pleased, so I assume it will be a sequel of some description.

  4. Troubletcat says:

    Bullshit. It wasn’t a better game. Commandos cured cancer whereas…

    I’m sorry, I can’t maintain this facade anymore. This is one of the few cases where a modern game took a classic formula and actually improved upon it. I played Commandos 2 when it was new, and it was great – revelation. The Commandos franchise as a whole is still good enough to still be worth a look but…

    Blades of the Shogun really is better.

  5. Halk says:

    I tried the Shadow Tactics demo but it got frustrating and repetitive fast. I really missed a “spacebar to pause” feature as in the Infinity Engine days to issue commands to multiple characters at the same time.

    • Horg says:

      Shadow Tactics has ‘Shadow Mode’ which lets you pre-program 1 action per agent, which will then be performed simultaneously with a single button press.

    • DanMan says:

      Can’t blame you. I ordered one of the characters to go prone on a balcony. That caused him to clip through the railing, which then must made him visible to the guards below. That’s when I quit the demo and never looked back.

      • Werthead says:

        I played through the campaign twice, over 25 hours, and did not encounter a single clipping bug once. Either you got incredibly unlucky or that was a bug in the demo that wasn’t in the full game.

    • Werthead says:

      That was my initial thought as well, until you realise that it would make the game ridiculously easy. The game relies on the simultaneous order system instead.

      Satellite Reign – which weirdly feels quite similar to Shadow Tactics despite being a different genre – had the same complaints and they added a “stim pack” mode which slows the game down to 10% normal time. That game focused more on outright combat though, so it was more necessary.

      • Halk says:

        >That was my initial thought as well, until you
        >realise that it would make the game ridiculously easy.

        Maybe, but if a game is hard simply because it artificially makes it harder for the player to tell the game his/her intentions, then it is hard for the wrong reasons.

        • Horg says:

          It’s a real time tactics game, which you must have known when you bought it. Shadow Tactics could not make the user interface any simpler. You have customisable split screen with a 360° view, so you can have a camera on every agent simultaneously. All agents have a hotkey, all abilities have a hotkey, and all execute with a single mouse click. Add Shadow Mode to that, which is as close to a pause feature as you can get in a real time game, and I struggle to see how you can blame the game for your inability to issue orders.

  6. voorsk says:

    I never thought of it as an RTS, but I guess DoW2 is still considered an RTS, and is kinda similar.. does this mean syndicate was an RTS?? :o

  7. Premium User Badge

    Grizzly says:

    I have played COmmandos, I have yet to play Shadow Tactics. Commandos 2 was for me the highpoint though, the first Commandos mabye a tad too rough around the edges…

  8. b00p says:

    shadow tactics is so slept on. it was one of my favorite games of last year (well, this year, since it came out in december i think.) as someone who has no nostalgia for either commandos or love for RTS’s in general, i found shadow tactics to be absolutely excellent. it’s more like a puzzle game, and also a bit of an isometric hitman. big open beautiful levels of sometimes stunningly devious challenge that feel incredibly satisfying when you find that path through or manage to get your target without setting everything off. the characters are all different and have interesting skills that combine in fun ways. even the story is surprisingly well done, way better than it has any need to be. the demo is generous as well and will easily give you an idea if you are interested or not. me, i went out and picked it up immediately.

  9. Shrews says:

    Loved the commandos franchise, even though i was shit at most of them. Commandos 2 i remember being ok at. Desperados was my favourite of that genre. Temped to give this ninja game a try.

    • Nosebeggar says:

      Desperados is still in my top 10 games of all time. Let me tell you: Shadow tactics does more than hold up. It is excellent. I played this using family sharing from my dad’s account and when he started playing something I immediatly saved, quit the game, bought it and restarted. Full price. It’s that good. The level design is excellent and there are definitely multiple paths to take. The only downside is that the characters do not feel all that different from another, whereas desperados’ characters all had very distinctive skills.

      Get it, you won’t regret it.

      • TheDandyGiraffe says:

        Yes! Desperados was actually the first game I properly “beat”, as in, completed the whole campaign. It was absolutely brilliant. I’ve been trying to make it run on either of my laptops (windows, mac), but neither the Steam version nor the one on GOG seems to be working, which really really sucks.

  10. Carra says:

    I played Shadow Tactics this year. I loved it. Heck, I even managed to finish it!

    I did play Commandos when I was a wee lad of 14. And it was way too difficult back then. I never got past the second level (without cheating). I guess I now have more patience for games like this.

  11. gruia says:

    i played all of them recently. commandos had the best aesthetics design and immersion. best attention to detail, but level design was wobbly.
    desperados had best level design imo
    shadow tactics is inbetween.
    we need more RTT

    • Richard_from_Winnipeg says:

      I know it’s not the same setting and the gameplay is somewhat different, but Mechcommander is somewhat of a RTT that I really enjoyed. But you really have to pay attention to where you can destroy walls to alter how you can move around the map.

      Also, Myth 2: Soulblighter. What an amazing RTT game?!

      • FredSaberhagen says:

        Yes!! Was that the one that introduced hero units? And levels like using the rocket cannon dwarves to try to stop giants (which dwarves more than occasionally blew themselves up?)

  12. Viral Frog says:

    This article was genuinely surprising. Bravo.

    I enjoy Commandos quite a bit. It was one of my favorite games as a kid. I’ve done the demo for Shadow Tactics but I haven’t gotten the full game. Shadow Tactics, from what I played, felt like it took everything good about Commandos and made it better.

  13. Eawyne says:

    I fondly remember when Commandos came out, it really was a blast, and then the extension came out, and it was mercyless. I got stuck at some point, don’t really remember… but it frustrated me so much, I didn’t play it anymore.

    Commandos 2 was a perfect game for me for many years. The formula had been expanded so incredibly well. Getting inside the buildings, the submarine mission, the Giant Buddha…

    But my favorite was Desperados : those maps were so incredibly magnificent ! The narrative was cheesy, but the characters really were likeable. I loved Robin Hood too, while it was a little sub-par, it still held well.

    I’ve got to get Shadow Tactics ; I’m waiting for a bargain on GoG, as my video game budget is smaller these days. The demo sold it to me !

  14. Sin Vega says:

    I had a crack at Commandos about 2010 or so, and it was novel but really not for me, as I was terrible at it. Puzzle games, innit.

  15. Vanderdecken says:

    I remember loving the visuals and concept of Commandos 2, and playing the first few levels when I was a kid, but being utterly terrible of it and terrified of making a mistake. Bought the collection for tuppence on GOG a year or two ago and still haven’t touched them – waiting for an appropriate nostalgia trip, or the loss of my job.

  16. Jimbo says:

    Little known fact that you can play Commandos co-op. It’s ridiculously difficult but oh so satisfying when a plan works out.

    iirc in co-op you only have the one quick save slot, so it’s always a massive decision whether to save or not because it’s so easy to save yourselves into an almost impossible or actually impossible position.

    • Sushewakka says:

      I played the whole of Commandos 2 as a co-op game with my brother in LAN back when we both were in highschool. I had finished the game on my own so I could act as commander through the missions, laying the general plan, then letting him do his thing. Great times.

  17. Ghostwise says:

    Loved it back in the days, still have the CD-in-a-black-plastic-box somewhere.

    I doubt I’d have the patience for it nowadays, but them’s good memories.

  18. TheDandyGiraffe says:

    People keep mentioning Desperados, and rightly so – brilliant game – but has everyone forgotten about Robin Hood: Legends of Sherwood and Chicago 1930 (both from Spellbound)? While the latter was admittedly quite clunky, Robin Hood was actually neat and fun – not as good as Commandos 2 or Desperados, but it had some interesting manage-your-own base mechanics.

    • goodpoints says:

      Robin Hood has always been my favorite Commandos-like. I never really cared for the rest of the genre as the lack of Fog of War and the highly clustered enemies turns them into tedious trial-and-error quicksave-mashing puzzle games. Robin Hood did those 2 things and yet it’s still so underappreciated. It’s still a fantastic romp as long as you don’t get distracted too much by the base/strategic layer as the randomized ambush missions get boring fast.

  19. snake756 says:

    The biggest improvement Shadow Tactics made is that they did a good job having the game in actual 3D, and didn’t screw up the system up like the later games in the Commandos series did.

    Shadows Tactics definitely hit that pixel image beauty thing that commandos was great for. I mean, for it’s time, commandos had some great art.

  20. TheBeret says:

    Wow- I saved this link for later to read about a game I missed back in the day and might be interested in getting if it was written well enough. Never have I been more disappointed in an article before. Lift your game RPS, you’re better than this.

  21. OutSider03 says:

    If you like Commandos and Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun, you should play Desperados: Dead or Alive :).

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