A double-bill of revamped Pyro Studios games are coming our way on January 24th, 2020, publishers Kalypso announced today: “HD Remasters” of Commandos 2 and Praetorians. 2001’s Commandos 2 is a proper good’un, a squad-based tactical isometric sneak-o-shooter about covert operations in World War 2 – and a huge inspiration for newer games like Shadow Tactics. Praetorians is a Roman RTS, which I don’t know but I bet Ghoastus does. The HD Remasters look worse to my eye and the originals are still sold so I’m not wholly sure what the point is, but hey, any excuse to remind people of Commandos?
Kalypso bought Pyro’s games in 2018, saying they planned to revive ’em with revamps and new games. Still no word on a Commandos 3, but here’s Commandos 2 – HD Remaster and Praetorians – HD Remaster coming in a few months. Kalypso talk about improving the controls and UI in both games, which does sound welcome, but the marquee feature is the revamped art. This art looks bad.
In 2016, resident RPS warman Tim Stone declared his favourite art style to be Commandos 2. He explained:
“No-one looks at a Vermeer or a Caravaggio and goes ‘Beautiful! In an old fashioned sort of way’. It’s the same with Commandos 2 screenshots. Despite being almost old enough to vote and kill for king and country, Pyro Studio’s team tactics triumph looks as fresh and fabulous today as it did when it was released in 2001.”
And it does. Commandos 2 looks wholly like itself with precise, painterly pixels. The HD Remaster is noisy, messy, over-sharpened, clashing, and charmless. This is particularly clear in the screenshots on Steam. It has more more detail, no doubt, but it looks worse. The noise crushes implied and imagined detail with ugly real details.
This is a mistake countless remasters and makeover mods make. They chase higher texture resolutions and polygon counts with a focus on ‘detail’ and ‘realism’ over style. Technology trumps artistry. Games culture in general has a real problem with this, fed by hardware manufacturers pushing the march of technological progress and higher fidelity as aesthetic improvements. Nvidia are making old games look worse with high-tech features to get people to buy new graphics cards. PC gaming has no taste. We’re so tacky.
Commands 2 – HD Remaster and Praetorians – HD Remaster are coming on January 24th. The originals are still sold on Steam and GOG for about £4. Bet the new ones will cost more.
While we’ve no word on a new Commandos yet, the Desperados series (which is so very Commandos-y) is being revived by THQ Nordic with a Desperados III made by the studio behind Shadow Tactics.