Good luck. officer.
“Officer, your mission is simple. You are to navigate your men through a heavily guarded German base, disable the electrified fence, steal some explosives, blow up the dam and return home to safety in the escape vehicle. I want everyone back alive, good luck, officer.”
A mission of this magnitude will require the allied forces’ most specialist unit of heroes and misfits to get the job done. Six men that are highly trained experts in their individual fields. These men are…The Commandos.
Whatever You Say, Officer
Released in 1998, Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines is a single player, real-time tactics game. You play the role of an officer. You have been entrusted with the task of making sure your men get the job done safely and efficiently.
The prestigious six are made up of ‘Tiny’; the Green Beret, ‘Fins’; the Marine, ‘Brooklyn’; the Driver, ‘Duke’; the Sniper, ‘Fireman’ the Sapper and ‘Spooky’; the Spy. Each commando is unique in their abilities; therefore, you will rely on certain commandos to perform specific tasks which others cannot. For example, if you have to cross a river to reach your destination then this job can only be accomplished with the Marine. This is the crux of Commandos: BEL’s gameplay, therefore, each mission requires careful, strategic planning and an understanding of each commando’s strengths and weaknesses to succeed.
Commandos: BEL is controlled solely by use of the mouse with hot keys available to access equipment or options faster. Issuing commands is as simple as pointing and clicking on the location, enemy or context sensitive item. Your commandos can run, go prone and perform specific actions designated to them.
The gameplay is also relatively simple. Each enemy has a ‘cone’ of vision consisting of a light green and dark green sector. If your commando is prone, they can crawl through the dark green sector unseen. However, if your commando is standing, the guard will be alerted. If your commando is caught in the light green sector, the guard will always be alerted regardless whether your commando is prone or standing. The challenge is to avoid the scope of the guards’ vision, planning the most opportune moments to advance or dispose of the enemy.
Meet The Elite
The Irish born Green Beret epitomises the very notion of a ‘commando’. Fast, strong, deadly and brimming with well-placed confidence, Tiny is essential to any mission. Tiny’s skills include the ability to climb walls; using the climbing axe, move explosive barrels and hide enemy bodies. He can also dig himself into the snow; using his shovel, making him invisible to enemies. Tiny carries worthwhile equipment too. His acoustic decoy can be deployed near an enemy and activated remotely. If heard by the enemy, they will investigate the noise, providing a perfect opportunity to set up an ambush or coax an enemy away from a highly guarded area. Tiny also has, like every other commando, a pistol available. The most useful tool in Tiny’s arsenal however is the humble combat knife. Tiny has the strength and speed to rush behind an enemy; silently assassinate them with the knife, pick up the body and leave the scene of the crime without alerting any guards in close proximity.
Fast, strong, deadly and brimming with well-placed confidence, Tiny is essential to any mission.
The Marine is a hardworking squad member, reflected in his polite, determined attitude. The Australian might be unfairly regarded as a scenario specific character at times due to the fact he is most valuable when the commandos must transverse across water, but Fins has many useful features of his own. Armed with a pistol, a knife, an inflatable raft (used to transport three commandos at a time), Fins key item is his harpoon gun. Silent and accurate at long range, the harpoon gun is the perfect weapon for taking down an enemy in an ambush. Fins can also use his diving skills to swim under water, undetectable to enemies, to an adjacent island and remove guards that may be in difficult positions if the commandos were to approach by raft.
The Driver is the only American of the group. Brash, loud and almost arrogant, Brooklyn is the only man who can operate vehicles, capture artillery posts and commandeer heavy machine guns. Like the Marine, Brooklyn is a more of a scenario specific character. Unexpectedly however, Brooklyn carries a first-aid kit, along with carrying a pistol and a powerful submachine gun. The first-aid kit is useful to restore the health of any injured commandos.
The Sniper is a cool, cold and quiet individual, which is probably unsurprising considering a sniper is always as far away as possible from the conflict itself, often hidden and alone for days. The Brit is equipped with a first aid kit, pistol and of course, a sniper rifle. Deadly and silent at incredible range, once Duke has an enemy in his sights, the sniper rifle is the perfect weapon for discretely picking off enemies. Naturally, the sniper rifle has limited ammunition which means shots should only be taken when eliminating the enemy from a specific position is absolutely necessary.
The Sapper is quintessentially British and an explosives expert. Armed with a pistol, grenades, pliers, time bombs, remote control bombs and a bear trap, the Sapper is the jack of all trades and a valuable asset. The pliers can be used to cut through fences, the explosives for destroying objectives but, my personal favourite tool available is the bear trap. When clear, Fireman can lay down the bear trap, primed and ready to viciously snap through an unsuspecting enemy. The bear trap is a great way of slowly taking down well equipped patrols without alerting other guards.
The Spy is a master at infiltration and disguise. The Frenchman is equipped with a pistol, first aid kit and a syringe of poison. Like the knife, Spooky can sneak up to an unsuspecting enemy and inject them with a lethal dose of poison, silent and lethal. Spooky is most useful when he can obtain a German Officer’s attire. Once in possession and dressed accordingly, the Spy can distract enemies, useful for diverting their gaze away from the other commandos.
Each commando has his own ‘one-liners’ when they are given orders. Surprisingly, this unassuming addition manages to give each character a significantly stronger identity than merely relying on their appearance and abilities alone. For example, when you click on an area the Green Beret cannot reach he will nonchalantly exclaim ‘Wish I could do that!’ The commandos’ personalities provide a real charm to the game.
Consider It Done Boss
Visually, Commandos: BEL holds up extremely well. The 2D art style was incredibly detailed for its time and the explosions are as impressive as ever. As with all games, good gameplay is the foundation, and Commandos simple yet challenging gameplay is a joy to play even today. It’s hard not to find yourself muttering the one-liners, and it’s impossible to hold back the satisfaction of successfully accomplishing a formidable mission.
There’s nothing out there quite like it, and for that, we should all salute Commandos: BEL.