Commandos 2 – HD Remaster Review: War, War Never Changes (Switch)

The legendary tactics game Commandos 2 is back with an HD remaster, but does it live up to the hefty reputation of the original? With sharper visuals but finicky controls, it is hard to fall back in love. Find out where we land in our review.

Commandos 2 HD Remaster Review: War, War Never Changes (Switch)

Remember Commandos 2? It was great. Oh wait, you don’t remember? And I don’t remember because I was 3 years old when it came out? Oh yeah, oops! Well yes, I did in fact manage to play Commandos 2 when I was 14 years old (that’s 11 years after its release, probably) and had this £150 Compaq laptop that I insisted could run everything. I made it run GTA IV like a maniac, and yes, I made it run Commandos 2.

To my delight, this great big awful laptop could run Commandos 2 a lot more competently than it could run GTA IV. I played a little bit at the time and thought, “Wow, this game is hard work,” and then stopped playing. Well, if the tagline for the original Commandos 2 was “hard work you’re gonna love”, then the tagline for the HD Remaster is bound to be “hard work made harder because you’re not meant to love war, kiddo”.

Commandos 2 - HD Remaster - Nintendo Switch™ Release Date Reveal Trailer (US)

Commandos 2 – HD Remaster is out now for PCPlayStation 4, and Xbox One for $19.99, and Nintendo Switch for $29.99.

Story & Gameplay — Well, This War Has Changed

When reviewing a remaster it is quite difficult to work out what angle to take. The original Commandos 2 is a classic in the real-time tactics genre and is a genuinely great game. But a lot has been done in this remaster that could be considered a detriment.

If we first consider the story, we should start with what has changed from the original. You would expect little to nothing, but for some reason, quite a bit has changed. The first thing you’ll notice is that Nazi imagery has been removed, alongside Japanese Imperial symbols. Kalypso Media, the remasterer, did give an explanation.

The reality is, as a German company, they have to follow rules on Nazi imagery imposed by the German government (within Germany at least). Outside of Germany, it is a different matter, but it is obvious that Kalypso didn’t want to make multiple versions of the game.

I don’t think I land on either side of this debate, and I definitely won’t get into any nonsense about censorship. But it does raise a pertinent point that will come up again and again: why should you play this version of this game? If the story, a war story that pushes for realism, is lessened by the lack of historically accurate imagery, then maybe stick with the original version.

Beyond that, the story is all the same, still as fine as it was before. It can be quite thrilling, with tales of espionage and assassination, but still suffers from pacing as before. These levels can be such hard nuts to crack that it is hard to feel the story has any drive to it.

Looking at each level and finding the solution is easier and just as entertaining as before.

Looking at each level and finding the solution is easier and just as entertaining as before.

This pacing is made worse by the gameplay issues you face on the Nintendo Switch, issues I assume would be the same for other console versions. While the actual gameplay is identical, the change in the controls from PC to console is some of the worse implementation I’ve ever seen. While you still take control of multiple commandos with different abilities, crawling through mud, sneaking around, and switching between your characters, it is much harder than it needs to be.

Quite often you’ll find yourself dying in a situation that would normally be certain victory on the PC. Issues with aiming are rife, often making you miss your shot. There is also the maddening controls to change the camera. First, you hold down ‘R’, then press the d-pad left or right to swivel the camera to one of four angles. In a pinch, you cannot change the camera to get a better look at what’s going on. You’d just be dead.

Levels still play out with a certain tension, but you die too often for it to be maintained.

Levels still play out with a certain tension, but you die too often for it to be maintained.

So while the gameplay is still entertaining, the barriers to success are now higher than the already high difficulty level. Simply switching between characters is hard work, let alone getting them to do what you want them to. If you’re a fan of this game and really want to play it on the go, then maybe the Switch version is for you, but if not, it is hard to recommend it considering how it plays. But this is a remaster, so at least it looks better, right?

Graphics & Audio — One Step Forward, One Step Back

Well, kind of. The way this game looked before and the way it looks now are two different things, of course. The only thing that seems to have occurred visually is that everything is now sharper. Other than the removal of certain war symbols, nothing has changed aesthetically.

That is definitely a good thing, keeping the original look of the game. But there is something about the very simple up-res that occurred that is very underwhelming. There is nothing in the sharper textures that makes anything better. In fact, I think some of the charm of the original game is lost.

A nice comparison provided by Kalypso Media.

A nice comparison provided by Kalypso Media.

This will come down to personal preference, but it’s not like this HD remaster brings out new life in the characters or the scenes. It does make understanding solutions easier to spot, for sure, but then you have to wrestle with the controls to reach those solutions, so it feels like one step forwards and then one step back.

Then, on the overall technical side, there is the way the game runs on Switch. It’s pretty much fine, considering this doesn’t seem to be a massively demanding game, but I did run into a few issues. Firstly, the load screens are really surprisingly long and become a real nuisance when you die so many times. In-game, there are a handful of bugs but nothing I came across was game-breaking.

The audio is fine, with fun voice acting and no low fidelity sound issues that you sometimes get on Switch ports. All in all Commandos 2 – HD Remaster is an incredibly middling return for the legendary game. Every improvement is hampered by the fiddly controls, and every detriment feels like it could have been avoided. For a game that was already hard work, it is surprising that it has become even more hard work.

Commandos 2 – HD Remaster was reviewed on Nintendo Switch and a code was provided by Kalypso Media.

Summary
Commandos 2 - HD Remaster takes a classic and spruces is up, without ever making it better. While there are sharper visuals to bring this game into the modern-day, there are also incredibly unintuitive controls that make almost every action more difficult than before. While finding solutions in a level is now more obvious, reaching that solution is more difficult. For every step forward this remaster takes, it takes an equal step backwards.
Good
  • Same entertaining tactical gameplay
  • Sharper visuals
  • Better onboarding
Bad
  • Unbelievable tough controls
  • More removed than added
  • Incredibly high price on Switch
5
Average

2 Comments

  1. Hello,

    just to warn you that this site has to copy / paste and translate your review, to put it on its site.

    best
    http://www.otakuplayer.fr/2021/01/avis-commandos-2-hd-remaster.html

    
    
    Reply
    • Thanks, we’ll check it out.

      Reply

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