The first Commandos games was released in 1998 for the PC. Gamers warmed to its tough but rewarding brand of 2-D tactical action and a mission pack and two sequels were duly released. But Commandos Strike Force (CSF) is a different beast.
The most obvious change has been its re-casting as a first-person shooter, but apart from this, much of the original's spirit remains - the unforgiving difficulty, the adaptive gameplay, the enormous satisfaction gained from finishing a level - and the game is stronger for it.
CSF has you taking charge of the Sniper, Spy and Green Beret through 14 missions in France, Norway and Stalingrad. Some involve more than one member of the team, in which case you can switch between them with the press of a button. This allows the team to play on one of its real strengths - letting you choose how to tackle any task.
Each mission is broken down into a number of primary and secondary objectives. Both are often updated on the fly, which can test your tactical thinking and really put you on the spot; but whether you're stealing trucks, assassinating a General or blowing up a bridge, you're free to come up with your own game plan.
Fancy stealth? Use the Spy, preferably disguised in an enemy uniform. Good shot? Use the Sniper to take down the bad guys, one bullet at a time. Feeling aggro? Then use the Green Beret to take the fight to the enemy. Crucial events like the impending arrival of reinforcements or an escaping officer are shown in a window in the top-right corner of the screen, allowing you to take steps to avoid disaster.
Speaking of which, you'll often have friendly troops with you on missions. There are no squad commands, but they act reasonably intelligently and respond to your progress. You'll often have to give them cover or run over and heal them with a medikit, but it's well worth the effort. Not only can taking too many casualties cause mission failure, they're quite capable troops. It's not at all unusual, when playing as a Sniper, to draw a bead only to see your intended target go down in a hail of your comrades' bullets.
However, with relatively realistic damage modelling and the highly aggravating lack of any in-mission save points, you'll be playing some sections many times before you get them right. This is particularly annoying on long missions, where one mistake will have you starting from scratch. What prevents this from becoming a game-breaker is the sense of achievement you get from completion.
If you fail a mission, you can be sure it's because you stuffed up; either failing to check lines of sight or running headlong into a room of soldiers.
Verdict: In-mission save points would cut the aggravation of the sometimes trial-and-error gameplay, but if you're willing to mix tactical and all-guns-blazing with stealth and infiltration, then Commandos Strike Force is one for you.
Score: 4 out of 5
Price: $89.95 ($99.95 console)