Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines – The Dirty Half a Dozen [RETRO-1998]

RETRO – Commandos takes place in 1940, on the bloody fields of Western Europe, where the German army has prepared its forces to launch an assault on Great Britain. As an officer of the British army, our objective is to command six special commandos to complete dangerous missions against the German army.


Eidos’ newest RTS allows us to command a commando unit. The developers were probably inspired by such movies as the Dirty Dozen, Where Eagles Dare, or the Guns of Navarone. The missions are very reminiscent of the scenarios presented here. It seems that this topic is popular right now as it has similar themes to Soldiers at War.

However, compared to SSI’s game, Commandos is not a turn-based game, but a real time one. Before the Diablo fans will start to throw their party hats in the air, and the fans of Jagged Alliance or X-Com would leave (which was a thing I did when I did not properly check out the game), I am happy to tell that Commandos is not a mindless shooter, but a nitty-gritty tactical RTS.


Luckily the missions are really complicated and interesting: there is a total of twenty-four missions with a lot of cannons, dams, radars to blow up, enemy generals to kill. Although there is no overarching story that connects the missions, the events are all authentic, and follow the timeline of the Second World War, and also take place in real locations (in one of the missions we have to destroy the famous German cannon called Leopold)

Before every mission, there is a bit of a background information of the history of the location. After the little history lesson our superior explains the mission to us, shows the objectives that need to be destroyed. It is important to listen to what he says, as he informs us of terrain, escape routes, and weapon caches scattered around the map


Brains or reflexes? Use both

When we finally arrive at the mission site, we do not control all of our commando members; we only get a few of them. Before we start running around aimlessly and kill every walking “Gerry” that is alive, we need to first survey the map or our commandos will end up six feet under. We can only be successful if all of our steps are carefully calculated, checking the patrol routes, and taking them out quietly. Their corpses need to be hidden, or an alarm will be raised by the bases.


The player must rarely use the machine gun, or handguns of the commandos or the entire German army will be on your toes in a few seconds. When our soldiers are seen there are a few options available: get caught, and taken to prison, fight back, and if lucky survive (or die). Yes, it is not really worth trying to go and fight them on the open field, as you’ll end up with a bunch of your commandos screaming for their god. If they get carried off to prison, you can have the opportunity to break them out. It is highly important that the patrol units do not notice us, and our units will need to move like ghosts.

Even if all of the enemy bodies are hidden, the enemy can still notice us, all it takes is one bad set of footsteps in the snow. In this regard, the gameplay is very similar to the old C64’s The Great Escape, or the old Amiga game called Escape from Colditz. There we had to look out for the German patrols also, and crawl when they were not looking. The difference is mere that while in one game we had to escape from them, in this one we have to break into them, and we also have our toys to do it.


Death is my trade

Our commandos are all unique characters with different skills and weapons. The game has an American Green Beret, the Spy that speaks fluent German. Not all of our commandos have special abilities, for instance, only the Driver can use trucks, boats, motorcycles. The Sapper can use bombs, and the Marksman has a sniper rifle. All of their personality is crafted with care in this game; they even have accents and small quips against enemy deaths.

All of the missions are built up in a way that requires us to use the special abilities to complete them. Most of the times we’ll be using our knife to silence our enemies. It is really fun to use our Driver also: There is not a more fun way of killing enemies than driving through them with a German tank, or using its machine gun to mow them down ( I might be a bit of a sadist ? ) .


Artificial Intelligence

As RTS are becoming popular again, the AI has become a central part of the product. With the advancement of the technology, it is now not enough to produce mindless drones for us to kill. While the bots in Quake and Unreal are sneaky and aggressive, RTS games do not contain such advanced AI yet. Although Commandos lacks any of the AI quality shown in Quake or Unreal, the soldiers in Commandos do try to react realistically to our movement, and actions throughout the missions.


War in 3D

The environments are rendered in 3D, and they are so beautiful when sneaking through the map. Whether it is a complex base, a vehicle, or the smallest patch of grass, the developers were very attentive to details. Every vehicle and the weapon are authentic of the era, the trains, motorcycles, tanks all are based on the real life models. Some of the locations have their daily cycles, with officers, transport trucks, and patrol boats moving around the map. Our commandos leave a trail around muddy/snowy/ sandy locations.


The graphics settings can range from 512×318 to 1024×768. The developers tried to spice up the game with a lot of effects, especially during explosions. However as the game does not take advantage of the video cards, do not expect too much from it.

Besides the graphics being above average, and very detailed, we have everything here for a good commando RTS game: complex, and difficult missions, exciting gameplay. So everyone can enjoy this little adventure back into WW2 to stealth kill some Nazis.


Is it the best game for this mission?

At first, I was hesitant to try out this game, fearing that the real time element of the game would just result in endless killing. Luckily I was disappointed, and I found a really good strategy game in Commandos where the smart gameplay is combined with exciting real-time combat. It is much more tense to successfully sneak behind an enemy and cut his throat than to do frontal attacks. The atmosphere is also heightened that the environment is “living” without our input, which allows the player to immerse itself into the game world seamlessly.

I also liked that a lot of references were made to famous war movies such as Where Eagles Dare’s Lanka scene, the Dirty Dozen’s German HQ scene, and a mission similar to the Guns of Navarone, and in the mission, we had to destroy ashore turret that was threatening the British Navy. Our commandos were real hotshots, so I was able to enjoy the game more than say Soldiers at War’s usual grunts.


Unfortunately, there are annoying glitches in Commandos. Some of the AI for the enemy is too good, and our NPC’s pathfinding ability is not the best. If they get noticed, they do not move, just yell as they are getting shot, we’ll have to control them. There should have been a small routine for them to take cover or give themselves up instead of yelling at the sky while getting shot to pieces.

There are also a bug or two in the game: The enemy soldiers can get stuck in the game world’s objects, or they get stuck in each other. There were even times when a German patrol truck did not notice the corpse hill that is blocking his way to the base. It was funny, but a bit sad that AI ignores stuff from time to time.


A big issue is that there is no support for any 3D card. While most isometric games have 3D effects, Commandos does not. It would have been great to see an actual fog effect in a snowy location. Speaking of snow, even though our footprints get covered up, there is no real “snowing” effect in the game, so it is quite disappointing, and these could have been easily added to further heighten the atmosphere.

A few “lens flares” would have also been great to see on some of the vehicle’s headlights. Besides this, the detailed graphics are a bit generic and are not too special.


Regarding sound effects, the game is a sort of mute: other than the engine sound of vehicles, a few responses by our NPCs, gun sound, German commands, and a few annoying sirens there are not much else to hear in this game. What else would I have wanted to hear? Maybe a bit more natural sounds like wind sound, camp sound or something else than complete silence at certain parts. Maybe I am a bit of a perfectionist, but a lot of other games have already added these features.

There is also no music during the game, so Commandos is a bit of a “silent” during gameplay. There are some short 10-15 second music parts but nothing substantial.

All in all, Commandos is an exciting game with well-written missions, and since the atmosphere is also great, the game will give me a few restless nights while I try to evac my soldiers from behind enemy lines.

-BadSector- (1998)


+ Tactical gameplay
+ Six characters, meaning six kinds of gameplay
+ WW II milieu


– Our men’s AI is dire
– Sometimes it’s pretty frustrating
– Graphics were already a bit outdated in 1998

Publihser: Eidos

Developer: Pyro Studios

Genres: tactical, action,

Publication: 1998

Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines

Gameplay - 9.1
Graphics (1998) - 7.6
Tactical elements - 8.7
Music/audio - 6.1
Ambiance - 9.1



All in all, Commandos is an exciting game with well written missions, and since the atmosphere is also great, the game will give me a few restless nights while I try to evac my soldiers from behind enemy lines.

User Rating: 4.01 ( 4 votes)

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BadSector is a seasoned journalist for more than twenty years. He communicates in English, Hungarian and French. He worked for several gaming magazines - including the Hungarian GameStar, where he worked 8 years as editor. (For our office address, email and phone number check out our impressum)

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