Genre: Multiplayer 2D Shooter
Developer: Epos Game Studios / Sweden AB
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: 12/17/2008
I’ve always had a special place in my heart for 2d scrolling carnage shooters. On first glance they look simple, however they conceal their hidden depth. Playing Crash Commando made me feel like I was playing Abuse only with multiplayer instead of aliens busting out of the floor.
Until Id GPL‘d Quake in December of 1999, Abuse was my pick for best game on Linux since its release in 1996.
Story / Modes
Plot is nearly non-existant in this title. There is an introduction sequence where you can spin up your skills in the game by playing bots in a single player Boot Camp mode. Naturally if you play each of the maps on both levels of bot difficulty and beat all of the Commando Scores, you are awarded an achievement a trophy. You have to remember that these are trophies and should not be confused with achievements everywhere else. Make sure to unlock your trophies!
It might be lacking in story, but the modes of play are pretty fantastic. There is the usual every man-for-themselves Deathmatch and the predictable Team Deathmatch, where there always seems to be some idiot on your team filling you full of lead because they can’t tell the difference. Additionally, and where the teamwork really shines, is in the Map Objectives game mode.
Unclear on what “Map Objectives” is supposed to mean? That’s why I’m here. In this mode, the game randomly selects “Sabotage” or “Espionage” and your team to attack or defend for a time duration. If you fail to achieve the mission objective as the attacking team in the time allotted, the defenders win. The Sabotage missions have a victory objective of blowing up three control panels at the different bases by attaching demolitions charges to them. If you’re applying the charges, your teammates need to defend you. Once they’re set, you have to guard them from being disarmed until they explode. If you die, there is a delay and you will re-spawn at least half the map away from where the action is. It is imperative that you stay alive and work as a team to succeed.
The Espionage missions are similar to Sabotage except there is a capture the flag interaction instead of a bomb countdown. The attacking team must defend one of their teammates hacking data blocks from a terminal. Once the block (one or two blocks can be held by a player) are downloaded, you must successfully retreat to the uplink station and stand by while it transmits.
It gets dicey and fast. If only it had voice chat support. Oh wait. It does! Hitting L2 allows you to speak to your teammates, however it is off by default. Since most people aren’t keen on reading directions, I have not yet encountered anyone who has voice mode on. Reading the help and options menu is a real requirement for this game. The details are pure gold. Details like using the jetpack powerup as a weapon, but I’ll get to that later.
A HD 2-D side scroller sounds like it wouldn’t be very pretty, but in its own way, it is. Blood sprays and splatters from machine gun and explosives. Tanks and jeeps explode with fiery shrapnel and fall as a burnt out husk. Remote controlled missiles fly around slowly but will paste everyone on the screen when they explode. Players on the flip side of this two-layer game can be seen in the background and can shot at by turrets that the players can control. It is simple but satisfying for what it is. Like Bionic Commando: Rearmed, it translates an old school feeling with HD textures and mechanics.
There is a simple patriotic-sounding soundtrack and very satisfying in-game sound effects. To be extra annoying to friend and foe alike, you can hammer the Taunt command to command your commando to say a few gruff, manly, and soldierly things. The explosions and weapons fire on screen sound great. The tread sounds of the tank inspire terror. Offscreen combat sounds are echoey and realistic sounding. Well. As realistic as I know about anyway for missile launchers and machine guns.
Control / Gameplay
The controls in Crash Commando are largely intuitive but a bit difficult to master. Almost all of the time, your hands will be on the thumb actuators and the left and right paddles. This is surprisingly comfortable and accurate after an initial break in session.
Each of the standard weapons; the machine gun, shotgun, sniper rifle, rocket launcher, grenade launcher, and CAB come with their own tactics and behaviors. Additionally if you run out of ammunition for your primary weapon, something that I believe would only happen if you are camping a base or being a cheapass, you can fall back on one of two side arms; the gun (a pistol) and a knife.
If that wasn’t enough, you also get a choice of explosives; hand grenades, c4, or mines.
If all of these weren’t enough, there are also two super weapons, two types of vehicles, a rocket launching bunker, and a heavy machine gun turret for attacking the flip side of the game.
Let me explain the flip side, as I call it, of each of the maps. In each map, there are a handful of locations represented by a bridge, tunnel, or entrance of some kind that leads to the other half of the map. Half of the bases are located on each side. Sometimes you can catch a glimpse of enemies and allies in the background, but usually it can not be guessed if there are a mob of commandos waiting for you on the other side or not. Fortunately the game gives you a second, or so, of invulnerability to take a look at your surroundings. It is also worth noting that you can not shoot when you are invulnerable, but you can return to the other side of the map if you are not moving, or hit the gas of the jetback.
I will cover the weapons and their details in the balance section below, but let’s talk more about the jetpack. Besides running around, the jetpack is how you do most of your movement in Crash Commando and is activated by pressing the L1 paddle. Pressing a direction with the control stick and hitting L1 means you’re going to jet that way, but pressing down is where the jetpack really shows its charm in putting you into a cannonball roll that throws you forward. This roll can be used when you have the jetpack survival upgrade as a weapon to take out your enemies as well.
It sounds like that brings me to survival upgrades.
The longer you stay alive, the more the game wants to reward you. There are three available. On the left is increased life. On the top, a speed boost, and on the right, an upgraded jetpack. The first is fairly self explanatory, I would hope. The speed upgrade makes you noticeably faster. The jetpack improvement gives you more fuel, but in addition gives a kind of Metroid screw attack; you can spin into your enemies and damage them. Another way to kill! Hooray!
When you have filled the survival bar, it will look like this when you may select with the d-pad an upgrade.
This is how the upgrade area appears when you have the jetpack and speed upgrades active.
This is very much a pure multiplayer game with a single player training camp staffed by bots. There is a learning curve for weapon use and tactics, internet rankings, a leveling system that is purely for achievement trophy purposes (but still a fun thing to include), and eight initial maps. Not bad for a $10 release.
The internet leader boards ranks players by overall Bootcamp total score, total experience points, total kills, total deaths, kill/death ratio, and accuracy. Something for every dedicated fanboy and playing style.
I see this as one of those games that could be a cult classic that develops a following. The team play abilities and the medic abilities of the CAB weapon could make for some very interesting strategy. The game setup allows for some really seriously long play time, up to 120 minutes per round, which should accommodate even the most hardcore of players.
As every multiplayer game will likely yield a new crop of targets and teammates, I would rate multiplayer replayability high marks.
So weapon balance.. That’s what shooters are all about, and this has a lot to talk about in it’s demure lightweight-seeming appearance.
The Machine Gun: It fires an fairly solid arc of lead in a rapid fire fashion. It is about what you would expect but shows its worth in the ability to shoot for a while without having to reload.
Shotgun: It shoots a spread shot that works very well at close range, and less well at longer range. Quick reload time assures close in carnage.
Sniper Rifle: Long reload time but this is the railgun of this game. It fires straight and further than you can see doing heavy damage.
Rocket Launcher: Like the sniper, it has a long reload but heavy damage. The explosive payload means you can easily blow your own ass up as well.
Grenade Launcher: Faster reload than the rocket launcher and has interesting flexibility. You can bounce and arc grenades off of platforms and walls to get to where you want them to go. They keep bouncing until they hit a live target or their timer runs out.
CAB: It hurts your enemies and heals your allies. This is the future weapon in the Crash Commando arsenal. You need to keep the beam on your target for a couple of seconds to be effective.
The weapon of last resort: The Gun (a pistol) and a knife. Both of these are horrible. If you blow all of your ammo and didn’t pick anything up, you are going to be very dead very quickly. I guess it’s possible you could kill someone with one of these, but I doubt that it’s going to happen. I think that’s the point.
The Super Weapons, the Plasma Pulse and Mini Gun, are a little different. You have to find them in the map where they spawn. They weigh down your character a bit when you pick them up so that you can’t jet or run quite as fast giving the others a chance to flee. They have unlimited ammo, but a limited time duration before they disappear. While they last though, no one will stand in your way.
The Plasma Pulse is your basic plasma gun from quake. It kills everything, people and vehicles, really really fast with big thick globs of you’re-gunna-die plasma.
The Mini Gun can shoot through some walls and platforms in addition to making anything that stands in your path a pile of well tenderized burger.
The vehicles include a tank and a jeep. The tank shoots things with instantaneously flying shells. Bewm bewm. The jeep can drive over people or unload on them with a machine gun turret. If you are hurt, it’s a good idea to get into a vehicle for a while as you rely on a vehicle health bar while you are driving them.
There are two more objects in the game worth mentioning. The Turret Gun allows you to shoot at an area on the flip side of the map. Usually this is where a super weapon spawns or some kind of intersection. It’s a big machine gun so you only need to hit them once or twice for them to be quite dead.
The cheapass pick in this game has to be the RC Rocket. You go into a bunker where you can not be harmed until the projectile detonates. You may then launch a kill-everything-on-the-screen guided missile that you pilot by turning left and right.
Other pickups in the game include, health, weapon ammo, explosives, and two grades of armor.
This is not the most innovative game ever, but it does everything right where it counts. Using two thumbs to control movement and aim in a 2-D shooter is something I have not seen before. It also touched on the yee olde times long dead favorites that I mentioned in the intro.
First 2-D scroller that I’ve found repeatably fun in many years.
If you get a good batch of people online this can be super addictive. If you’re trying to play a map objectives game with a bunch of idiots, it will be a drag, but then you should invite them into some deathmatch for a beatdown.
I’m not sure if everyone will like this game, but I do think that first impressions will indicate if they will like it or not.
The simplicity of a 2d shooter either lights your bulb or it doesn’t. At under ten bucks for digital download, however, it is pretty convenient and inexpensive for the amount of play that I’ve pulled out of it so far. I am likely pick it up again and again in the future making this a great value.
This is the complete package for a game of this rare type; the balanced weapons, the two layer gaming and interaction between the them, vehicles, super weapons, details of the jetpack, and leader boards, really makes this title shine. I can’t think of anything that they could add to make it better, besides perhaps more maps and more mission types. This is rare in my experience. I usually demand more from even the best games of the year.
I suppose I could have asked for magic of no-lag network and having money spit out of your console when you win a match, but that only happens at my house.
Story/Game Modes: Good
Graphics: Very Good
Sound: Very Good
Replayability: Very Good
Final Score: Good Game
Short Attention Span Summary
Crash Commando is a deal for the thumb twiddling amusement of a 2d shooter. You are dependent on there being a decent multiplayer game around, but for a ten buck game, this really delivers a well balanced and entertaining shooter with some skill, voice chat, and a slight learning curve. It will amuse you for an hour or two unless you really hate blowing people up in games.