Taking its inspiration from a number of popular games in the shooter genre and sub-genres, Crash Commando could be described as an amalgamation, albeit a pint-sized portion, of some of the most celebrated shooters ever created.
Although the developer, EPOS Game Studios, has borrowed/stolen its ideas from a hundred and one other shooters, old and new, some of the best elements from the genre have been gathered together superbly here and unleashed in a way that still manages to make it feel fresh and exciting. Subsequently, the instant pick-up and play appeal that all good shooters aim for is evident in abundance and Crash Commando’s copycat mentality is instantly forgivable.
Emulating, in some ways, the fast-pace and run-and-gun style of the immensely popular Contra series, complete with multi-directional shooting and platforms laden with power-ups and special weapons, Crash Commando is largely about racking up as many kills as possible and making sure you name is at the top of that leaderboard come the end of each action-packed round.
With a cartoony art-style akin to the recently released re-make of Bionic Commando on PSN, Crash Commando pits you in the role of a tiny, finger nail-sized Commando soldier who has the ability to take to the air at free will thanks to the jet-pack strapped tightly to his back. Choosing to side with either the Jarheads or the Grunts you battle for supremacy across 8 dual-layered maps, where a mixture of precision shooting and quick reactions, weapon choice and map knowledge, and the ability to grab power-ups and super weapons before your enemies swoop in to nab them, determines whether you come out on top or get torn to shreds by your opponents.
Crash Commando is all about the multiplayer mode. The weak single player campaign has little depth to it, consisting of nothing more than slogging through increasingly difficult kill-based objectives against a range of deficient A.I bots. It’s essentially training for when the real battles begin online. However, it does introduce you to the full complement of weaponry and allows you to familiarize yourself with locating power-ups and special weapons and gives you plenty of opportunity to explore the locations and devise ways in which you can use the cover spots, platforms and open areas to your advantage in the multiplayer arena.
The eight maps on offer have been well designed, allowing for both tactical play as well as periods of hectic free-for-all combat. Each map has two layers to it and you can access each portion by zipping through portals located on either side. Whilst on one side of the map you can view the other side in the background and see whether there’s any action unfolding. You can then decide whether it’s appropriate to warp on over there or stick to your guns and possibly take advantage of the static turrets that allow you to shoot from one layer to the next. Alternatively, you might want to jump in a tank or a jeep and bring it through the portal with you to try and take those commandos who are fighting on the either side by surprise.
The eight maps are split equally into two different designs, with four locations being geared toward 6 vs. 6 player matches and the other ideal for 12 player death matches. The open, larger maps, including the ‘Cave’ and ‘Volcano’ are amongst the larger maps and allow for more tactical play with plenty of platforms and cover points, ideal for sniping and launching rockets from, whereas the four ‘Showdown’ maps, which include the ‘Fort’ and the ‘Tunnel’ are smaller and therefore create more intense battles which frequently become more about how quick and accurate you are on the trigger, rather than spawn camping or hiding out of the way ready to jump out on enemies. There’s a nice variety of maps that cater for all types of shooter fans and with the promise of future downloadable content there should be plenty to stick around for once the initial batch has been exhausted.
Whilst in the process of killing enemies you can rack up combo points (double kill, triple kill!) and bonus points by blowing up vehicles and these are accumulated and added to your XP, which allows you to rise up the rankings and earn trophies along the way. Performance enhancing power-ups add a further tactical element offering boosts such as extra speed, protection or firepower, whereas a mixture of platforms and wide open spaces, as well as vehicles and special weapons, including the devastating mini-chain gun which can shoot through cover, gives the gameplay some added depth and ensures that you have to adapt your tactics frequently and switch weapons to make the most out of their various strengths and to counteract choices made by other players.
There’s nothing remarkable about the weapon set, but it has a nice balance to it, with each weapon having its own strength and value during a battle. At the start of each match, or each time you get killed and are waiting to re-spawn, you get a choice of primary weapons, such as the shotgun, assault rifle, and grenade and rocket launcher. There’s also a slot for a secondary weapon (a pistol or a knife) and an explosive device, such as a grenade or a mine. With only 6 primary weapons on offer more variety would have been welcome, however, those on offer do cater for different play styles and there doesn’t seem to be one particular weapon that people are choosing online; there appears to be a nice balance, which in turn makes for some entertaining battles.
Fans of the shotgun like to get nice and close to their opponents and inevitably can take them down in one shot. Snipers head for a high point and camp it out, picking players off as they fly past, whereas the suicidal grenade launching squad erratically zoom around leaving a trail of bouncing bombs in their shadow. It’s the unpredictability of each battle that makes the gameplay so addictive.
Controlling the commando soldier initially takes a bit of getting used to. Comparisons can once again be made to Bionic Commando where both sticks are used, the left stick for controlling the soldier and the right stick for moving the 360 degree targeting arc. A Jet-pack boost temporarily launches you into the sky enabling you to reach platforms and acquire those all important armor and health pick-ups, as well as special weapons, while the d-pad can be used for activating any power ups. We’ve got no complaints at all with the control system, it’s a mechanic that works very well, allowing you to zoom around shooting and dropping mines and switching between your primary and secondary weapons intuitively after only a short period of time. Still, it takes some skill to master if you hope to compete with the top ranking players online.
As well as ‘deathmatch’ and ‘team deathmatch’, the online component boasts two other game modes that cater for 6 vs. 6 team matches. ‘Sabotage’ requires the attacking team to place a bomb to blow up a terminal whilst the defending team tries to protect the area. ‘Espionage’ on the other hand tasks a team with downloading data from four terminals dotted around the location and then requires them to bring it back to HQ. Whilst none of the four game modes are new or innovative in any way, EPOS has played it safe by including four instantly recognized and tried-and-tested modes, ensuring that the overall Crash Commando package of strong level design, finely balanced weapons and familiar gameplay, coupled with the ever growing online community, is a sure fire winner.
For the price it costs to download Crash Commando, just $10, we really have no major complaints. You get what you pay for and much, much more. Since we downloaded it, we’ve been visiting Crash Commando frequently for our dose of instantly gratifying action. With the release of new maps coming our way it’s a shooter that will probably remain top of our PSN playlist for some time.