If you’re as old as me, you might remember repeatedly playing the contents of every PC magazine cover disk going, mostly because you couldn’t afford to actually buy any new games. And the PC demo that I got the most mileage out of by far was one for Commandos: Beyond the Call of Duty.
This one-level demo was brutally hard and suitably enormous. Your four-person squad was tasked with infiltrating and destroying a Nazi stronghold, mostly by creeping up on soldiers unawares and giving them a right good stabbing, then carefully stashing their body in a bush.
Progress was painstakingly slow, but utterly riveting. As your squad crept from cover to cover, just beyond the range of the guards’ cone of vision, you could cut the tension with a knife (pun intended). It was glorious. It took me four days to finish that demo level, and it was one of the high points in my PC gaming life.
At first glance Partisans appears to be cut from a very similar, Commandos- shaped cloth. But the key difference here is that rather than being based in France or Germany, the game plays out on the seldom covered (in games, at least) Eastern Front. “Almost every family in Russia lost someone in the Second World War,” says Project Lead Anton Martyshenko. “This page of history is not well known in the West, and we want to tell the story about the people fighting against enemy forces in dire circumstances behind the frontline.”
From the rear
Partisans sees you gather together a resistance army to thwart the German advance into Russia from the rear. Each fighter you recruit has different strengths and skills, and in addition to the main campaign, the game provides optional side missions to gather equipment and flesh out some of the soldiers’ back story.
Some characters are much better suited to action rather than stealth, for example, and each character has an upgrade tree that allows you to improve specific attributes.
Then there’s the role of civilians. You might spot, for example, a non-combatant being hassled by German soldiers, forcing you to choose whether to risk breaking cover to help them out or remain hidden to complete your objective.
The sheer amount of stuff in the game is simultaneously bewildering and exciting, with multiple ways to approach each objective, limited inventories to juggle and optimal pathways to consider.
OK, yes, it’s basically Commandos again, but prettier, more complex and with more focus on ordinary soldiers and civilians. Plus, it’s been 13 years since the last Commandos game, so it’s about ruddy time we had another one.