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Crash Commando
Score: 96%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: EPOS Game Studios
Media: Download/1
Players: 1; 2 - 12 (Online)
Genre: Shooter/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
Crash Commando is primarily a 2D game, though each map has two levels of "depth" that are accessed via tunnels. The "level" you're on always shows up as "front" screen, though some maps let you see what is happening on the other map. It doesn't happen in every map, but when it does it adds an extra touch to the experience.

The visuals look basic, but the style really works for the game. Everything is modeled in 3D and has a look similar to the recent PSN release of Bionic Commando. Both the characters and level elements "pop" off the screen, creating some nice visual elements. Maps take place in underground labs, jungles and factories and really get the most out of the presentation.

Music is the typical instrumental techno; it works for the game, but isn't something that is particularly memorable. The rest of the audio package is filled out with gunshots and explosions. Alone, they aren't much, but when taken with the spectacular explosions that accompany each, they're incredibly satisfying.


Gameplay:
Crash Commando is, above all else, a multiplayer game. There's a single-player Boot Camp mode, though it can be completed in about an hour and primarily serves as a crash course on the play mechanics. The online portion offers three game types - Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Objective - and is where you'll spend nearly all of your play time.

Deathmatch and its team variant are self-explanatory; the only difference is in how many people are gunning for you. Both are fun, though Objective is the more interesting. Objective games come in two flavors, one has teams protecting or attacking areas, while the other involves teams downloading or defending data at terminals. Each is based on the same mechanic, but the slight difference in theme provides enough of a difference that neither gets old. Each round teams switch jobs, giving everyone the chance to go on the offensive.

With the exception of Deatchmatch, each mode places players on teams. Games can support up to 12 players and I was surprised at how often I participated in full games. This isn't uncommon for a retail release, but for a downloadable game, it is a little more impressive and a good gauge of how much fun the game is. Finding a game is incredibly easy and I experienced little to no lag.


Difficulty:
Boot Camp does a good job of getting players accustomed to Crash Commando's mechanics. In a rough sense, the game plays out like a faster, action-oriented game of Worms. The Left Stick is used for movement, while the Right Stick handles aiming. This sounds easy, though it can be a disorienting. I sort of likened it to playing Uberschizoid Mode in Schizoid; your hands know what to do but your brain wants something else to happen... or something like that. The point is that the control setup is easy to understand, though it takes a few matches to get the hang of it.

Online matches are online matches - there's no measure stating how hard or easy matches are, you just have to play and hope that you can keep up with the rest of the group. In the event you can't find a full game, you can fill up the empty spots with A.I.-controlled bots. They're generally smart, though you don't want to be on the team with the most bots.


Game Mechanics:
Despite the slight orientation curve, controls feel comfortable. Again, gameplay feels a lot like a faster version of Worms. Each weapon has a line denoting its range and arc that provides a good idea about where your shots are going. With the exception of a few special weapons that pop up in each map, all weapons are available at the start of the game and can be switched out before respawning. Weapons are balanced and feel great. Each has its own pros and cons that make it suitable for difference play-styles and situations, so while you might find a weapon that you think is more effective than the others, there's no one super weapon that guarantees victory. The shotgun if great over short distances but bad for long-range battles, while the sniper rifle is great at a distance but slow to recover between shots. Other weapons, like the CAB (as sort of microwave-emitting death ray) require you to keep the wave on opponents for a short length of time.

In addition to your primary weapon, you have a secondary handgun and explosives. Both are useful, though grenades are usually only good as a last resort when you know you're about to die or as a way to take out vehicles. Some maps contain either tanks or jeeps that players can use. Both are stuck on rails and aren't as mobile as commandos, but incredibly effective if used right. You can run over other players and they're hard to take out - especially if you're facing bots since they have a hard time dealing with vehicles.

Finally, players can rocket around maps using a jetpack, adding a vertical component to matches. Jetpacks have a limited fuel supply, though it recharges when not in use. If you're able to earn enough kills on one life, you can even turn the jetpack into a weapon.

Crash Commando may seem like a basic shooter, but it is easily one of the best and more original games on PSN. If you're a fan of multiplayer throw-downs or just like blowing things up, Crash Commando should have your attention.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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