In the distant future, a mission to the Xenidis system was dispatched from Earth. Its mission being to terraform all 30 planets of the Xenidis system to make them habitable for humans. Some years later, after the terraforming took place, all contact with the initial settlers was lost and a separate taskforce was sent out on a mission to discover the fate of the initial pioneers, and to protect Earth from any danger they might find. The secret codename for this special operations unit was none other than - 'Commando Xenidis'.
Commando Xenidis is a top-down, vertically-scrolling shooter. The game is broady broken up into 3 major parts. The shop, where equipment and weapons can be bought, the ship based combat in orbit of the respective planets and the combat on the surface of the planets where the player controls a special operations trooper.
After you have chosen a profile and a difficulty level for the game, you will start in the shop with a very limited amount of cash. There are a wide array of weapons and add-on components for ship and trooper including plasma, laser and conventional weapons, missiles, drones, medikits, sheilds and much more. Cash is earned by shooting enemies and obstacles in the combat missions, as well as the bonus stages between missions, which would see you do such things as navigating an asteroid field for as long as possible, for example.
The space combat missions are by far the most entertaining with gameplay similar to classics such as Xevious and R-Type. There are pickups that can momentarily give you astounding power others that will replenish used ammo and shields and still others that will earn you cash and promotions. Enemy types are varied and appear somewhat randomly on each playthrough.
This does add to the replayability value of the game, since pickups and enemy waves dictate how hard levels will be. If you fail a mission that seems impossibly hard, chances are that on the next playthrough, things may swing more in your favour. In Commando Xenidis the player has only one life and must reload from a save if slain in the course of duty. Saves can only be made in the shop, and due to the mission progression, (shop to space combat to ground combat to shop), getting killed on a ground mission can be a frustrating experience. Additionally, there is no autosave feature, and I have found that on many an occasion due to absent mindedness, I have had to reload a save from the previous planet, adding to the pain and humilliation of failure.
Ground missions seem to be a little drab after the space combat, and are doubly frustrating for the reason mentioned above. The graphics are crude, and enemies seem to be monotonous blobs in many cases. There are some awful clipping issues between the player and the scenery, and the lack of any kind of stealth or strategy elements is really dissapointing.
Basically, you just need to run through the area killing off aliens and shooting the precribed number of bases. The only real threat to the trooper is a swarm of enemies, and in that situation, mobile defences and medikits are must have items. The different planets do have varying sceneries and landscapes, but in the wash-up, the ground missions are tedious side tracks from the space combat stages that take place above the surface of all 30 planets.
The range of graphical quality in the game spans from quite impressive 3-D modelling in the intro and mission selection screens, to unappealing and garish designs in the surface missions. Graphical effects are scalable, to enable play on lower-end PCs, but on the higher settings, the space battles especially look quite nice.
Sound effects are good, and I particularly liked the way the battle noises shifted from left speaker to right and back again, following the action across the screen. The player character makes a few Schwartzenegger-like comments during the action, like 'Ha! Got you!' and 'Are you trying to hurt me?' which kick in just enough to be entertaining.
I would hesitantly recommend this game to fans of the genre since the space combat elements really are quite good. The price tag is fairly modest, and the demo allows a fair amount of play to evaluate the game. Drawbacks include the ground missions lack of appeal, clunky save game system, and a general failure to have come up with something that we haven't already seen before in a shooter - something to give Commando Xenidis an edge over even many freely available games out there.
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