Largo Winch? An odd name perhaps, but at least in the world of comics and games, he appears to be Yugoslavia's answer to Bond. He's couragous, smooth and clever, but what really sets him apart from all the other secret-agent imitators is...he's loaded! Largo is a billionaire. He works for himself, but being a rich kid can get you noticed for the wrong reasons. Commando SAR begins as Mr. Winch is attending the opening of his new chemical plant in Venezuela, but things don't go to plan as terrorists strom the facility. They take Largo and Tania, a journalist, hostage and it's up to you to escape and discover the brains behind the ambush, and their motivations for targeting Winch. Released in September 2002, Largo Winch: Commando SAR is perhaps the last serious action/adventure game that will appear on the PSOne, but it's a good 'un. It is a stealth adventure played in the third-person with the emphasis firmly on sneaking. It simply isn't possible to rush in with an all-guns-blazing attitude, as it won't get you very far. Getting past patrolling goons requires tactics, steady nerves and plenty of patience - a refreshing change from many of the shoot 'em ups appearing these days. Clichéd plot aside, this game is positively buzzing with ideas and well-realised set-pieces. Rarely a minute passes without you being thrown into a a new situation that requires a different line of thinking from the last. Avoiding guards is often just a case of studying their pattern of movement, but on occasions you need to use items or the scenery to cause a distraction. For instance, a guard blocks the way forward in level two and there is seemingly no way around him, but if you go up to a reception desk nearby and ring the bell, he will be lured away from his post to investigate the disturbance, allowing you to sneak through. Another novel way of grabbing your enemies attention is by blowing up a microwave on the Oilrig leve
l (don't ask)! Considering he's so rich, Largo never takes more than the bare minimum of weaponry into the action - half a dozen knives and pistol bullets are the best you can hope for. Because of this you have to make good use of the resources available. Two that are absolutely crucial to keeping Largo hidden are a Brainwave Scanner and shadows. The Brainwave scanner shows a miniture radar of the surrounding area, much like Syphon Filter's it allows you to see where an enemy is located but not the length of their vision. You'll glance at this many a time to make sure the coast is clear, and it's literally a life-saver. The shadowing effects are genius - a belated first in PlayStation gaming. Basically, you can go unnoticed by sticking close to walls where dark shadows are cast, making for some very tense moments as enemies pass within inches of you. Largo on the whole is fairly is easy to control, although he takes an age to rotate left and right. The ability to sneak up on an unsuspecting foe and perform a knockout chop is useful, but decidedly hit and miss. Using this move on the second level where under no circumstances are you allowed to be seen is a pain as often Largo decides just to perform a standard punch, upon which the enemy duly turns round, spots you and the level automatically ends. The combat system is a nice idea although proves a bit ropey and under-developed; you can perform kicks, punches and block maneuvers, but these scenes get pretty tiresome; you'll usually win one-on-one confrontations but lose some health in the process, and the movement of the player and computer-controlled characters is a little unconvincing. What else can this talented Yugoslav do? He can climb objects and ledges much like in the Tomb Raider's; one outdoor level allows you to dart acroos rooftops, which is a nice touch for an easier path to your goal. He can search cupboards, desks and lockers for important
items and documents but perhaps best of all is Largo's ability to crane his neck slightly to one side when you are tight up against a wall, so you can see what is around a corner - a small but super touch. Graphically, it's not the best in it's field due to the rather lo-fi full-motion video clips and poor view distance, plus the environments suffer from slight glitching too. Most importantly though, the game runs smoothly and the great variety of levels make for some constantly changing scenery for you to admire. There are seven missions in all that take place in such surroundings as a chemical factory, SAR HQ, an airport, a (dreaded) oilrig and the streets of Amsterdam to name but a few. Every section has been superbly designed and tailored to deliver thoroughly atmospheric, edge-of-the-seat action. One minute you're tip-toeing through an enemy headquarters trying desperately not to be seen, and the next you are frantically running about an office block trying to find and diffuse a trio of bombs within two minutes - it's compelling stuff. The graphics maybe a tad on the rough side, but the presentation is of the highest calibre. Menu screens look extremely sharp and stylish, and developers Rebellion even saw fit to add a great training level that allows you to get to grips with the controls and gadgets, and even have a running race against Largo's mate Simon! The music is very well-suited to the action; at times quiet but fuelling the tense feel to proceedings, but also bursting into life for the few action-orientated moments Commando SAR has to offer. So it plays great, looks okay and is backed by a good soundtrack, why the mediocre score? This mainly lies with the fact the game only has seven levels (of varying size). You'll get through the first five in a couple of days play before coming across two ridiculously tough ones that are liable to put beginners off gaming for life! You cannot save game m
id-level either which means you are effectively forced into playing for long periods of time. It isn't a big game and there are no bonuses awarded after completion so it's unlikely you will play through the adventure more than once. Despite the decent price tag (£9.99 new), you feel that Largo Winch isn't great value because of the lack of levels, and the erratic difficulty setting (some levels can be done in one or two attempts, others take twenty or thirty goes) is a real cause for concern. Suitable for all ages, Largo Winch is a toughy and not well-suited to impatient people (!) or beginners who are just getting into games. There is no gore though and only minor violence - Largo says himself he disapproves of killing! Largo Winch: Commando SAR is a good game, and has the potential to be a true classic if Rebellion would even out the difficulty setting and add a few more levels and weapons into the mix - perhaps in a sequel? For a little under a tenner, you get a highly playable, very well designed stealth adventure that will mesmerise you as much as it will frustrate. Worth a look if you are into the genre.