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PSP Review: Field Commander

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Advance Wars worked. Its anime stylings on the exterior hid a brutally difficult turn-based strategy game. Field Commander is Advance Wars competition, fitting right into the handheld console wars. Its exterior is far more realistic, but the difficulty is still in full force.

Finding more than 10 gameplay differences between Field Commander and Advance Wars would be nearly impossible. The strategy comes from their rock-paper-scissors-like take on military combat. Each vehicle or troop unit has their strengths and weaknesses. It’s up to the player to make sure they’ve plotted their movements and attacks properly.

The interface is hardly special, though it provides the necessary information so no sub-menus are needed to know the effects of the upcoming move. Of course, sub-menus do exist, capturing extensive information on the numerous types of units. You could play an entire game without these extra menus, but if this becomes necessary, the designers have made it all easy to access.

Single-player captures the typical video game war scenario. Thirty missions make up the campaign, which exist for the purpose of training the player for multi-player combat. It’s not that the single player game is lacking. The AI is sharp and later stages allow for only a few mistakes before taking down the careless general. It’s the speed of play that bring this down and the genre’s place in multi-player gaming make it a natural for the genre.

Playing solo takes time. The AI thinks for extended periods, sometimes only to move a few spaces. Loading is annoying when dialogue periods spring up, and the video is of low quality. Glitches are also prevalent. One was so bad during the review process that the lock-up didn’t even allow the PSP to be turned off. These were rare, though severe enough to make them an annoyance.

Presented in the usual top-down viewpoint, the 3-D models look fair for the system. Given the usual view distance, heavy detail would rarely be seen anyway. Environments feature nice weather effects, though these usually send the frame rate spiraling downward. While not a detriment to the gameplay, it only makes things progress slower. It feels like this would be better suited to a console at times because short bursts of play in Field Commander are hardly common. There’s also a 2-D map for quicker access that can prove to be immensely useful.

While multi-player suffers from a few of these problems, human competitors offer the type of competition this game was made for. Online is a necessity, and getting into a game is not a problem. Lag is not an issue. Matches are extensively customizable (including timers to keep things moving), and you can create/download new missions at your leisure.

Online play doesn’t always need another player to be available. Field Commander includes the unique and innovative Transmission Mode. Here, players submit moves whenever they have time. When the opponent begins playing the next time, they’ll receive a message letting them know a move has been made and it’s their turn. In other words, you do not even need your PSP to be on to play an online game, and moves can be made at your leisure (or to whatever length of the time the host had set).

Outside of the fair and warranted comparison to Nintendo’s popular franchise, Field Commander should have no problem finding an audience. Online gaming fans will cherish this one, and it’s the key advantage Sony Online’s product has over Nintendo’s. The only thing missing is the charm, style, and faster-paced single player gameplay of Advance Wars.

Field Commander is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for blood and violence.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.