Developer: Backbone Emeryville
Release Date: June 2008
In some ways, one of the absolutely worst things that can happen to a video game is to come bundled with a demo for another, bigger, title. I remember quite well Zone of the Enders, the surprisingly amusing little mecha game that came packed along with the demo for Metal Gear Solid 2. While I was one of those who purchased Zone of the Enders for the game itself, a vast majority of the folks who bought it did so because it came with that oft-desired demo, leaving the game itself sitting in the wings. Sure, it helps sales, but one can't help but pity the hard work that gets overshadowed by the bigger name. Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3 is one of those titles that will have a similar issue. Coming bundled with the beta for Street Fighter 2: Turbo HD Remix, it could be destined to sit unplayed on most people's hard drives for a good, long while. It's a darn shame because Commando 3 is a surprisingly fun title.
The basic gameplay in Commando 3 is really quite simple. You and up to two friends take control of the Wolf force, an elite squadron of '80s movie homage super commandos, as they blow the living daylights out of everything in their path in an attempt to make the world safe once again. The Wolves advance upward through a stage packed to the brim with enemies, kicking ass and taking names. The left analog stick moves, the right analog shoots, and your shoulder buttons can be used to either throw grenades, which are limited use but powerful weapons, or to activate your Crush attacks, which are unique animation weapons that nuke every on-screen foe. If you've played many of the other titles on Xbox Live, such as Assault Heroes, the basic formula will feel pretty similar to you, although there are a few twists and turns to give Commando 3 its own unique feel.
There are three different Commandos available for play. Wolf, the titular character, is fairly balanced in all regards. He's strong, fast and durable, but doesn't excel in any single trait. Coyote, the team's beefy heavy gunner, can do slightly more damage and sustain more enemy fire at the cost of his speed. Fox, my personal favorite, is the team's only female member, who sacrifices her own health for a significant boost in speed. While no character is necessarily worse than the others, you'll probably want to try out each character before settling on a favorite. If you're less comfortable dodging through enemy bullet swarms, for example, you'll probably want to avoid Fox and go for the powerful Coyote instead. Up to three gamers can play Commando 3 in co-op in at once, so if you have two friends who are eager to play, you can send the entire Wolf Force out on the battlefield.
Besides your commandos, there are also a number of vehicles available to commandeer. Some, like the fortified gun positions, are one man per machine, and can only be used for a short time, but they offer superior defense and firepower for that period. The real fun comes when you find a multi-man vehicle. In single-player mode, these vehicles are all controlled by one character, with the left stick driving and the right stick firing the machine's built-in weapons. However, in co-op, you can go Halo-style and have each member take control of part of the machine, allowing the entire Wolf Force to absolutely devastate everything in its path.
Commando 3 uses a slightly different art style from the previous games in the Commando franchise. Rather than realism, Commando 3 goes a bit more humorous, rendering each of your characters as '80s reject beefy action heroes in a deeply silly art style. It's hard to not crack up laughing when the characters activate their Crush attacks, which include a hand-drawn cut-in of that character that looks as if it was directly taken from '80s-era NES video game box art. The actual gameplay graphics are solid, if not particularly impressive, and the preview build included a few noticeable errors. When things got particularly hectic, the game would suffer some notable slowdown and beyond that, the animations are not overly impressive. Even the screen-clearing Crush animations, amusing cut-ins aside, are fairly average, and although you'll see them quite frequently, they fail to impress.
Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3 isn't the most original and innovative title to ever hit the Xbox Live Arcade, but it's certainly shaping up to be a decent game. While it isn't going to overshadow the demo that comes bundled with it, Commando 3 will be worth a gander, assuming you have a pair of friends who are eager to blow the living daylights out of the forces of evil alongside you. Of course, it comes with the Street Fighter 2: Turbo HD Remix beta, to further sweeten the deal.