Developer: Backbone Emeryville
Release Date: June 5, 2008
It seems that Capcom is feeling a bit retro-crazy these days, what with the announcements of an old-school NES rendition for a new Mega Man title, the Bionic Commando remake, Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo HD, and the subject of this review, Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3.
Arcade and NES players alike will remember the first two entries in the series, most likely with fond memories of pumping quarters into a local arcade machine for both Commando and the follow-up, Mercs. Commando 3 borrows concepts from both of those original titles, such as the vehicle control from Mercs and the prisoner rescues of Commando, while updating the visuals and gameplay style a bit to fit in with the modern times.
At its heart, Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3 is another twin stick shooter in the same vein as other Xbox Live Arcade titles like Assault Heroes or even the popular Geometry Wars. While you use the left thumbstick to control your character's movement, you use the right thumbstick to do all the aiming and shooting. You can also toss grenades with the right trigger button (hold it down to throw them farther), and unleash a powerful screen-filling special attack with the left trigger.
You'll have three different characters to choose from: Coyote, Fox and Wolf. Coyote favors the heavier, more powerful side of things while Fox is a bit more challenging due to having the smallest life bar of the three, but yet she's also the quickest. Wolf is your all-around guy, with equal strengths in speed, grenades, and life. It's definitely nothing that we haven't seen in a game before, but it still offers a variety of ways to play the game. Fox is definitely the hardest to play as, so first-timers will be better off starting with the powerful Coyote or the well-rounded Wolf for their first foray into the game.
Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3 also offers multiplayer play with up to three players, either through a local connection or over Xbox Live. Beware, though, as players will share lives, so you'll want to make sure you've partnered up with someone halfway decent. There are no continues in Commando 3, so you'll want to make sure that every life counts.
The action in Wolf of the Battlefield is spread across five different levels, each with simple names meant to fit with the simple story that accompanies the title. The five stages — Beach, Fortress, Mountain, Prison and Swamp — are all visually different, but they manage to play out in the same manner. Swarms of enemies will attack you from all sides nonstop, so you'll want to constantly be on the move, since progressing is the only way to complete a stage. Don't stop to smell the flowers, since the respawning of enemies is constant. You can opt to slow them down a bit by taking out various shacks or trucks that house enemy personnel.
Each level seems to have its own type of enemies, but they all behave in the same pattern regardless of whether they look alike. You have the basic troops that are equipped with single-fire weapons; large enemies with automatics, rocket launchers, or flamethrowers; and then various vehicles, like trucks and tanks. There are turrets scattered around most levels that the basic troops will try and take advantage of, but you can also switch things back on them by manning the turrets yourself. There are also guard placement towers usually accompanying a gate that you'll want to take out to aid your advancement on the maps.
One disappointing feature in Commando 3 is the boss fights. There are only three bosses, two of which are more or less identical, with some slight changes in their weapons. The final boss is also a bit of a cakewalk, even if you do have to take him on in three different forms. It would have made sense to offer boss fights at the end of each of the five stages instead of the three we got, and it definitely would have been more interesting to not do a simple rehash for two of them.
My other big disappointment comes in the form of the overall length of the title. I'd say the total gameplay clocks in at under an hour, on any difficulty, and outside of a few different secret areas and locating all of the prisoners, there's not a great deal of replay value here. Granted, the scoring aspect offers something for individuals who enjoy topping the charts when compared to their friends, but in a title that feels like more of an action game than a standard shoot-'em-up, I'd like to get a bit more use out of the whole experience.
Visually, Commando 3 goes for a more stylized animated approach, definitely different from the look of its predecessors, but considering the gap in time between Mercs and this game, that's to be expected. Personally, I thought the style fit well, but doesn't manage to be too cartoon-like or humorous. I'm sure there are plenty who won't quite dig the change, and while it isn't the most impressive title on Xbox Live Arcade, it does the job well enough.
Likewise, the music isn't anything that really stands out as being memorable, and it lacks the charm of the tunes in the original Commando, but it's nothing that I felt was grating or annoying to hear. There is a small sound bug that I ran across a few times, however, that involves your machine gun fire becoming stuck, which is aggravating after a short amount of time. Besides that, the soundtrack is solid but not spectacular.
Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3 is a solid shooter and a great attempt at bringing back a long-dead series on XBLA. At 800 points ($10), it's hard to say that I highly suggest picking it up, due to the length and overall ease of main story. However, if you think you can get together with two more players to play a full-blown multiplayer game, then it's definitely worth checking out, simply to test your skills against other players in real-time. Beware jumping in at this point, though, as it would appear that quite a few players have already moved on to other, newer titles. I had a difficult time securing online games with a full group outside of peak evening hours, so don't expect to always find a game available. If you have a spare 800 points sitting around with nothing in mind, then I definitely suggest dropping them here, especially if you enjoy the genre.