Sunday, June 22, 2008

Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3 - Review

This review originally posted on Gamers' Temple.

Player(s): 3
Memory: 136 MB
Extra Support: Online Co-Op, Leaderboards

Around the time when Billy The Cowboy was rustling up outlaws in the wild west in Gun.Smoke and Arthur was battling hordes of demons in Ghost n' Goblins, another hero by the name of Super Joe was annihilating enemy armies and rescuing their captives in Commando. The original Commando was the first isometric shooter from Capcom that went on to spawn a sequel in the early 90's by the name of "Mercs". Mercs (or Commando II) greatly improved the action of the original and brought in extra weapons and vehicles. The Japanese title of both Commando games was "Senjou No Ookami" which translates to "Battlefield of the Wolf". With the incorporation of the Japanese title along with the American title, Wolf of the Battlefield (WOTB): Commando 3 also combines the gameplay of both original Commando titles and brings in some new gameplay enhancements and graphics for the newer generation of gaming.

Upon first starting up WOTB: Commando 3 the change in art style was definitely noticeable. The original realistic character designs of the first two games has been replaced with a Cartoon Network-like art style that is full of color and exaggerates the character emotions with its still drawings much like a Samurai Jack episode. The menus are full of little animations here and there while exploring the game's options. The new art style works really well with the new characters that are introduced this time.

Speaking of the characters, there are three selectable characters that may be chosen from the start of the game - Wolf, Coyote and Fox. Unlike Mercs, Commando 3 differentiates the characters stats a bit in order to make each one feel different. One character can take more damage than the other two, one character has average attributes, and one character can hold more grenades and is faster but she has a very small life bar.

After choosing a character, you will notice that the game is still showcased with an overhead view reminiscent of the first two games but the controls have changed a bit. Firing is now down with the right analog much like Assault Heroes. This new control setup allows one to move in any direction while firing in another making it a most welcome change of control compared to the other games in the series where you had to quickly face a certain direction to fire. The HD graphics are showcased in full 3-D. The characters and enemies are a bit bigger than those found in Assault Heroes and they're animations are fluid while walking though the main characters lack a bit detail and look blocky when stared at each one from up close. Environments such as trees buildings have a lot of detail however.

The game plays much like Mercs. Each of its five levels has swarms of soldiers that will be running toward your character and there are many environmental objects that may be destroyed. Different weapons can be picked up throughout each level. You have the choice of a normal machine gun, a spread fire, a flamethrower, and a rocket launcher. Grenades have been brought back once again from the original Commando and each character can stockpile a certain number of them. Each character must pause a bit during the grenade tossing animation, which can get you hit, so each grenade toss must be planned out. Each of the characters also has their own unique special attack that will bring up a short animated sequence then trigger an on-screen explosion that will take down most surrounding normal enemies.

There are also a few vehicles that may be found in some levels that players can take control of. Sadly, there is not as much of variety of vehicles like there was in Mercs however. In Commando 3 there are only two different kinds of vehicles. The vehicles have some clumsy controls when trying to steer them and it is sometimes hard to exit from a vehicle and walk away from it - sometimes I would exit from a vehicle then wind up getting right back into it since there was no space to move away from it. The game is primarily on foot though - vehicle portions are not found that often.

Commando 3 once again brings back hostages from the original Commando. Each hostage is held in a cage and must be freed through weapon fire. Secret areas are also spread throughout the game and may be found by tossing a grenade at mysterious looking walls. Certain markers such as an odd blue flame, red flower or some other type of oddity signify a breakable wall and these secret areas lead to more powerups, weapons and sometimes hostages. The game totals up the amount of hostages and secret areas found at the end of each level to help tally the score.

One might expect each level to have an end boss but not each level has one. Two of the bosses are nearly identical tanks with a few attacks that distinguish them. Thankfully the final boss is unique and there is a big battle at the end of level 4 that seems much like a boss fight. I was slightly disappointed with most of the bosses, especially with the recycled tank bosses since Mercs offered an entirely different boss per level giving the player more of a sense of variety. Even though Commando 3 only has five levels, each level is pretty long and will challenge you greatly. I always had my feel of a level as it ended whether there was a boss or not.

The sound in Commando 3 doesn't incorporate any classic tunes from the series but it does bring in some new pieces that match the game well. You'll really be too busy spamming gunfire to notice the soundtrack but I did find myself humming along to level 1's music. Some of the other tunes are catchy as well. One would expect all of the music to be loud and aggressive - most of it is, but the title screen music is rather laid back. Sound effects mainly consist of the sounds of gunfire and grunts of soldiers dying on the battlefield.

Commando 3 can be played cooperatively with up to three players through normal multiplayer options or Xbox LIVE. Co-Op gameplay can get rather chaotic with the sheer amount of firepower on the screen at one time, mainly when three characters are used. Even a skilled player can fall victim to a stray bullet very easily as all three characters shoot. All three characters also share lives so one non-skilled player can drag down the team by dying too much early on in the game and leave the other two with no extra lives. Commando 3 is best played single player or with friends rather than being matched up with new gamers online. While playing through Co-Op, each of the three characters can get inside of a vehicle and control different guns in that vehicle (one player controls the steering). This can make for some very fun carnage infested romps through certain portions of each level when a vehicle is found.

The Xbox LIVE version also grants access to a downloadable beta version of the upcoming Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix that will be released sometimes in the future. Unfortunately at the time of writing this, the beta has not been released so I can't comment on it. It will be released on June 25th, trying to download it right now from the main menu will only give you an error message.

Commando 3 is a very fun shooter and a worthy introduction to Capcom's line of next-gen downloadable sequels for their classic franchises. Like most shooter games, Commando 3 is best played in short sequences but the game will have you coming back to find secret areas and trying to beat your best score. The four modes of difficulty add a bit to the replay value as well. The game is only about 1 hour long from start to finish, but you most likely won't be blasting straight through on your first playthrough - a bit of familiarity with each level helps out a lot for completing the full game since there are no continues and each player only receives a few lives. At 800 points, Commando 3 is worth a try for those that are hungry for a good arcade shooter or those that want a good blend of Commando and Mercs (Commando 2).

Graphics: 8.0
Controls: 8.0
Sound: 8.0
Gameplay: 8.5

The Good:

+ A good blend of Commando and its sequel, Mercs
+ 3 unique characters to choose from
+ Comfortable control setup
+ Very fun single player game

The Bad:

- Only 2 vehicles
- Vehicles are hard to control at times
- Co-Op play with 3 players can make the game harder thanks to shared lives


WOTB: Commando 3 blends the gameplay of both of its predecessors and makes a good stand against the other arcade shooters on the marketplace.

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