A long while has passed since the humble arcade beginnings of the Commando series. Back in those days, shoot em ups were all the rage in arcades and this title is content to stay true to its origins. Unfortunately, this makes for a game that feels like it’s stuck in the past; a decent game nonetheless, but one that pushes no envelopes.
The game began as I took to the beaches of some unknown land alone, proceeding to blast all of my enemies to kingdom come. Commando 3 plays like many shoot em ups on the Xbox Live Arcade, adopting the same “left stick move, right stick shoot” control mechanics popularized by Geometry Wars.
Content to firmly entrench itself within the crowded shoot em up genre, Commando 3 brings with it a number of popular genre conventions. You’ll find a small selection of weapons including the slow firing but über-powerful rocket launcher and a practically useless flamethrower. Each weapon can be upgraded once with a POW block that can be found occasionally in the environment and is dropped each time you bite the dust, causing damage to surrounding enemy units. You’re equipped with a number of grenades as well which are handy to have for taking down vehicles and enemy spawning structures. There’s even a screen clearing nuke, referred to in this game as the “M-crash” which deals massive damage to every enemy unit on screen.
Commando 3 is clearly built for cooperative play. There are three characters to choose from at the outset, each with varying health and speed stats and number of grenades they can carry. Over Xbox Live or on the same system, up to three players can team up to take on the denizens of the evil overlord plotting to take over the world. The game is certainly more entertaining when you’ve got two friends alongside you and online play runs surprisingly smoothly throughout with very few instances of lag cropping up.
Another few problems popped up immediately the instant I tried playing the game by myself for any length of time. This game can be quite tough with three players going at it together and to make matters worse, the game doesn’t scale down the difficulty for a lone player, creating an incredibly tough experience even on the easiest difficulty. Like many arcade shooters, there are no continues. Once you lose all of your lives, the game is over, and you’ll be forced to start over from scratch. While this mechanic rewards the skill and determination of the hardcore crowd, it can be annoying to casual arcade shooter fans.
There is very little in the way of enemy variety, meaning you’ll see the same grunts blasting away at you for the majority of your time playing the game. The occasional mini-gun carrying strongman will appear to inject a tiny bit of variety but when even the bosses are recycled (with the obligatory boost in power), you know something’s wrong.
Commando 3 features a cartoony visual style which is very clean and inoffensive but also rather bland and generic. The game’s standout visual accomplishments are in the hand drawn story scenes and character designs. The audio presentation is, like the visuals, nothing special. The sound effects and music get the job done, but there’s nothing here that’s going to knock your socks off.
Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3 ultimately fails to stand out in the already crowded shoot em up genre. It takes no risks and feels like it’s playing things a bit too safe in the guise of staying true to its predecessors. This doesn’t necessarily make it bad, just generic in this day and age. For 800 Microsoft points, it’s not a bad deal if you have two friends to play the game with either online or off (at least in short bursts) but for solo blast fests, there are better options.