It's always good to see a classic series return from the dead, and at 18 years since its last entry, few series were deader than Commando. Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3 breathes new life into the war-torn run & gun arcade series, transforming it into a twin-stick shooter while keeping the military theme and "kill everything" gameplay fully intact.
If Commando 3 needed much of a plot, it would tell the gripping story of the Jackals, an elite group of three soldiers whose job is apparently to destroy the living crap out of everything they see. Each soldier is ranked in the abilities of running speed, hit points, and the number of grenades they can carry, but the primary weapon loadout is identical for everyone. Starting off with a basic machine gun, they can switch to a spread shot, flamethrower, or rocket launcher as they find them in the field, and power-ups throughout the game will enhance the strength of any gun they carry. In practical terms there's only one gun worth having though, and that's the machine gun. Its rate of fire, damage, and range make the other weapons almost irrelevant, although the rocket launcher is particularly effective against bosses.
Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3 is an undeniably entertaining chunk of big, dumb, fun arcade mayhem.
While there's no denying the fun of gunning down hundreds of enemy cannon-fodder troops, Commando 3 has a few problems holding it back from greatness. There are only five levels total, although being able to complete a full run-through in a sitting isn’t a bad thing for an arcade game. It is strangely easy, however, and I found I could beat even the hardest difficulty on the first attempt once I'd learned the tactics needed to get through. The Jackals are just too powerful for their opposition, able to tear through the levels with a minimum of fuss. Thankfully, things get a lot trickier when aiming for a high score.
Commando 3 has a score multiplier that rewards skill. Keep killing enemies and it rises all the way to 24x, but the second you take a hit it resets to x1. Health is plentiful, so recovery isn't a big deal, but working the score multiplier back up takes a while and leaderboards are never forgiving of even small errors. This would make for some great competition if the leaderboards weren't broken, and a promised patch hasn't shown at the time of this writing. Enemies never stop spawning, and there are several places in the game where it's easy to milk large groups of non-threatening goons over and over again. It's boring, tedious work, but people are willing to put in the time. It's not fun to compete against crazy obsessives.
While the scoring issue will eventually be patched out, the other problem is that cheap hits abound. Invisible walls block off terrain that looks like it should be perfectly accessible, because everyone knows hardened soldiers never walk on the grass. Additionally, the forward scrolling can be completely unforgiving, and once you've walked past an item or point of interest there's no going back. Seeing a much-needed health pack lazily spinning a few pixels out of reach at the bottom of the screen is incredibly obnoxious.
The amazing thing is that, despite these issues, Commando 3 still manages to be a lot of fun. The broken scoring and weird boundary issues seem far less important when plowing through waves of enemies, tanks, gun emplacements, and everything else between you and level's end. The solid shooting gameplay rescues Commando 3 from its faults, and the steady tempo of the action keeps you moving forward from the start of level 1 to the moment the end boss finally goes down. It's easy to catalog the game's issues, but Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3 is an undeniably entertaining chunk of big, dumb, fun, arcade mayhem.