Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3

A classic revival of games of yore, Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3 is a nostalgia-heavy addition to the Commando series. Jam-packed with ammunition, the top-down shoot-em-up is woefully light on substance.

There are three playable characters at your disposal, Wolf, Coyote and Fox. Throw them all together, give it a mix and you get the Jackals, some elite military types abandoned by The Man after winding up in an enemy internment camp. With the team broken loose so they can put a stop to some pending world domination, you’re equipped to mow down a sea of variably armed enemies. Each character has different strengths – speed, health, grenades, you get the idea – all of them handy traits on the battlefield. The stylized characters are very stock, and not particularly reminiscent of Commando. On the whole the game is big on action and short on character and story, but this is an action game, shouldn’t there be embarrassingly stinted dialog somewhere?

All three characters come equipped with a machine gun fired by the right analog, and by acquiring power-ups players can morph it into a rocket launcher, spread gun or a flamethrower as well as increase the firing power. No matter what gun you acquire the animation still has you looking like you’re firing a Tommy Gun, but at least the controls are intuitive. In addition to power-ups, which have obvious in-game payoff, you can pick up med packs and medals, liberate POWs and acquire score multipliers. Even with these tools on hand there are times you will be feeling like the battlefield equivalent of Sisyphus.

The M-Crash special attack and accompanying screen animation give a welcome boost of power as it wipes the screen of all but the hardiest of opposition. Another bright spot in the arsenal are brief vehicle sequences which offer the satisfaction of finally getting to really mow the enemy down, an experience dampened by the maddening driving mechanics. You’ll be accidentally jumping in and out of the things anytime you’re near them, which makes the whole dodging enemies thing an eensy bit trickier.

Each of the five available stages has its own predictable premise and style (Beach, Prison, Mountain, Swamp and Fortress) and four difficulty levels (Cake Walk, Routine Exercise, Black Ops and Suicide Mission). There is a bit of destructibility in the environments – a palm tree here, a rock there – and of course the best way to open a container is to destroy it, but mostly the stages are simple archetypes, lacking in nuance. That may seem like a harsh critique for an hour-long downloadable, but the formula is so simple that a bit of extra effort would carry this title a long way.

You’ll have to play through once before unlocking the stage select, and I recommend putting in the hour or so as half the fun is just being able to jump in and choose a stage, especially in co-op. The co-op and online lend some replay fun, as does as the ease of just picking it up and plowing through a stage. The three-person co-op can be played locally or online, but there’s less fun in it until you’ve finished the game and have the stage-select. You’ll be sharing lives, and if that doesn’t create some less than co-operative critique of your fellow teammates I don’t know what will. Since dead means G.O., Wolf really is a no frills experience: a gamer’s game.

Waging war with unlimited ammo has its fun, but it gets repetitive fast and sweet nostalgia can’t really support the mundane. Overall Wolf suffers from chronic underachievement. The less-than-modernized look and repetitive gameplay is phoned in, and I just can’t get past the fact that the sum of Wolf’s parts is a tad mediocre. For all the shooting fun, there just isn’t enough substance here, even for a downloadable, and there’s more bang for your buck in other titles.