Reviewed: July 10, 2008
Released: June 11, 2008
The Playstation Network (PSN) has been consistently lagging behind Xbox Live Arcade’s (XBLA) near-weekly casual gaming and retro-kickback releases. In most cases, we critics would like to side with the idea of quality over quantity – but the XBLA library also tops PSN’s in terms of quality, variety, and overall accessibility, often giving the impression that Sony might not place as much emphasis on promoting casual gaming as Microsoft does.
Take, for instance, the genre of the arcade style shooter. Over the years, XBLA has delivered a fairly steady clip of top-shelf shooters; from the original titles Geometry Wars, Assault Heroes (1&2), and Undertow, to updates of classic releases like Triggerheart Exelica, Ikaruga, and Rez, and even a freebie Microsoft intern project Aegis Wing. The PSN has a gems in Everyday Shooter, but the remainder of the library is far from impressive considering the likes of Rocketman: Axis of Evil, Blast Factor, and Cash Guns Chaos.
The newest shooter in the PSN library comes in the form of Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3 – which is simultaneously being released on XBLA. So, while it’s not technically a PSN exclusive, it does offer the PSN community a new way to spray a never-ending supply of lead – and the multiplatform release affords GCM the interesting ability to compare the title on the neighboring networks for ease of use and network integration. Cool deal, eh?
We critics feel important if we can come up with convoluted referential gameplay descriptions for games, so here goes; Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3 is a top-down point-to-point arcade style shooter that can be played with up to three players cooperatively either locally, or online via PSN. Regardless of the player count, the action takes place on a single shared screen, with a simple dual-analog control scheme similar to the classic Robotron titles, allowing players of any skillset to easily jump into the action.
There isn’t a whole lot of backstory to get wrapped up in with Commando 3; there are numerous hostages being held by swarms of baddie minions, all strewn about a corridor-styled map levels. Gamers choose one of the three available characters (each with his/her own attributes), and then proceed to mow down waves of enemies and destroy the cages that hold the hostages captive. Along the way, a variety of health and ammunition power-ups appear, helping our character by recovering stamina and boosting fire rates and/or patterns.The dual analog control scheme is surprisingly precise, and the overall mechanics will feel natural to gamers of any degree of shooter experience.
The single player difficulty level is moderate throughout, although the boss meetings tend to ramp things up pretty severely. And while the cooperative multiplayer offering is definitely a hoot, the difficulty level can be a bit unbalanced as the game tries to accommodate for a second or third player. Where the standard “Routine Exercise” difficulty becomes a bit too easy with the additional firepower, but the next hardest level, “Black Ops,” borders on unfair. Finding a balance between the two would be nice – but no such luck.
Thankfully Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3 does not account for friendly fire, although cooperative players do share from a communal pool of character continues. What this means is that gamers must be conscientious of their actions, lest they consume all of the available lives from the team. Believe me, it is a bummer to have your game come to an end as a result of a fellow player’s fooling around – especially since their final hurrah generally results in your character being surrounded amongst a sea of enemies prepared for a multiplayer fight.
Visually, Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3 is nothing to write home about. While the overall style succeeds at delivering a cartoony Metal Slug-meets-MAD Magazine flavor, it never really impresses with its sparse level design and cookie-cutter effects. I recently completed a review of the similarly themed XBLA’s Assault Heroes 2, and that was much more interesting on a visual level.
But that’s not to say that all is for naught, there are some neat details – especially in the lighting department – that give the game a twitch of flair. Explosions and turret fire give off nice auras that reflect off the inflicted enemies and environments.
And as often is the case with co-op shooters like this, the action onscreen often gets a bit overwhelming on both the gamer and the console – there were a few times found myself focusing on the wrong character onscreen amidst the hailstorm of bullets, and every now and then the framerate would begin to skip unexpectedly.
If the sound of constant gunfire and cartoony screams is something you like – well then Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3 will be right up you alley – because save for a few musical background tracks, gunfire is about all you will hear.
Thankfully, the gunfire sounds are all quite well made and have a nice full pitch that makes them less annoying than the standard rat-tat-tat of the arcade shooter.But other than the occasional yelp of an enemy or boom of an explosive, it’s pretty much just a bunch of gunfire over and over.
Overall, Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3 is about an hour of overall gameplay start to finish. While that may sound short, most gamers will really begin to tire from the gameplay’s repetitious nature of the long before that, so the game’s brevity is not all that unwelcome.
We did have some trouble with our initial cooperative trials online via the PSN network, where there was some confusion about the process of sending and accepting game “Invites”. The problem seems to stem from the fact that the process is initiated from the game’s multiplayer menu, but shows up to the invitee as a popup in the PSN cross media bar’s (XMB) messaging system. However, neither the PSN messaging system, nor the game’s multiplayer menu, gives any option for invitation acceptance. My buddy and I got stuck in a loop of inviting and replying before we realized that one of us needed to back out to the initial splash menu and locate the appropriate selection for accepting invitations.
This confusion was most likely exasperated by PSN’s recent firmware updates – which have finally allowed for in-game XMB and messaging similar to the Xbox Live. Prior to these updates, our invites would have remained in the game and never resulted in messaging pop-ups – so we probably would have approached things differently. Still, when you consider the fact that Xbox Live takes a total of two button presses to accept any game invite – PSN definitely could stand some further tuning.
And while I know that Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3’s release predates the 2.41 firmware release and its newly introduced Trophy system, it would have been cool if the Xbox 360 achievements had been ported in by the time we finished this review giving us a bit more incentive for 100% completion.
I will also admit that I was initially bummed that the Commando did not feature the excellent PSP Remote Play option of other PSN titles like PixelJunk Monsters. But once I began to contemplate the transferring the dual-analog control scheme over to the single-analog PSP unit, I realized that we were probably better off without. Playing FPS titles with the face-buttons as an analog stick is bad enough…but having to precisely shoot in full 360° motion would be nearly impossible. Just another reason the PSP needs a second analog stick.
While there definitely are better shooters on the market (especially in the XBLA exclusive camp) Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3 is a very solid shooter that is every bit worth the $10 price tag.