Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3 Preview
You're all well aware of Capcom's resurrection of Bionic Commando, but there's another "Commando" that's on the way, and one that has already had somewhat recent installments. It's Commando 3 for the PS3 and Xbox 360, the arcade-based shooter that was first unveiled at Capcom's Gamer's Day earlier this year. Well known for hectic, non-stop action and a huge amount of semi-old-school entertainment, Commando is all about the classic video game style: don't stop, don't think, just shoot. Of course, Capcom still plans to release a game that certainly fits into the next-generation, but that doesn't mean they'll stray from the tried-and-true formula just to fit a modern mold. Initially, we had expected to see this one arrive for the holiday 2007 season; it now seems to be pushed into 2008...but hey, it'll be worth the wait. Those who question Capcom's ability to deliver some of the best action experiences in gaming need to check their history.
We'll start with some of the highlights of Commando 3 that may be a bit different than its predecessors. First off, even though we're once again playing through a forward-scrolling gameplay environment, the backdrops will continually change. You'll work your way through dense jungle backdrops, futuristic war-torn city settings, and bleak, seemingly other-worldly landscapes that will intimidate with their design. Furthermore, Backbone Entertainment finally decided to make a long-overdue change: they made shooting and moving mutually exclusive for the first time in the series. Obviously, while this doesn't hinder the action, it does add another dimension to the gameplay that will be most appreciated, especially by "new-age" gamers. Also, you're not always forced along on the same set path; you will be able to backtrack just a bit to free POWs and pick up items. Another added feature will be the ability to take cover and destroy the cover of your enemies. You'll be attacking with any one of 10 different weapons, but the last big upgrade centers on a feature that is becoming most common these days: vehicles!
Yeah, the old-school fans will say that corrupts the "purity" of a game like Commando, but in truth, it only increases the diversity and fun factor. Again, this enhancement doesn't negatively affect the action; in fact, how can manning turrets and taking over jeeps and tanks cause the action to lag? Is that even possible? How can we really complain about vehicles? We certainly can't complain at all about the available weaponry, especially when there are a few new ones to talk about. We'll get modified grenades this time around, for instance, that will actually generate animated action scenes and freakishly large screen-wide explosions. We're not quite sure yet how we'll go about "modifying" these grenades, or even if that's an actual player option. Perhaps it's just what those special grenades are called, but either way, more options to tear the snot out of our enemies is always welcomed with open arms. All we really ask for is a solid control scheme that will allow for equally simple and effective aiming for both regular weapons and projectiles. Because if we don't have that, the entire game takes a nosedive and we lose all interest.
But Capcom hasn't forgotten that multiplayer is the wave of the future. And we're not just talking about two players, we're talking about three. That's right, up to three players can jump into battle at any time, and that includes online play where the appropriate leaderboards are included (how do you compare against the rest of the world?). However, if you find this game a bit too difficult - and the Commando titles have usually exhibited a significant challenge - and you plan to recruit a friend, that won't work. The game will increase the difficulty depending on the number of players who are playing, which means if you can't beat the damn thing, two of you should have similar trouble. Then again, misery loves company, right? This sounds distinctly reminiscent of the good ol' days when you and some friends hit the arcade, teaming up to attempt the nigh-on impossible task of "beating" a multiplayer arcade game. Yeah, the coin-op days are long gone, but a game like this certainly keeps some of those age-old traits alive.
As for story, it does exist...believe it or not. It's hardly the focus of the game, but here's the basics: Zalestad is the enemy - they're just plain evil - and the even more evil General Ratiev is out to exterminate a lot of people, including you. You'll be able to choose any one of several available characters, and before you even begin, you'll have to select which weapons and vehicles to take with you in your noble quest to end Ratiev's oppressive reign. Among the characters we've heard about is Wolf, who's a typical infantry man with slightly better-than-average armor and health stats. Coyote is an ammunition specialist with plenty of health and Fox is a the female member of the crew who excels in the categories of speed and projectiles (she starts with more grenades than normal, for example). See how we worked back into the gameplay aspects of the game after touching on the story? Tricky, huh? That's exactly how we'll play the game, too- we'll concentrate on the action and the story is just a semi-entertaining distraction that will serve as a break. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Commando 3 should arrive some time during the first quarter of next year, and amidst the slew of high-tech next-gen titles, this is one game that'll make us all remember simpler times. And I repeat: there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.
10/29/2007 Ben Dutka