Here in the US, we might not think of Capcom's Commando as being part of a series. That's because the sequel was released domestically as Mercs, rather than Commando 2. Now, we're faced with a new sequel from Capcom and developer Backbone Entertainment, known as Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3. It probably has more in common with Mercs than with the orignal Commando, but what's more, it's gone from the more-traditional top-down shooter format of the previous games to the now-standard dual-joystick format. So it feels more like some long-lost relative of Midway's Total Carnage than a true sequel to Commando or Mercs, but its real problem is that the game just isn't very exciting.
Like Mercs, Commando 3 is a three-player game. You can play with multiple players locally or online, though the game is probably a bit easier if you choose to go it alone. You'll pick one of three characters, each with different statistics for health, speed, and how many grenades you can hold. The game is a basic scrolling top-down shooter, with dual-joystick controls, so your left analog stick moves and the right one shoots. You can also lob grenades or unleash an M-Crash, which is a sort of smart bomb that damages everything on-screen.
There are five levels to play through, and things start off reasonably slow. This seemed fine the first time I played it, and it made me think that the rest of the game would pick up the pace. While things do get harder, Commando 3 doesn't reach any kind of frantic pace, even on the hardest difficulty setting. The main reason why games employ the dual-joystick control configuration is to make it easy to fire in multiple directions and separate the firing from the moving. But in Commando, you're moving along at a sluggish pace, and the enemies usually only come from directly ahead of you and directly behind. So you never feel surrounded or, really, like you're in any kind of serious danger.
There's a real lack of enemy variety, as well. The main soldiers, who tote AK-47s and occasionally even fire them in your general direction, look slightly different from level to level but behave the same way. There are also a few bigger guys that might have chain guns or rockets, and a few vehicles for you to blow up. You'll occasionally encounter a vehicle of your own, though the vehicle control is kind of terrible. Three of the levels end in boss fights, but two of them are against the same large tank, which has a slightly different attack pattern the second time around. Commando 3 is, in a word, monotonous.
But monotonous isn't broken. There's a simple charm to Commando 3's visual style, especially its cartoonish menu art. Of course, those hints of individuality only serve to make the gameplay a little more disappointing. As a package, Commando 3 isn't bad, but the only thing likely to give players a sense of lasting value is the inclusion of the Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix beta in the 360 version, and that doesn't even go out until June 25.