It might have an odd subtitle (Wolf of the Battlefield is a literal translation of the Japanese name, which might be a little less odd in that language) but Commando 3 (no relation to the Eidos Commandos series) is a title which should tug at the heart strings of anyone who has played either the original Commando (arcade and pretty much every 8 & 16-bit console / home computer of the time) or the (utterly excellent) sequel, Mercs.
Like those earlier games, Commando 3 is an isometric shooter where the player takes control of a commando and uses them to unleash massive quantities of ballistic material at the various bad guys. Very similar to 1990's Mercs (but with lots of nods to the 1985 original), Commando 3 charges the player with traversing linear levels packed full of enemies gaining acess to better and better weapons as they go - all very handy since the enemies and the level layouts constantly increase the challenge as you progress.
The control of a commando on a screen where enemies can enter from any angle lends itself surprisingly well to a dual-stick arrangement which otherwise might be more familiar in a Geometry Wars clone; the left stick controls your character itself, whilst the right stick controls where he's shooting. This simple, well-used mechanic is absolutely perfect for this style of game, giving us at NZGamer great hope that some of the other classic games of this ilk (Cal .50 and Midnight Resistance, to name but two) might finally be playable on machines without twisty joysticks attached to them.
Weapons upgrades have two different paths in Commando 3, with players able to collect powerups that change either the type of the gun (spreadshot, focused fire, rocket or flamethrower) or its power, in classic arcade fashion. The usefulness of each weapon varies, depending on both player preference and the current level configuration, with changes to the latter making a decent difference as to which weapon you're most likely to want. The powerups are typically laid out in a well thought-out fashion, meaning that if you find yourself wanting a new gun there's a pretty good chance that a collectable powerup is nearby.
Of all of the weapons, the flamethrower was probably the least useful, purely because its (rather dramatic) flame effect often obscured the visibilty of enemy fire, massively increasing the incidental damage your player received simply because you weren't aware there was a bullet there to dodge. Otherwise, the weapons were uniformly excellent with only a slight preference to the focused fire, thanks largely to the fact that the control scheme is so good you could aim your barrage exactly where you wanted it to go so the extra damage afforded by this selection was rather useful.
The change to an actual 3D engine has afforded the designers some flexibility in the layout and construction of the levels. This new flexibility results in some nice, fun levels with some verticality to them, nice character animation and even destructable environment props (you still have to run behind the walls of sand bags to obliterate the pesky grenade lobbing dudes, which is a cool nod to the original title). Sure, the graphics aren't going to scare off any developers of full retail games but considering the limited budget a game like this would attract, the resources have been well spent. Everything from the interface to the in-game props are nicely designed and all fit well together, not a single pixel seeming out of place.
All things considered, Commando 3: Wolf of the Battlefield is an excellent game in the download marketplace. It's a great fit for the 360 and PSN, and is exactly the kind of light, high-energy entertainment we've come to expect from that segment of the market. It stands at least shoulder to shoulder with the best on the platforms and is great fun to play. Priced at only 800 points, fans of the genre shouldn't hesitate to pick it up and those new to this type of game should at least check out the demo.