Xbox Live Thumbs Up – Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3

Commando 3 is a prototype for how XBLA remakes should be done, though it has rough spots.

Rereleases of old games have been common on all consoles but have higher visibility on XBLA, where players check for new games every week. Some games have such strong memories attached to them that they are fun impulse buys (Joe bought Streets of Rage 2 on sight) but these remakes occupy the very bottom of the XBLA catalog. Commando 3 explores a new space that is halfway between rerelease and a new game, which allows it some nostalgia and old-school trappings while keeping the game fun, fresh, and playable.

Commando, and its followers Mercs, Ikari Warriors, and Gunsmoke, have substantial retro punch especially since the vertical shooter has all but died off. The key to the revival of the genre has been a new (old) control scheme. Geometry Wars, an early hit for Live Arcade, brought back the “twin stick” shooter, where one analog stick controls movement and the other controls aiming a stream of bullets. The acceptance of this paradigm continued with Mutant Storm and then Assault Heroes, which united these new controls with the old vertical shooter format. Neither Mutant Storm nor Assault Heroes packed a lot of splash or appeal and didn’t garner much attention. Commando 3’s combination of retro appeal and modern gameplay unites the “oh I remember that game” crowd with the “I like to try all the new XBLA games” crowd. It also doesn’t hurt that Commando 3 comes packed with access to the beta of another loved retro remake, Street Fighter 2.

Commando 3 has the right idea on how to sell, but that doesn’t mean it’s flawless. The character models on-screen are polished to have a simple, smooth, visible look (almost like Pixar concepts) but the character art in the menus looks generic and overdone. ¬†Explosions look wonderful but they too often hide incoming bullets, a crucial flaw for arcade-style games where every wound counts. The score combo system allows skillful players to get up to 24x multiplier, which is really fun, but it’s completely undermined by sheds of unlimited grunt enemies, where 24x can be “farmed” up. Commando 3 does a good job of making the game accessible and appealing, but fails to provide fair incentive to shoot for high scores.

Here’s rooting for Backbone and Capcom and their upcoming retro revamps 1942 and Street Fighter 2!