Capcom had its full suite of Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network titles on hand at Captivate 08, including Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, Plunder, and Bionic Commando: Rearmed as well as two games I was looking forward to getting time with, 1942: Joint Strike and Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3. As a fan of both the 194X series—I started with 1943—and Mercs—Commando passed me by—I was pleasantly surprised to see both pop up on Capcom's release list. Given that we had ample time to play, I spent a respectable time with both.
In fact, I came this close to beating Commando 3 on my third attempt, making it to the final boss solo. While the game supports up to three players at a time, it's not much of a challenge to take down the game's five levels on your own. That's mostly due to potentially too powerful guns, plus copious power ups and screen-clearing attack ammo.
If Commando 3 has a fault, it's that there's not much of a challenge to it, making for occasionally dull play. With familiar Smash TV-style controls and constant flow of bullets (or flamethrowers or rockets), mowing down scores of rebels is easy for any arcade vet.
Commando 3 is certainly lacking in depth, as the power up system sticks closely to its arcade roots. There are a couple of secrets that one can find in each level and multiple difficulties, adding a dash of replay value that may help justify the purchase price.
Vehicle sequences weren't memorable, but perhaps in a multiplayer setting, they could add brief respite from the constant din of machine gun fire.
1942: Joint Strike shares some of Commando 3's shortcomings, with just five levels, a rather simple difficulty and little in the way of variety to keep interest high. The top down shooter certainly has a more appealing style to it and 1942's cooperative aspects add a nice change of pace, but 194X fans will probably feel like the game is a bit of a step back for the series.
It's not intended to a "bullet hell" kind of vertically scrolling shooter—the series has never been a one hit, one kill affair—but 1942: Joint Strike can dip into dull territory on default difficulty. Regardless of the rather tame action, 1942 adds some nice set pieces and cool effects to keep things interesting, mixing it up where Commando 3 sticks to tradition. Flying over an active volcano, for example, adds a bit of graphical ooh and aah and taking out war boats is so much more cinematic in 3D.
1942: Joint Strike's most attractive gimmick is the titular "joint strike", a special attack that requires cooperation between both players to fire an electrical arc or paint a bomb target between them.
Playing both games back to back gives the impression that the XBLA and PSN games meet pretty much the minimum requirements. They share some of the same quirks, will a strikingly similar presentation and very short length. Both games look like they can be blown through in about 30 minutes or less, especially if you've got a co-op buddy helping you out.
Both titles are planned for a tiny investment, meaning that even if you drop $10 on each you'll probably get your money's worth. Just don't expect a return to the series on par with some of Capcom's other digital efforts.