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Gaming Review

'Cannon Fodder 3' review (PC)

By
Released on Saturday, Feb 25 2012

'Cannon Fodder 3' screenshot

Also available on: N/A
Developer: Game Factory Interactive
Publisher: Game Factory Interactive
Genre: Action/Strategy

Cannon Fodder 3 and recent Electronic Arts release Syndicate have a lot in common. Both action-orientated strategy games were big hits back in the '90s - proving particularly successful on the Amiga - and after long absences, both titles have made a comeback. This, however, is where the similarities end. While Syndicate has reinvented itself as a first-person shooter and has the financial backing of an industry powerhouse, Cannon Fodder 3 comes from an obscure Russian studio, remaining true to its roots, but releasing in the West with barely a whimper. However, despite lacking the level of polish and refinement that comes with a bit of monetary muscle, Cannon Fodder 3 is an enjoyable, albeit shallow, action game.

The game's story is a bit of a non-starter. Military powers from various parts of the world appear to have united and are trying to establish a new world order. The objective is simple: eliminate the terrorists with a plentiful supply of lowly soldiers. The action takes place in numerous and varied locations, including sunny North American spots, snowy Soviet bases and even in Outer Space. The wide variety of locations is complemented by a multitude of weather effects and a day and night cycle, ensuring that each new level looks and feels fresh.

The visual style, meanwhile, is simple but effective. The action is viewed from the series' traditional isometric viewpoint, but there's an extra level of detail unsurprisingly absent from the original games. The cartoonish graphical style is easy on the eye and each level is packed with colour, reflecting the game's light-hearted tone instead of the horrifying realities of actual war. There are lots of nice visual flourishes too, with downed enemy soldiers bursting open in spectacular and bloody fashion, while terrorist bases and battleships crumble and explode under the might of the game's more powerful weaponry. There are occasional texture issues however, while characters, enemies and civilians are possibly a little too slight, which makes it difficult to tell what's going on during particularly hectic battles.

The gameplay also harks back to the old school, remaining largely unchanged from previous instalments. Players control up to four soldiers at any one time, moving and firing guns with the mouse and using secondary weapons such as grenades with the keyboard. Soldiers are easily killed, and are replaced by a new group once all four members are downed. Survival sees teams increase in rank, with promotion adding slight improvements to a soldier's ability. Teams can be split up, which proves particularly advantageous when defending a position, while lots of short-term enhancements such as speed bursts, armour and extra fire power can be found by destroying enemies and ammo crates.



The game is very action-orientated, requiring little more than moving forward and shooting everything in sight. Strategy elements, meanwhile, are limited to approaching bases with caution and using vehicles to escape particularly hairy situations. Fortunately, the weapons and vehicles offer enormous amounts of explosive fun. Equipping the deadly-accurate rifles and eliminating enemies in one shot is strangely satisfying, while ploughing through soldiers and blowing up buildings is immensely gratifying in the confines of a rather large tank.

Unfortunately, despite a handsome array of vehicles and weapons, Cannon Fodder 3 is a little repetitive. Objectives include blowing things up - be it weapons, vehicles, buildings or bosses - finding intel, or rescuing hostages. We're not sure what else we expected, but there's something about the way missions are structured that makes extended sessions a little tedious. Regardless of the objective, most levels require players to explore each corner of the map, killing enemies and destroying things - that's about it.

Perhaps things would have been different if some of the maps were a little more focused, or if it felt like your soldiers were going from A to B instead of in one big circle. Either way, regardless of objective, Cannon Fodder 3 has a tendency to grate. Things aren't helped by a ropey camera which moves and shakes a little too violently in an attempt to keep up with the action. Loading times are also far too lengthy, although with most levels clocking in at around half an hour - particularly on the first playthrough - this isn't a game breaker.

With a game that potentially utilises upwards of 20 keys and features plenty of symbols for items and power-ups, the lack of tutorial is a little puzzling. A mini-map would also have been nice, or at least some sort of intel-upgrade allowing players to view the far corners of each location. As it stands, there are a few occasions when it's difficult to know where that last enemy building is located, resulting in moments of blind exploration. At times, your commander will bark orders your way and explain power-ups, but the speech effects are a muffled mess, sounding like they were recorded in one take on an old tape player.

It's not all bad though. The game screen displays vital info such as remaining soldiers and objectives, so you always know what you're looking for, if not where to find it. Levels can also be tackled with up to four players online, which is handy for stages that are either too difficult, or that you simply can't figure out what to do. We would have liked to have seen more online options, but a good bout of co-op is always welcome.

Cannon Fodder 3 is a game best played in short bursts. Extended sessions prove slightly tedious, while a few poor design choices mar what is otherwise an enjoyable, albeit shallow, action game. The visuals are bright and colourful and the locations are varied, even if the objectives aren't. Provided you're not expecting a game with much depth or that's oozing innovation, Cannon Fodder 3 proves that virtual war can still be a lot of fun.


> 'Cannon Fodder 3' gets English release
> What do you think of the game? Share your views

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