Army Men: RTS
Plastic soldiers. Many of us know and love these cherished icons of childhood, but beyond mock combat and the occasional magnifying glass laser experiment, they weren't useful for all that much. Until now. 3DO, purveyors of small time plastic warfare, has finally released a RTS for the console market. Originally starting with PC games and later moving to more specialized console titles like Green Rogue, the fine developers at 3DO have produced a quick, fun, and easy RTS that anyone can play on their PS2.
Centered on our heroes, the Green Army, and Sarge, the toughest soldier in said Green Army, Army Men is a stirring story of betrayal, set in the backdrop of the most important war ever. Not really, but melodrama suits this sort of title. In a very Coppola-esque beginning, we learn that Colonel Blintz, a valorous green soldier, has turned traitor. In Sarge's words, "He's gone Tan." Colonel Blintz, after being wounded in a battle that left him missing several square inches of his skull, retreated into the safety of the house, to build a small Tan empire, all while styling himself a strange Apocalypse Now style villain.
Naturally, it's up to Sarge and his Boys, along with most of the Green Army, to engage Blintz, and deal with him with any means necessary. This means war! After establishing your beachhead on the outside of the Fence, you'll need to fight your way behind enemy lines and wage war against an enemy beyond compare. In other words, it's time to melt some plastic.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
The screen controls are accomplished with the analog sticks, and thankfully, each control is easy to learn and use. Holding down the shoulder buttons will let you open and select new construction items, confirming things with the X button. You can select multiple units at once, and they'll stay grouped as one giant unit, which can be selected later at the press of a button. Adding and removing units is similarly easy. Play around with the basic controls in the game tutorial, and you'll see that 3DO took the complexity of a RTS and put it into an easily controllable package.
Like all RTS games, this centers on base building, resource collection, and unit-to-unit warfare. After learning how to create simple things like a Barracks or a Garage, you'll get access to bigger and badder buildings and units later on in the game. Barracks, like you may have guessed, let you mint new troopers, with the Garage manufacturing your vehicles. Tanks, Half-Tracks, Helicopters, Flamethrowers, Grenadiers, and even Machine gunners will all be yours later on in the game. All part and parcel for a RTS, but I was very happy to see that they put it all into a PS2 title, something I previously thought improbable.
The action is pretty quick, a big bonus in my opinion. Proper balance between intense warfare and quick combat is critical, as demonstrated by the poorly executed Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun, and the excellent Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2. In the case of Westwood, they found that 'balancing high' and giving every trooper a lot of kill potential helped the game, and I think they've discovered the same thing at 3DO. If you've got a good mass of troopers, you'll generally be able to wipe out the enemy pretty quickly, as even with as tough as the toy soldiers are, they're just plastic.
Beat each mission in the single player mode, and you'll start to earn new intelligence files, which you can access from the main menu. Displaying information and units from the game, these files are a neat little extra. Even better, each mission has a series of objectives, which allow you to unlock more intelligence files, and even other missions to play in your meantime between campaign missions. Some are unusual, others very difficult, but each of these extra missions is meant to be a nice little bonus.
The appearance of all of the characters has really been cleaned up as compared to the previous Army Men titles, and the graphic power of the PS2 goes far in making the everyday household environments appear convincingly realistic. Details were abundant, like the pencils that go into creating a fenced barricade. Still, Army Men looked like it hadn't progressed that far, with relatively small viewing distances, occasionally clippy units, and cutscene animations that showed off how un-dynamic some of their animations were. In particular, the only time you see a transport helicopter is usually when it passes by, after which the camera switches to a ground angle where you see Sarge land in-scene.
I loved the audio in this title about as much as I like the score to any war film, which is to say, a lot. Little sweeping pieces of composition matched perfectly with the battle cries and screams of small plastic warfare. If 3DO offered an editor, you'd definitely see me constructing my own little snapshots of Apocalypse Now, complete with that same bizarre voiceover by Martin Sheen.
All in all, if this was an experiment by 3DO, I'd say it was a relatively successful one. In my opinion, it doesn't suck. It's got a few issues, especially given that the game is 3D, and you can't rotate your camera angle. The graphics, as good as they are, occasionally look low-res, but those are really trivial matters when you consider the rest of the game as a whole. With the few extras, and entertaining single player campaign, I was very happy with Army Men: RTS. It might not stick out as absolutely superb, but it's definitely sharing space on my shelf.
Download Army Men: RTS
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
For a game with the word “strategy” in its title, Army Men: RTS is remarkably brain-dead. Developer Pandemic Studios (Dark Reign, BattleZone II) is known for its innovative PC real-time strategy games, but here they took a breather and made RTS simpler than the seven-year-old WarCraft II. The decent 3D graphics and humorous introductions make it fresher than that PC classic, but it isn’t nearly as fun. After a few levels I found that it’s harder to stop dribbling at the urinal than it is to destroy the opposition. The Tan Army (you’re the Green Army) is just idiotic. They’re rarely aggressive and seem to subscribe to the cliche orders “only attack when fired upon.” Maybe I’m unknowingly attacking the Tan Peace Corps. A couple missions were so relaxing that I literally ate a ham sandwich while I waited for my armor fleet to be built. I’m well aware that if you build a gluttony of defenses around your base in most RTS games you could pull this off, but this only took five minutes and two Guard Towers! Offense is equally as simple-so much so that I routinely toyed with the Tannies by surrounding their H.Q. with loads of units before blowing open their base. It was nearly as satisfying as stuffing firecrackers in ant hills. Eventually that thrill wore off, and I went to try the two-player mode so I could play against a smarter opponent (like maybe a rock). But to my surprise, it doesn't exist. And here I thought the Tan Army was dumb.
Now this is where the console Army Men series should be heading-the plastic material is perfect for a strategy game. But is Army Men: RTS any good? If you’re not an RTS general who’s lived and breathed Command & Conquer through Empire Earth on the PC, then I’d tell you this one ain’t that bad. It’s very basic-perfect for younger gamers or those new to the genre. The designers even made the controls and interface super friendly, so even if console-RTS war was hell for you with titles like PSi C&C, this game should be very easy to manage. Army Men: RTS has simple gameplay, plenty of units and lots of missions; just don’t expect a ton of depth.
Hey, you, get back here! Yeah, I know it’s an Army Men review, but this game’s actually good! Console strategy titles are typically an interface nightmare, but the developers played it safe and went the route of “simple but controllable” rather than “complex and frustrating." The tradeoff is a loss of micro-managing ability-I really hated not being able to quickly select a group of snipers and pull ’em out of the green gaggle under fire, or set up attack formations. RTS isn’t so much a strategy title as it is an action game with resource management and a humorous Heart of Darkness plot. Unless you’re very hardcore about war sims, you’ll dig it.