With so many serious military strategy games out on the market, it's nice to see one with a sense of humor. In Army Men. you control a strike team of little green plastic soldiers, the kind you'll find in any toy store--except these guys shoot real bullets at each other, ultimately shattering and melting their plasticine pals. The gameplay is reminiscent of EA's Syndicate, and the learning curve isn't nearly as bad as that in most C&C--style games. So far, Army Men looks like it will be worth its lengthy wait.
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Army Men, a real-time action/strategy game, brings to life those plastic figures that every kid's played with. Playing as either the Green or the Tan army, you defend your base and strive to obliterate your foe's. Each side packs serious heat, including choppers, gunboats and tanks, as well as ground forces that fight with missiles, flamethrowers, anti-aircraft artillery, and more. 3DO's focusing on making the combat intense enough that you don't get bogged down in strategic details, and the gorgeous graphics should keep you coming back for more.
First, it was Shep, stepping on that landmine. Then Cordero got it from an enemy machine gun nest. But the last straw was when they pinned Blackie down as he was trying to use his Jeep for cover and they melted the poor bastard down into a puddle of molten green plastic.
Such is the stuff of Army Men, a long-time-in-the-making action strategy blend from 3DO games. The concept is a great one -- animate those little tan and green army men you used to buy as a kid and cash in on the huge market for both action and real-time strategy titles.
Except that Army Men isn’t exactly a real-time strategy game, nor is it pure action, and this failure to decide really hampers what might have been a great game. Worst of all, in the final analysis Army Men just isn’t as much fun as it was to pick off those plastic dime store soldiers with your BB gun or melt ‘em down with a well-timed kitchen match air-to-air missile. In its defense, there is a good deal of humor to the idea of using the plastic guys for fighting men and their demises are often pretty funny (especially if you did this sort of thing as a kid).
Army Men is a true mix of several types of game. It is real-time, but it’s more of a one-man action game ala the Crusader: No Remorse or Postal games. There is some strategy involved in that you can (limitedly) command other platoons -- well, okay, other groups of three -- and you can drive tanks, jeeps, etc. around and call in air strikes, but don’t get the idea that this is going to be an "in the field" version of Command and Conquer. It’s far closer to Postal (some of the sound effects actually sound pretty familiar) than to a true strategy game. In fact, it seems to have been a designed-by-committee attempt to be all things to all gamers without ever really focusing on how to do one thing really well.
You play the main "character," Sarge, an animated version of the good old plastic rifleman. Your goals range from mission to mission, but they inevitably involve eradicating the evil Tan army. Why, we don’t know … just because they’re tan, I guess. You view Sarge from an isometric perspective (nearly top-down, but with enough of an angle that you get some perspective and 3D-ness to the game) that makes certain tasks in this game -- i.e. aiming at enemies -- far more difficult than they need to be.
Your battlefield controls allow you to pick up items (new weapons, crates with goodies inside, etc.) as well as hop in pretty much any vehicle you come across. And, if you have them available, you can call in backup troops, recon flights, and airstrikes. The big problem lies in how limited your resources are in terms of the number of men and machines you can command, as well as in the unpleasant necessity of forcing Sarge to do pretty much everything himself.
Army Men attempts to be both a good single-player game and a good squad-level strategy game, but the latter of these falls flat when you realize that you really only control one guy and that your objectives in every mission are really about how Sarge fares and not about whether your "team" accomplishes its mission. It ends up being a one-man war whose limitations become obvious pretty quickly no matter what you do; this is the game’s ultimate failing.
Army Men’s graphics are what you’d expect these days without anything eye-popping or exceptionally creative. Once the "hey, your guys are plastic -- isn’t it funny how they melt?" schtick wears thin, the rest of the graphics are pretty much Postal with a new tile set.
The word "repetitive" comes to mind over and over again in Army Men. If you can say "Aiiee!" or "This’ll come in handy," you can do the audio for this one. Sure, audio as an afterthought doesn’t break the game, but it seems to be indicative of many aspects of this game that appear to be slapped together.
The same difficulty with control (and the pathetic AI of your benighted troops) makes for a rather comic, if unsatisfying multiplayer experience. I hate to beat the theme of this game being a one-trick pony too incessantly, but there it is.
Required: Pentium 90, 16 MB RAM, 2X CD-ROM drive, Windows 95, SoundBlaster compatible sound card, SVGA video card.
Recommended: Pentium 133, 24 MB RAM
While sparse, the docs for Army Men are actually quite good, as they act on the humor of trying to play up a very serious conflict between plastic men, all with a fair deal of intelligence and wit. There isn’t too much in the game that is abstruse or confusing, though, so while the docs are a good read, they’re mostly trivial to the overall experience.
Army Men seems to have taken several turns for the schizophrenic in its development -- it’s got action, strategy, single-player and squad level aspects, but instead of breaking new ground, it borrows heavily from other types of games without ever clearly defining itself. It was fun enough to play through it once, but after trying to get excited for a second time around, I just found that I didn’t look forward to playing. Overall, Army Men rates a 68 for a decent idea that just failed to measure up with everything else on the market.