The Army Men series from 3DO has been, up to this point, a set of titles high on concept but terrible on delivery. It all began in 1998 with the release of Army Men, a strategy game that allowed us to relive our childhood memories of playing with little plastic war figures. Shortly thereafter, 3DO presented us with Army Men II. As if the first two titles weren't enough, Army Men: Toys in Space soon followed. The series reached a new low with the release of Toys in Space and I for one had hoped that, much like the Lost Ark, those little plastic men would be packed away in their toy chest forever. To my chagrin, yet another Army Men title was ready for release. Army Men: Air Tactics has arrived, making it now four Army Men titles in the last two years.
Army Men: Air Tactics continues the saga that features the heroic Green Army battling the evil Tan Army. The Tan Army is once against bent on global domination and have enlisted the help of the Insane Grey Doctor to create a new destructive force to help in their pursuits. You play the role of Captain William Blade, the finest Air Cavalry flyer ever to take to the skies. Your job is to discover the Tan Army's evil plot and thwart their evil doings.
The three previous Army Men titles have all been strategy titles, but Air Tactics is probably best described as a shooter. I guess 3DO finally figured out that their strategy formula wasn't quite working, so a switch to a different genre is a breathe of fresh air for the series. Unfortunately, while the action can be fast and furious, Air Tactics ultimately follows in the footsteps of it's predecessors. That's to say it's a game that is high on ideas but poor on delivery.
Air Tactics features 20 single player missions that take place in all sorts of locales including the Sandbox, the Flower Garden, the Bathroom and the Alpine Village. No matter how many Army Men titles I play, the environments continue to be entertaining in a 'Honey, I shrunk the Kids' kind of way. Soaring through worlds in which common objects are ten times you're size just never gets old. Within each mission, you'll also find yourself travelling through dimensional portals that lead back to the Army Men world.
Missions are objective oriented, usually involving search and destroy, search and rescue, and other miscellaneous tasks such as repairing or destroying certain structures and escorting supplies through dangerous terrain. This brings us to the downfall of the series up to this point. While the environments are detailed and entertaining, the mission design is completely uninteresting. With all the possibilities that lay out there with this concept, missions are nothing more than blowing every baddie in sight. Most missions also require a little puzzle solving, many of which are extremely tedious and time wasting. I found myself on several occasions searching for that one elusive object that needs to be manipulated in order to advance further in the mission.
There are three different helicopters available in Air Tactics, although you don't get your choice of which to fly. As you advance through each mission, new and improved helicopters become available for your use. In this case, new and improved helicopters simply means helicopters that have been upgraded with more cargo slots and space for onboard weapons. There is actually no difference between the helicopters themselves in terms of flight speed, manoeuvrability, etc. There is an assortment of weapons available in Air Tactics including machine guns, napalm and firecrackers.
Visually, Air Tactics looks exactly like the previous Army Men titles. 3DO is certainly getting its money's worth from this engine. While the graphics do look fuzzy at times, the overall presentation continues to be quite stellar. In terms of audio, Air Tactics features the familiar patriot-themed music. The sound effects are relatively basic, so if you've played any of the other Army Men titles, you'll know exactly what you're in store for, an average audio presentation.
Flying the helicopter is a relatively simple task. Altitude has not been taken into consideration in Air Tactics, there's really only a directional component to worry about, besides the firing mechanisms. The helicopter also lands by itself when you fly over a landing zone. The mouse is used to direct the line of fire and an auto-combat feature has been added to assist beginners with targeting and weapon control.
In terms of multiplayer, Air Tactics features Internet play. There are eight unique multiplayer levels available and three styles of gameplay: Save Scavenge, Deathmatch and Bug Hunt. Savage Scavenge is a mode where you simply need to recover more specified items than your enemies. Deathmatch is exactly that, a head-to-head battle where the object is to destroy your opponents as many times as you can. Bug Hunt is another head-to-head game where the object is to smash as many insects as you can, scoring points along the way. For your gaming pleasure, a whole new assortment of mutant insects have been created including killer roaches, acid-shooting houseflies and fire ants. Yes, that's right, fire ants. Wooooo!
The more I played Air Tactics, the less interested I became. It did not hold my interest through each mission and that's been the downfall of this series. You can create all sorts of wonderful worlds to battle in, but if the gameplay isn't interesting, there is no way you'll hold any gamers' attention. There have been four Army Men titles in the last two years, shouldn't this tell us something? It seems absolutely no time is spent designing interesting and unique situations. It seems the Army Men name is just being milked for all it's worth and at this point in time, that's not much at all.
People who downloaded Army Men: Air Tactics have also downloaded:
Army Men: World War, Army Men: Air Attack, Army Men 2, Army Men: Sarge's Heroes, Army Men, Army Men: Sarge's War, Army Men: RTS, Army Men: Toys in Space
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