As a red-blooded American male, I played with little green army men as a youngster. It was a rare day back in the early 1980s when there were no tiny soldiers stationed at strategic places on my bookshelves, dresser, or headboard. So, when 3DO began pumping out the Army Men series, I was excited. However, after several gaming sessions of Army Men: World War, I found myself unimpressed. While the game has a new spin on war simulation, it's fairly unoriginal and not nearly as action-packed as I had hoped.
The idea of bringing toys to life to fight wars is a novel one. However, the problem with Army Men: World War is that it doesn't really expand this gimmick. The action is similar to other war and fantasy action games like Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines, Silver, and Akuma in that you can control single or multiple fighters during the course of the game. Unlike those games, Army Men: World War features a difficult control scheme and missions that are nearly impossible to complete because action is extremely difficult to navigate. Even after taking the slow-paced tutorial, I found that controlling soldiers in the heat of battle was nearly impossible. In fact, I lost most of my team during the first few battles in any campaign I started.
The problem stems from the fact that the controls are all mouse-based and it's easy to click on the wrong areas of the screen during battle sequences. So, if I decide to switch control from one of my units to another, I might accidentally change all of that unit's weapons to grenades, send them in the wrong direction or commit any number of snafus. If I click on an area of the screen to make a unit advance and then accidentally click on a single soldier, the units scatter and I'm forced to scramble to reacquire control. While Army Men: World War isn't the only game where errant mouse clicks ruin a game, it seems particularly bad. The manual lists some shortcut keys that could have resolved the situation, but I couldn't get most of those hot keys to work.
Still, I suffered through a few campaigns of Army Men: World War before total frustration set in. As much as I fondly recalled the green plastic dudes from yesteryear, I couldn't get past the weak action and control problems that plague the game. I even hoped that online gameplay would be somewhat more exciting than the single-player campaigns I waged, but could never find anyone logged on to play Army Men: World War on 3DO's game server. I don't know if this is because of the game's relative newness or if the multiplayer aspect of the game simply hadn't caught on among gamers. Perhaps, the frustrations of gameplay kept the player list down. Even when playing the single-soldier "Capture the Flag" missions, I had limited success taking on dozens of enemies with a lone green renegade. Again, control issues were at the heart of the problem.
Graphically, Army Men: World War is not nearly as cool as I thought it would be. Apparently, the footage I saw in the commercials touted the product based on the animated interludes between missions. The action itself is not represented terribly well, the characters are small, and the terrain is blotchy. It's often difficult to tell where hills rise into impassible plateaus and that can waste a lot of time. Sure, the animated scenes are very nice, but they don't constitute the meat of the game. I expected to see some really great graphics the whole time I played Army Men: World War, but all I saw were average graphics painted green, tan and blue. Army Men: World War's sound is decent, but too many sounds blast at the same time. With tanks rumbling, guns blasting and shells exploding, it was hard to hear orders or other important sounds. That may indeed be a realistic interpretation of war, but I need a little bit of peace when I play video games.
Overall, I was very disappointed in Army Men: World War. While it is a decent war simulation, it doesn't break any new ground. In fact, it re-wraps several old packages in a green plastic shell and that's not enough to insure good quality gameplay. On a final note, while I am not a big fan of ratings systems on video games, the ESRB's decision to give Army Men: World War an "E" for "Everyone" (meaning that the game is suitable for all ages) is atrocious. Even though, the little green men are only toys, the violence is very graphic intensive. This is especially true when you lose all your men in a campaign. The animated end sequence shows a soldier gasping for breath, moaning in pain and then dying. This is a much more realistic presentation of death than in many fighting games which have received harsher ratings from the ESRB. I strongly advise parents to check this game out before allowing younger players to have access.
Graphics: Graphic presentation breaks no new ground, with the exception of painting soldiers solid colors.
Sound: The sound scheme is average, but occasionally, too many sounds hitting at once make it hard to follow.
Enjoyment: The bad control scheme sucked the fun right out of the fighting and campaigns.
Replay Value: With several facets to explore in Army Men: World War, an online following might make playing the sub-par action worthwhile.
People who downloaded Army Men: World War have also downloaded:
Army Men 2, Army Men: Sarge's War, Army Men, Army Men: Air Tactics, Army Men: Sarge's Heroes, Army Men: Air Attack, Army Men: RTS, Army Men: Toys in Space
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