Army Men RTS lets you relive the wars waged in your yard or on the kitchen floor using little plastic green men. It's a solid real-time strategy game and, while hardcore fans may find it a bit simplistic, most will enjoy it, as will newcomers to the genre. Two factions, the greens versus the tans, fight for one objective -- capture the defecting green general and bring him in.
Great Battles, the first of two single-player modes, consists of eight scenarios with single objectives (e.g., destroy the enemy base, create a certain type of building). The second mode, Campaign, has 15 huge linear missions with several objectives in each. The missions include before and after cut-scenes featuring Sarge, the tough-as-nails commander who motivates you in classic drill-sergeant style. Action takes place around the house, in the backyard, kitchen, and bathroom.
The first step in each mission is to construct a base, then acquire resources with bulldozers and dump trucks to begin building units and structures. The bulldozers construct the resource depot near a source of plastic, such as the dog's dish or toys, while the dump trucks mine them for material to build facilities like barracks, where grunts, the heart of the army, are created. Additional items, like barbed-wire fences, guard towers, and pillboxes, can also be constructed. Once enough resources are available, you can upgrade the barracks to generate stronger and more specialized troops, build a garage, and eventually create a super garage, and upgrade headquarters. Power-ups, located all over the map, boost troops' speed, firepower, and health.
Even with only two resources (the simplistic side of the game), it's a fairly unique setup, as you can gather plastic and electricity from just about anything lying on the floor. When plastic troops die, your dump trucks collect the fallen soldiers and bring them back to recycle new ones, but beware -- trucks can wander into the middle of a firefight to carry out the gruesome task. Once resource depots are depleted, they can also be recycled, so nothing goes to waste. Instead of hills and trees as obstacles, you'll have to maneuver around Frisbees, action figures, and roving armies of ants and cockroaches, which gives gameplay a fresh new look.
The campaign mode features a reward system based on the number of objectives accomplished. Each mission has a primary and two diverse secondary objectives. For example, one usually has a time limit, while the other may require finding every power-up on the screen. Completing more than one objective means opening up new Great Battles scenarios, and adds to replay value since achieving all objectives the first time you play is extremely difficult.
Snipers, mortar men, grenadiers, and grunts are but a few of the many units available for construction, and once a garage is built, medic trucks, tanks, and choppers can be made as well. Your choice of what units to build is critical, since each has specific strengths or weaknesses. For example, tanks can't attack air units, while bazooka soldiers can attack both tanks and air units. Occasionally, you can use a hero unit, like Hoover the minesweeper, Riff the bazooka-toting soldier, or Shrap the mortar man. Most hero units tend to be versions of basic troops but with unique personalities you see during cut-scenes. Good balance is essential to survival, and you can only create four unit groups at one time, an extremely frustrating aspect considering the huge number of units possible.
Some of the gameplay problems are surprising, considering the wealth of well-documented data available on what works and what doesn't in past RTS games. For example, simply double clicking on a grunt won't "grab" all similar units -- you have to draw a box around them all, or hold down the shift key while selecting them, which makes combat tough to monitor and control. You have to be careful in selecting your troops so that you don't mistakenly send a non-combat unit, like a medic truck, into battle alongside minesweepers.
Troops can only attack or retreat and have no patrol or guard options available; thus, even when outnumbered, they rush into battle as soon as the enemy is spotted, which leads to real AI problems for your troops. For example, if you're trying to destroy a structure, the troops will doggedly go after the enemy, forcing you to continuously select the structure. Dump trucks automatically go after resources without any type of command, and often get blown up when entering a combat field.
Even with the restricted number of resources and limitation of four usable units at a time, Army Men RTS is still enjoyable and offers a decent challenge. The different levels, the hero units with their own missions, and the many crazy obstacles create a very unusual RTS experience. Veteran RTS gamers may be put off by the simplicity, but novice players should be able to jump right into the plastic wars quickly.
Graphics: The graphics are crisp with sharp colors. Backgrounds are unique, as they reflect the toy soldier's point-of-view in the messy house with toys and clothes strewn everywhere. The backyard has a wide variety of items and obstacles, including ants and cockroaches. Animation is fluid and cut-scenes are well done and funny.
Sound: The sounds are standard, with no surprises or innovations. Music, while not memorable, makes you feel as if you're marching in a platoon.
Enjoyment: Fairly simple gameplay, but controlling the little green men is a blast. Being restricted to only four units is very aggravating and unnecessarily limits enjoyment and options.
Replay Value: Combat can be repetitive with linear gameplay and no randomness built into the missions. With no skirmish mode, playing through once will probably be enough.
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Army Men: Toys in Space, Axis & Allies, Army Men: Sarge's War, Army Men 2, Army Men, Army Men: World War, Age of Mythology, American Civil War: Take Command - Second Manassas
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