reviews\ Apr 18, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Army Men: RTS - PS2 - Review

The long running Army Men series, a Small Soldiers meets Toy Story blend, gets a gameplay twist in the latest edition of the franchise, Army Men RTS.  RTS (Real Time Strategy) abandons the third person shooter style previously featured in the series in favor of the real time strategy genre made popular by such games as Warcraft, Command & Conquer, and Starcraft.  The result is a game of army intelligence that will entertain for hours. 


The story of Army Men RTS is very familiar to Vietnam War film buffs or anyone who read Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” in high school English, except it doesn’t take place on the Dark Continent or the sweltering jungles of Southeast Asia, but rather out of a toy chest in suburbia.  Human soldiers have been replaced by toy army men and the jungle has been passed over for front lawns, basements, and bedrooms. Sarge, a gritty character from past Army Men games, is assigned to hunt down Colonel Blitz, a once legendary colonel who lost his mind both literally and figuratively.  It seems the Colonel’s new found delirium has led him to amass a loyal army high in the attic of a neighborhood house.  Sarge’s objective is to terminate the Colonel and any member of his tan-painted army he meets along the way. 


While previous versions of Army Men had the player controlling one unit, RTS puts the player in control of an entire Army from the ground up. Every unit requires prerequisites before construction can begin.  For example, you can’t build an army without barracks, and you can’t build barracks without headquarters.  Starting with a few units and the ever-important bulldozer, Sarge must build a base, assemble an army, and assault the enemy. 


Constructing a base begins with the bulldozer, a unit that can build edifices such as headquarters, barracks, and garages.  Constructing such buildings requires resources, either plastic or electricity, which can be harvested from plastic dolls, Frisbees, batteries and other items strewn across the landscape.  Once headquarters is established, the bulldozer will need to build a few more buildings.  Resource Depots process the raw materials taken from items in the terrain and process them into usable resources.  Barracks produce infantry units and garages produce vehicles.  Guard posts and barbed wire fences can also be built to fend off Tan army attacks. 


Once your base has been set up, you’re ready to assemble an army.  A wide variety of units can be built, and each unit has its strength.  Grunts are the pawns of the army, not very effective but inexpensive.  Snipers have a great attack range, but are ineffective against vehicles.  Tanks are great against armored vehicles and infantry, but are vulnerable to helicopters.  Because the enemy has the capability to have the same units as the player, the game quickly becomes a live action chess match. 


Attacking the enemy is no walk in the park, it must be done with caution and intelligence.  The overhead view gives a good view of the layout of the terrain, but enemies can not be seen until they are in visual range of your closest unit.  Ambushes are frequent, and unsupported scouts can be decimated in seconds.  In order to make an omelette, you have to break a few eggs, so try not to get too attached to your units as several of them will undoubtedly be turned into puddles of melted plastic. 


Army Men RTS has three modes: Campaign, Great Battles, and Special Operations.  Fifteen lengthy missions make up the heart of the game, campaign mode.  Each mission in Campaign mode has a main objective and two difficult bonus objectives. If all three objectives are completed, missions in Great Battles and Special Operations are unlocked. 


The controls of Army Men RTS can be a little daunting at first.  The majority of button pushing involves selecting specific units and issuing them commands.  Picking the right units out of a crowd is a skill mandatory for success.  Once this skill is honed, you’ll feel like General Patton while telling tanks and medics one way and choppers and bazooka men another.


While the graphics aren’t superb, they’re more than sufficient to show that even war amongst toys can be horrific and chaotic.  Even with thirty units on screen, gunfire spraying in every direction, and buildings being bombarded, Army Men RTS moves smoothly; no framerate reduction, no choppy graphics.  The cinematic cut scenes look great, and the impressive direction seems straight out of Coppola’s repertoire. 


Every great war deserves great music, and Army Men RTS is no exception.  With tunes reminiscent of The Great Escape and The Bridge on the River Kwai, you’ll be ready to rush into the front line.  Each unit has its own set of quotes and responds like a boot-licking sycophant in a corporate office, further enhancing your feeling of total control.  


The real joy of Army Men RTS is the creativity of the game.  The cut scenes are downright hilarious, and the movie spoofs are frequent.  The Army Men series and the PS2 make cameos as part of a child’s bedroom, the latter being introduced like the monolith from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001.  The unique landscape provides cover in the form of pizza boxes, toy trains, and more.  You’ll even feel like quite the philanthropist when you rescue a town of Lego men.  Army Men RTS shows that not only can war be hell… it can also be extremely entertaining. 



Gameplay: 9

No hack and slash here.  This game will have you flanking, retreating, and ambushing to your heart’s content.  


Graphics: 7.5

While not mind-blowing, the graphics are definitely above average. 


Sound: 8

Booms and crashes thunder over a Purple Heart-worthy soundtrack. 


Difficulty: 8

There are rarely time limits on the missions, so most missions are fairly straightforward.  Completing all the bonus objectives is often very difficult, however. 


Concept: 10

Plastic army men blowing each other up?  A Lego village in distress?  Ants on the attack?  Sign up, Soldier!  This is one war unlike any other.


Overall: 8.5

A good RTS game with plenty of eye candy and humor to keep young and old on the front lines.   


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