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Army Men: RTS
Score: 88%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: 3DO
Developer: Pandemic
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Real-Time Strategy

Graphics & Sound:
When the prospect of a new Army Men game came up, I wasn't exactly wetting myself in anticipation. Honestly, the series has been limping in the past few years and either needed to be put out to stud, or brought behind the shed and shot. When I found out that it was a real time strategy game, something the series started as, I was interested.

Graphically, Army Men: RTS is not the shining gem on the system and really doesn't stack up to some of the other titles on the system. But then again, considering what type of game this is, too many details and bits of eye-candy would probably distract you from the game. Although there are a few instances of messed up perspective, the game does a good job of giving you a view of the world from a point of view of a toy. Most of the boards are static, but have a few animated details, such as a fly circling a bowl of fruit, to keep things interesting.

In order to wage your little war, you are given access to just about every green soldier type you could get out of a bucket. Each of the units is well animated and look great even when you zoom up on them. The buildings themselves also show a bit of creativity - how many other games can you name in which you have a soda can as a base and blender as a resource depot? Good voice work and nice, over-the-top war film music round out a good, if not great package.

I love the smell of melted plastic in the morning...smells like victory. Army Men: RTS is something of a parody of old war films, set in a parody of an RTS game. In fact, fans of the movie Apocalypse Now will get a kick out of the game's main villain. The fun part about Army Men is that the characters in the game take things seriously ('He's gone tan Sarge!'), yet nothing else in the game takes itself seriously.

For once, I was glad to see that the entire game takes place in the 'real world' and not the crappy 'Army Men world'.

As far as the game goes, this is your standard RTS, albeit a very basic one. Army Men presents you with the basic goal of destroying the Tan army. Some mission goals are as easy as getting from point A on the map to point B, or you may be asked to destroy the Tan army's 'Infinite Power Resource' (AKA: a typical garden light).

Every war needs funding, and this one is no exception. Army Men: RTS takes its own, unique spin on things by requiring you to collect plastic from other toys and electricity from batteries and watches. Also, when things get tight, you can cannibalize destroyed units. The general rule of thumb throughout the entire game is that there are no small wars, only small soldiers.

In addition to your standard toy soldiers, you are also given access to the standard cast of troops: Sarge, Vikki, Hoover - all your favorites are here, including a new recruit, Bullseye, a sniper. These are the strongest of your troops, and are most likely the ones who will survive most encounters with Tan forces. Later in the game, you will also have access to the ultimate weapon of mass destruction - the magnifying glass.

As enjoyable as I found things, I could not help but to want more. I really would have liked some more interactions with environments. What good is a sniper with a big twig on his back if he cannot hide in the bushes? In other missions, such as the battle on the counter-top, my eyes lit up with the prospect of taking control of the stovetop and using it as a defensive weapon. It is the little details like these that can make a good game great.

As far as RTSs go, Army Men: RTS is rather basic - this is probably the biggest problem the game faces. However, this is also one of the more accessible RTSs I have seen. Anyone can pick up Army Men: RTS and have a nearly full mastery by at least the third mission. The difficulty level does a great job of ramping up over the course of your missions, until you find the few AI bugs that plague the Tan army. For example, there were several times where I was able to knock a fence down and sneak my tanks into the back of the Tan base. Normal logic dictates that the computer should try to shore up the hole in the base, or at least try to stop the assault. In Army Men, the computer will rarely send troops to reinforce the breach - usually depending on just what is in the area to defend the area.

In addition, for an RTS there is not a lot of strategy involved in some campaigns. While some players will set up elaborate systems of troops and support (something which is possible), most missions can be won simply by running a German tank blitz with a few jeeps to take out the pesky helicopters.

Army Men also has a few moments for pure cheapness. Enemy soldiers always seem to have a slight 2-to-1 advantage over your soldiers. This is something I can accept since it makes the game a little more of a challenge and makes up for some of the more questionable AI routines. The second, however, I cannot. Even after destroying all of the Tan army's resources, the computer was still able to create units. This was very unfair and greatly shifted things in favor of the Tan army when a mission came down to a war of attrition.

Game Mechanics:
When I started the game, I bemoaned that there was no mouse or keyboard support. After playing with the controls a little, I found that the developers have set up a rather innovative little control scheme with just about every function you need never more than two button clicks away.

What it all comes down to is that this is possibly the best Army Men game in the series. Of course, that is not saying much - but considering the game's legacy, it is nice to see things turned out nice for a change. The Army Men games should have been taking this direction all along. Although it does not perfect and has a long way to go before it is a top-tier game, Army Men RTS takes a step in the right direction.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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