90's Kid Presents: Army Men: World War for the Playstation | Fanboys Anonymous

90's Kid Presents: Army Men: World War for the Playstation

Posted by Miguel Leon Tuesday, July 9, 2013
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If there was ever a series that confounded video gaming logic, its the Army Men series. The first game was released in 1998 (I'm assuming to capitalize on the budding World War 2 game craze sparked by the release of Saving Private Ryan and Medal of Honor) and was a well regarded Real Time Strategy title that played like a tongue in cheek take on 50's war jingoism played out with green and tan army men figures. But as the series became popular, it decided to venture into more mainstream gaming facets. And here is where the confusion occurs: while Army Men in that small span of several years was considered a popular enough franchise, its games were considered some of the worst in video gaming. Towards the end of the series official run in the early 2000s, the series was regarded by many hardcore gaming fans as a running gag in how bad a video game series can get. And yet, not only did their publishers, 3DO, churn out numerous entries and spin-offs in the franchise(even going so far as to release a platformer for the PS2, called Portal Runner) but fans apparently were buying said games in droves. I can't help but think this was the same core of America that years later thought Larry the Cable Guy was a good idea, but i digress.

Personally, my experience prior with the series was very limited. I remember briefly playing demos of Portal Runner, but my real experience was several years ago when I got a copy of Sarge's Heroes 2 for the N64 from a friend. I played it for an hour or so before returning said game back to my friend and demanding my copy of Super Mario 64 back. But since my bad gaming quota was running low, I decided to trek for a copy of the similar game for the PS1. However, due to how surprisingly rare that game seems to be for the PS1, I decided to go for another 3D iteration in the series, Army Men: World War, or Army Men: Operation Meltdown as it is known in other areas (which is confusing since there is an Army Men game for the PC titled "World War" that is completely different, and yet the PS1 version still went with the title here in the states; go figure). Having been saddled with this game instead of Sarge's Heroes 2, I was actually upset. I was worried that there might be a chance this game was actually good, and that there was a chance Sarge's Heroes 2 might have been an isolated incident. HOO BOY, was I wrong. World War deserves the ire that the rest of the series has gotten. This game makes me want to play Blue Stinger and Space Ace on a constant loop.

First, lets talk about the controls, which was actually worse than what I remember with Sarge's Heroes 2. The first big problem you'll notice with this game is the turn radius. Trying to turn in this game is a chore. Not only do you turn like you're moving through black tar, but it also works on momentum. This mean that not only does it take a split second for you to start moving after you hit the button, but you keep moving slightly after you stop. This becomes a big time issue in battle. Another issue is that the auto-targeting the game seems to have only seems to work when it feels like it. Half the time you'll be able to land a shot on a guy from what seems like half a mile away, and other times you'll be missing guys by like a centimeter off to the side only a few feet in from of you. Maybe it will lock on, maybe it wont. Then there's a other button the game gives you. You'll get a quick crouch that will allow you to crouch at the drop of a hat, which I'll admit does come in handy in certain situations where you need to get really low really fast. But then there's a separate button that just allows you to duck. these two actions are not nearly exclusive enough to warrant separate buttons. You could have consolidated either of these two buttons together. But the most important button in your arsenal is the rolling dodge. I say important, but really its only marginally more useful than the instant crawl. It allows you to roll out of the way of fire. But the roll is so stiff, you don't get much distance from it. So even if you roll out of the way, the enemy still has a bead on you. There is one cool aspect in that you can roll while you're crawling, but other than that, the controls are seemingly designed to make this game much harder than it needs to be. God forbid you ever have to fight more than one guy, because its hard enough to get a solid bead on one guy in a firefight, let alone having to not fight back, but try to dodge the other shooter picking you off off-screen (its always off screen since the camera likes to plant itself firmly on the back of your main character's head at times (which sucks since you can't control the camera at all).

This leads me into the main story of the game. You play a member of the Green Army in a war against the Tan army. There's not much in the way in character, as this is the first where you don't play as the titular "Sarge" character that became the main character in most of the other games in the series. You are faceless soldier dropped into one of three areas, usually split between a field area, jungle area, or city areas. There are a few notable areas, mainly the stereotypical beach front battle parodying Normandy, but other than the specific missions, don't expect much diversity. Most of you missions will consist of shooting tan solider and going from one spot on the map to another. Occasionally you'll get to man something like a turret gun or a tank, but these are ruined by the lack of something very specific: a target reticle. I forgot to mention earlier that you also have a free-aim button, but like with the mounted guns and tanks, you have no way f aiming you gun for any sort of precision. Not even down hard sights on you gun. Every shot you take might land, or it might not. Its all luck and no skill. Don't even bother with free aim, and as for the tanks and turrets, you'll just end up going "spray and pray". Don't worry though, because the enemy A.I also seems t work like that. sometimes they wont even notice you're standing next to them, sometimes they can see you from a half mile away and have the most perfect pin-point aiming. And like stated before, God help you if you get more than one enemy to deal with because they have no problem landing their shots on your ass. For a game with controls this broken, it should not get this frustratingly difficult.

Graphically this game looks like is was made in the mid-90s on the PC. From the first cutscene, you'll notice how lacking this game is in its visuals. Most of characters looks like the were dropped right out of Alone in the Dark from the early 90's, with their horrifically low polygon counts. They basically have square arms. For a game that cam,e out in 2000, this is unexceptable. Levels themselves consist of flat shapes masquerading as trees, buildings and vehicles. Textures are at best flat and boring, while anything trying to have a texture looks murky and pixelated. this gets to be a big problem in levels like the jungles, where your enemies can actually blend in and get lost in the environment, which doesn't help the already frustrating skirmishes. Sound design is probably the best part, if only because its nothing god or bad. Generic ambiance mixed with generic war music, with lots of marching music. Its Ok, but wholly forgettable.

What isn't wholly forgettable was the gameplay experience I just went through. Having played this game actually makes me see Sarge's Heroes 2 in a better light. at least that one seemingly had better graphics, more of a story, and given that one's story took place in the real world, much more personality. Heck, i remember playing a level that took place in a play room area. That to me is where the kitch of the series should have gone. Instead we get a generic war game that loses all sense of what its trying to parody. This game looks and plays like an early attempt at an action title from the mid 90's. I will never understand the nostalgia players seem to have for this game and the series in general.this game deserves every bit of hate it has gotten from the mainstream gaming media. Save your money.

Grade: F

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