Army Men RTS

Another serviceable strategy game with plastic men.

You’ve got to give 3DO credit for trying to inject a little creative juice into their overstuffed and aging Army Men franchise. True to its title, Army Men RTS takes the little green plastic men of games past into a Command & Conquer style setting. Controlling a team led by the generically named “Sarge,†you do all the stuff you’d expect to do in any real-time strategy game: collect resources (plastic from discarded toys, energy from batteries, and so on), build a base, crank out units, and kick ass.

8Because these are teeny plastic soldiers, battles are fought around and throughout a house: in the front yard, the basement, the living room, the attic, and so forth, with all the usual clutter you’d expect in a suburban residence. At the start of each mission you usually have a few special characters to control, each with boosted powers and all-too-obvious names: “Scorch†wields a flamethrower, “Hoover†sucks up mines, “Bullseye†is a sharpshooter…well, you get the idea. You only have to protect Sarge through these missions.

Pandemic Studios, which managed to make the sequel to the brilliant Battlezone a tepid rehash, takes the concept of toy wars and runs about two inches with it before hitting a brick wall of apathy. Though Army Men: RTS’ tech tree is stunted and short, it still takes an eternity to make any truly powerful units — which is okay when playing the campaign game because the AI enemy is sluggish and stupid.

Achieving goals during each mission will unlock secret “Great Battles,†but oddly enough, you aren’t told those conditions before the fight begins — and not many players want to refight a 30- or 40-minute scenario just to access what is essentially a wide-open skirmish against the computer. Oh, and speaking of skirmishes, there aren’t any. The only way to fight against computer players is if another player hooks up with you via multiplayer.

21The AI for friendly units can be maddening. Sometimes units will hoof it to take on an overpowering foe, while other times they stand idly by as a building is destroyed before their plastic eyes. Since there’s no option to create formations, maneuvering tanks and even ground troops can be extremely frustrating as you helplessly watch them wobble and weave in a feeble attempt to get into firing range. Many times they will take a bee line to an enemy target, and stumble clumsily past each other all the way.

The simple tech tree and gameplay found in Army Men RTS means that any strategic depth becomes an afterthought – whoever chunks out the most powerful units faster usually wins. If you enjoy that concept and get an extra kick out of plastic nostalgia, then this game will suit you.

System Requirements: Pentium 233 MHz, 64 MB RAM, Windows 95

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