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Review by: Pete Hines
Published: May 17, 1998
As you might be aware from reading my previews and my Strategic Advantage column, Army Men went through some plastic surgery (pun intended) a couple of months ago. Instead of a real-time strategy (RTS) game with some elements of action, it really became an action game with some elements of strategy. Having played virtually every RTS game that has come out in the last year and a half, I caution strategy gamers who may have misconceptions about this title. Both Editor in Chief Emil Pagliarulo and I agree that this game reminds us of the old coin-operated arcade games, like Commando and Heavy Barrel, where you see the action from a top-down or isometric view and move about blowing things up and picking up special weapons. Certainly Army Men is leaps and bounds beyond these games in terms of what it offers, but the roots are almost unmistakable.
In the single-player mission you assume the role of Sarge, who serves in the Green army during a war against the Tans. Your ultimate goal is somewhat vague and is uncovered as the missions move along. Essentially you are out to blow up everything and anything Tan and eventually piece together some kind of super secret weapon. The Blue and Gray armies also play small but important roles in this struggle. The missions range in variety, but frequently require you to take out some strategic target or find a valuable item or piece of information. The campaign is played out over three types of terrain: desert, alpine (forest), and bayou (swamp). Each offers different challenges as the game progresses. For example, cover can be much tougher to find in the desert versus the alpine or bayou maps. On the other hand, it can also be tougher to spot enemy units on these maps.
Usually you begin each mission by yourself and either must go it alone or meet up with other Greens and complete the objective. Any troops that join you along the way are under your command until they’re dead. Of course, technically they’re still under your command even then, but yelling at them won’t do you much good. You can toggle through your list of different groups and issue orders to them, such as attack, defend, or follow (Sarge). Soldiers come equipped with rifles, bazookas, or any other available weapon but cannot be issued new weapons. You also may be able to find and use vehicles like jeeps and tanks to assist you. These vehicles will not operate on their own and can only move and fire their weapons if you are driving them. Some vehicles, like the truck, even allow you to transport other soldiers.
At the start of each mission, you are armed with only a simple rifle with an unlimited supply of ammo. You have two additional slots that can be used for special weapons or provisions. The first slot can be used to equip Sarge with grenades, a mortar, bazooka, or flame thrower. The second can be used to hold a first-aid kit, mines, or a mine sweeper. Each of these abilities is obtained by picking up a crate with the appropriate icon, which provides that weapon and a number of rounds or uses. So, moving over a crate with a flame on it will pick up the flame thrower and give you a certain number of rounds, which are displayed in a small box in the appropriate slot along with a picture of the weapon.
You can only have one weapon in a slot at a time, and must first drop a current weapon before picking up a desired weapon crate for that same slot. Once you use up all of the rounds for that weapon, it disappears from the slot automatically and you are free to grab another crate for that slot. In addition to the special weapon crates, there are a number of other power-ups in the game. An automatic rifle crate upgrades your default weapon to an auto rifle and is the only weapon upgrade you don’t lose when you are killed (i.e., in multiplayer games). There is another first-aid crate that simply restores Sarge’s health automatically, instead of forcing you to carry it around and use when you need/want it.
There are also three other crates you can pick up which allow you to call in an aerial attack, paratroopers, or recon. The aerial assault command drops a number of bombs on the target you designate while the paratrooper command drops three paratroopers on the target, who will then proceed to attack it and any nearby enemy units. Recon is useful to see what is happening in another part of the map and sends a recon flight over the area so you can see any enemy troops. All three of these commands are made available by finding the appropriate crate, which lights up between one and three spaces next to the corresponding icon in your menu bar. Each light provides a single use for that command. So, two lights next to the parachute icon indicate you can order two paratrooper drops of three men each).
It’s also important to mention that there are quite a few unmarked crates littering each map. Blowing these apart may or may not reveal a usable item, but most of the really hardcore powerups, like air support or paratroopers, are usually obtained in this way. There are even barrels located on some of the maps (particularly in bases) that can be shot in order to blow up any nearby enemies, a la Doom.
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