It's genuinely amazing to me that anybody, ANYBODY, ever picked up the Army Men
license in the 3DO purge fest that took place when Trip Hawkins' company went down in flames in the summer of 2003. We all wish game could be a blockbuster. But not everything can, and sometimes game companies think they can take a series, save it, and make it better.
Apparently, TDK Mediactive, which was thereafter purchased by GTA-rich Take-Two Interactive, thought Army Men would go well with Shrek, Robotech, and other low budget and other licensed games. There was definitely a pattern there. Anyway, while some kind of saving of the series might happen in the future, it's not happening here with Army Men: Sarge's War, which is, not surprisingly, a dull, been-there-done that, third person shooter. Even by Army Men standards it's dull, boring and repetitive.
For the most part, nothing much has changed since the last time you played an Army Men game. Army Men: Sarge's War is a third-person shooter based on the never-ending war between the Greens and the Tans (SUPRRISE!), and Sarge is your man. He's tough, he'd built like a green gorilla, and he sounds like Duke Nukem, though he's not nearly as funny. You can play the game in single-player mode through the campaign, and you can also vie against three others in four-player split-screen. You can also check out who's online via Xbox Live Aware.
Army Men: Sarge's War is a simple shooter, with really quick load times, basic gameplay premises, and very little special extras or unique qualities. You move from mission to mission, following a minimalist storyline, beating short, small levels and using more and more powerful weapons. It's your most standard fare ever. One thing for sure, it makes other shooters, such as, say, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher's Bay or even Metal Slug 3 look like pure genius in comparison. Heck, even Shadow Ops: Red Mercury looks pretty damn fine in comparison.
On the positive side (and I use this word in the most lenient of manners, and no I am not on ludes), the latest Army Men effort is not as incompetent as other Army Men games. It's far less buggy than any Army Men game ever. That's a relief. Army Men: Sarge's War is a straight-ahead shooter requiring the most basic of gaming tactics. You'll need to switch weapons, find ammo, search for flags, crouch, snipe, use cover, and you'll face increasingly stiff competition as the game progresses. It's not original, interesting, or in anyway engaging to the experienced gamer, but it might just make an inexperienced, six-year old rather happy. If he's blind, of course.
The weapon list is filled with the standard items. You start with the stinky pea-shooter Carbine and move onto the Assault Rifle, Ga-9 Sniper Rifle, and the heavy duty Shotgun. From there is gets even more fun and destructive. The Assault Rifle becomes an Auto Rifle, and you'll also get the bazooka, flame thrower, and the heavy machine gun. You collect weapons, ammo, special maps, and enemy flags as well.
What's deviously fun about this game (SPOILER ahead) is what happens in the story. This is good. Why is it that Sarge is actually at war? That "maniac" Colonel Malice is back, seeking vengeance with a plan that's as devilish as any Joker (a la Batman)-style mass murder. By the way, Colonel Malice looks like a combination of Scorpion (of Mortal Kombat fame) with his trademark steel mouth guard, and M. Bison from Street Fighter. In other words, like a complete tool. He sets a time bomb during a peace accord and blows up everybody. And I mean everybody. The pilots from the Army Men Air Attack games, colonels on both sides, and even Sarge's love, Vicky, croaks in the end. Finally!, something good happens in an Army Men game.
On the negative side (and I'm keeping this in check), Army Men: Sarge's War is a redundant, unoriginal, by-the numbers shooter that features troubling collision detection (you might shoot an enemy from distance, but he won't take damage), seriously worrisome AI (these are some near-sided, dumb-ass Tan soldiers, I gotta tell you), small, barely competent levels, and very, very dumbed down interfaces. To say that Army Men: Sarge's War is derivative, tedious, dull, pain-inducing, horrifically mind-numbing, frightfully sub-par, and torturous is to put it mildly. That is, unless you're dead. In which case, this might actually be a riot.
Actually, after playing this game and nearly dying myself, I did laugh at one of the AI routines. Sometimes when you do a headshot, instead of the enemy dying, he'll act like a chicken with his head cut off. Except with a gun. He'll spin around randomly shooting until you finish him off. That was less painful than the other stuff. And it kept me from committing hari kari.
It doesn't get more simple than Army Men: Sarge's War. The game's visuals are like the gameplay: simple, repetitive and very much like the previous Army Men titles. You've got your sandboxes, tinker toys, shovels, wheelbarrows, firecrackers, blah-de-blah-de-blah. Remember when you were a messy kid and your crap ruled the sandbox? Well, imagine if you collected all your kid crap and threw it in a sandbox, lawn, or backyard. Then one night, some underpaid designer snuck in and built little levels out of your junky stuff, the sand, the dirt, and used tinker toys as bridges and buildings. Almost remarkable at first. Then terribly sleep-inducing. At one time these levels looked kind of inventive. Now they look as if they were once inventive; like you know, like six years ago. In another era.
Actually, the little green bullet bags do take physical damage in a new and better way than before; actually it's Sarge who does it best. When he takes heavy damage, you'll see chunks missing from his head and giant holes in his chest and stomach that you can see through, a la Terminator 2.
Well, it doesn't get any more simple or basic than this. Sarge sounds like a poor imitation of Duke Nukem (I did say this already, didn't I?) with the same 'tude, same deadpan delivery, only everything he says is so un-funny it's funny in a sad, pathetic, where-are-the-razorblades kind of way. You'll say to yourself, "Did he really say that? GOD, that was dumb." The music is dramatic, over the-top fluff that sounds a lot like every other Army Men game.
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