Same Old Drill

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Unfortunately, 3DO have just pulled another dud out of the hat; the game is just as uninspired as the Gameboy version. It starts out promisingly enough with some well-rendered scenes that are actually quite entertaining. However, once you leave the world of pre-rendered goodness you're dumped in a world of extreme pixellation and frustration. The game is based around the idea that the evil Tan Army have got their hands on some nasty bits of weaponry, including some of those small French bangers (which are about the height to four soldiers to them) and worst of all, a device which can melt any unfortunate soldiers who get in its way into heaps of bubbling plastic. In case you haven't guessed, this horrific weapon of destruction is a magnifying glass which focuses in suns rays into a deadly beam - and its up to Sarge and his crew to eliminate the threat and save the Green Army. I decided that instead of running into the game headfirst and getting my poor plastic body smashed beyond repair, I'd make use of the included training mode, which takes the guise of a soldier training camp. Training isn't really the word, since you have little guidance as to the purpose of the level (rather like the rest of the game in fact) and you just spend your time shooting down "cardboard" targets and struggling to move through a predictable obstacle course. Controlling your character is a nightmare too, with many different button presses needed to perform different tasks. Compound this with the fact that movement is unresponsive, and half the battle is getting Sarge to actually do what you want him to do. After getting sick of falling straight through a walkway for the umpteenth time due to dodgy collision detection, I moved onto the full game reasoning that I'd at least be able to shoot something with AI. As Sarge gets plunged into his first rescue mission, the player's eyes are assaulted with some incredibly poor graphics. Don't get me wrong, gameplay is paramount to me in a game, but when the graphics are this bad its hard to continue playing to find any sign of entertainment. Your field of vision is completely covered with full-bright textures, which are pixellated in the extreme, and Sarge is reduced from a fine specimen of a plastic warrior in the rendered scenes to a nasty blob of green in the middle of the screen. Putting on a brave face I wandered around the level shooting at the Tan Army, the Green Army's main enemy. However, on each level the game gives you a specific objective to complete, which is woven into the storyline via another pre-rendered cut scene. Disappointingly there is no puzzle elements to solve, nor is there any variation from the standard formula of "find person/object then escort to end of level/destroy".

I need a "hero"

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As the game's name would suggest, there are a number of other characters in the game, which form the "heroes" part of Sarges Heroes. Unfortunately, they don't live up to their monkier. Many levels see you rescuing one of the members of your team from the evil clutches of the Tan Army, and after a small section where the two characters converse, they are supposed to assist you in the rest of the mission. In my experience this didn't happen in most cases and I'd go so far as to say they are a hindrance to the whole affair. For example, you meet your rocket launcher expert and lead him to a couple of waiting tanks. After you take control of a vehicle each, he then proceeds to move at the slowest possible pace out of the level, whilst enemy tanks launch all they have at you - and not once did he assist in my desperate attempts to fend off attack. Bearing in mind that if one of your team actually gets killed in action the mission is over and you are left to run it all over again. Besides, the so-called "special skills" that each of the heroes have are not as indispensable as they are made out to be - other levels allow you to pick up weapons and tools which are exactly the same as the other team members have, such as flame throwers and mine detectors. It would have been a better idea to actually be able to select the soldiers who you think would be most useful in the mission and have them airlifted in when you require them. Instead, it seems like the whole team idea was just an excuse to have someone to rescue in each level. Despite their mediocrity, each Army Men that game that I have tried out has always managed to exhibit one virtue, and that's the musical score. Each level is accompanied with a good flow of suitably army-based themes, akin to the kind of tracks you would hear in classic war films like Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket. Even better is the fact that the background music changes when something significant happens in the game, such as the first time you see a few large tanks rumble through the nasty pop-up and fogging effects, and the music changes to a much faster and more anxious beat. On the other hand, the sound effects just don't have the required "oomph" for a war game. The machine gun sounds more like a small child firing a pop gun at a bunch of cats, and the sound of the soldiers dying closely resembles the aforementioned juvenile actually hitting the target. Nasty. [At least it plugged the holes in your childhood, Tom -Ed]

Conclusion

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Unfortunately, 3DO have failed again to convert this simple idea into a winner. For the life of me, I can't understand why they don't make all the levels take place in real-life locations such as workshops and other environments you'd expect to find toy soldiers, instead of horrid green fields which all look the same. Instead of lobbing grenades over pieces of toast and rope-sliding down flights of stairs, you are left with yet another level of fields. Surely in that case you might as well be playing a real army game about real armed combat? In reality, Army Men are little more than a gimmick for 3DO, and one that's been milked to excess..

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