STAFF REVIEW of Army Men: Sarge's War (Xbox)

Sunday, August 29, 2004.
by RichVGS

Army Men: Sarge's War Box art ?Bravo team commander, what?s your location, come in?over.?

?Bravo here. We?re making our way around rosebushes and heading towards the swing set?over.?

?Proceed with caution, enemy has been spotted near the tool shed and lurking around the Slip-and-Slide?over and out.?

Oh, the fun playing with those little plastic army men. What good times for those who reenacted the Storming of the Beach in Normandy, to the ones who simply liked to watch those little plastic soldiers milt under the sun via a magnifying glass (you sick freaks). In an effort to regain some of the old childhood fun, 3DO (you might remember they?re ill-gotten 3DO game system, but probably not) games decided to create a line of games called Army Men. Unfortunately for fans of the series, it seemed 3DO was more interested in quantity as opposed to quality. After almost twenty Army Men games, 3DO closed its doors for good, never having a chance to put right to the wrongs they had created (Army Men Air Attack was the worst mistake ever). It looked like the war between green and tan had finally come to an end?that is until the rights to the Army Men game series was resurrected by Global Star Software. In an effort to breathe new life into the Army Men series, Global Star has released Army Men: Sarge?s War.

Sarge?s War starts off in a somewhat odd manner. While stationed in a small town near the frontline, the green army becomes pinned down and overrun by tan troopers. So far, nothing to abnormal, that is until the greens realize that the tans are showing up via a strange portal between our world and another. It?s up you, the Sarge, to take out the tan communications and heavy weapons in order to quell the tan onslaught. Once you?ve completed your task, the tans declare defeat and surrender to the green army. Things finally seem closed and peace is about to be declared. But like many defeated armies in history, a small band of tan forces vow to crush the green army thanks to a new doomsday device and stolen soldier molds allowing this rag-tag unit to create reinforcements. In no time, the green army is once again behind the eight ball, and it?s up to the Sarge to bring home victory and to stop the tans from using the doomsday device. Are you up to the task soldier?

While previous Army Men games play like two dimensional shooters from the sixteen bit graphics days, Sarge?s War plays like a children?s version of Medal of Honor. Don?t worry, there?s still plenty of war and shooting violence to enjoy. The level of difficulty is somewhat on the easy side of things. Enemies are incredibly good shots, but the amount of damage inflicted is boarding on pathetic. It is quite conceivable that a player could complete the game at the highest level of difficulty without losing a life in the process. The A.I. is surprisingly well developed. During missions in which you must take out spotters, these soldiers tend to fall back in retreat and evade fire as opposed to just standing around and trying to fight back. There is also a variety of soldiers with different degree?s of toughness, so don?t expect every soldier to fall as a result of a well placed bullet (watch out for the bulked up Marine types, they are tough to kill). While the varieties of soldiers are plentiful, the varieties of missions are lacking. Kill soldiers, blow something up and get from point A to point B summarizes up the depth of Sarge?s War. But let?s be honest, you?re just there to kill tans and there is plenty of them to kill.

Controlling the Sarge can be a real pain. The controls are ultra sensitive, which means if you turn to hard, you could end up running the complete wrong way. Also, the camera movements are enough to make you kick a puppy (Okay, no one in their right mind would actually kick a puppy, or any dog for that matter. I just could not find a better way to describe the level of frustration that the freakin? camera caused me without using profanity, which I am not allowed to do. If I had used profanity, it would have looked something like this: I can?t believe the ----y angels this game has. How in the ---- did this get through beta testing? ----!) One other issue that I noticed was by not placing the fire control on the right trigger button, which most of us are used to, slowed reaction time big time. Oh man, there are lots of tans. Fire! Fire! No, not got to first person mode. AHHHH! After that, it?s your standard third-person shooter control setup.

Graphically speaking, things are surprising good considering the past Army Men game graphics. While setting and backgrounds seem basic, the cut scenes are well animated and the action is well detailed. One major highlight is the soldiers react differently depending on where they?re shot. Shot a soldier in the arm, and his little plastic arm will fall off (same goes for the leg). Close up details are well documented in the variety of soldiers you encounter. The Marine types soldiers are decked out like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Predator (complete with juiced up arm muscles). While this is nothing groundbreaking, it?s pretty impressive for a game that, frankly, no one had any real expectations for.

Sounds like war to me. The depth of sound is really noticeable through surround sound. Bullet sounds will often help you locate from which direction the enemy is hiding. Explosions are handled much the same way and will often scare the crap out of you when you?re not expecting there to be a tank around the corner. Finally, the sound of overhead air strikes can be near deafening, especially when they?re followed by heavy bombing of the immediate area. There is no real music to speak of, except during the cut scenes when it?s at such a low volume you?ll hardly notice it. As far as the voice acting is concerned, there?s nothing to write home about. Sarge has the stereotypical rough, tough voice that you?d expect from such a battle hardened soldier.

So what?s not so good here? Sarge?s War has a few drawbacks, but the biggest of them all has to be the camera angle changes. Nothing is more annoying then trying to make a 180 degree turn and having the camera end up behind a !&%$@#* building allowing the enemy to get some free shots off. Button positioning also causes the enemy to get the drop on you. Let?s face it, we?re all used to the right trigger firing your weapon, and having the A button as fire really makes things confusing (don?t quote me here, but I think this might be the first Xbox game where A is fire). The last major set back is the lack of mission variety. Shooting enemies is fun and all, but there needs to be some different goals in order to hold most players? attention. There is also a multiplayer mode, but it?s basically three different versions of deathmatch. Some Xbox Live love may have made a major difference.

So at this stage you?re probably thinking of just letting Army Men: Sarge?s War slip on by, and under the normal circumstances, I?d probably do the same thing. But before you walk on by, I should mention the one factor that can make all the above wrongs right. What is that factor, you may ask? The price tag. Retailing at only $14.99, Army Men: Sarge?s War becomes a real steal. Taking a cue from Sega and offering their sports line at such low starting prices, Global Star Software hopes to attract customers who previously dismissed the Army Men franchise back to the game series. Then again, such a low price could cause customers to judge the game negatively just because it?s so cheap. Let?s not judge a game just because of its price tag (there have been plenty of crappy games priced at $49.99).

While Army Men: Sarge?s War may seem like such a basic and simple game, it?s well worth picking up at such a low price. True, it won?t be a suitable substitute for a game like Fable or Halo 2, Sarge?s War can supply you with a few hours of war game fun at a low price. The game is fun in its purest state. Besides, you?d look a bit strange playing with little green and tan army men in your backyard. Sarge?s War will allow you to walk down memory lane without any potentially embarrassing moments. So if you have what it take to stop the tan onslaught, $14.99 and the guts to save society from a secret doomsday device, then pick up Army Men: Sarge?s War.

From the Inside, Keep on Gaming!

Overall: 7.8 / 10
Gameplay: 8.2 / 10
Visuals: 7.6 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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