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Army Men RTS
Review By:  Christopher Coey
Developer:  Pandemic
Publisher:  3DO
# of Players:  1
Genre:  Real-time Strategy
ESRB:  Teen
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  6-5-02

An honored soldier, decorated from many past battles has lost his mind, In his insanity he becomes treacherous and evil, joining the forces that fight against his former compatriots. Deep within enemy territory he has built his fortress, and amasses a great army. He must be stopped.

Sound familiar? Well, unfortunately most of the great war movies that this game pays homage to with it’s sharp, witty parodies will be unknown to the majority of the market that this game (and all Army Men games) are targeted towards. The general plot of the game, as described above, comes directly out of Apocalypse Now. Apart from the plot, Army Men RTS steals away bits of memorable characters and scenes as well. The result is that on top of a great game, is a memorable gameplay experience. This game is fun, start to finish.

With each new mission, which are often based around scenes from war movies themselves, are mini intro animations full of colorful characters and inside jokes. One does not have to have seen all the movies that this game mimics, but it will certainly add to the enjoyment of play. The mission names are all a "play on words" from various movies titles, such as: ‘The Thin Green Line", "Full Plastic Jacket", etc. Clever.

The object of the game is to lead your army (the green army) against the forces of Colonel Blintz (the tan army.) Violence and aggression ensue. The violence is all in the form of plastic men, fighting with plastic weapons; which is of course the whole concept behind the Army Men games. The difference is that 3DO finally produced a game which plays the way fans have wanted all along. Real Time Strategy (RTS.)

If you’re not familiar with RTS games, you’ve probably been mostly a console gamer, rather than a PC gamer. What does RTS really mean? Well, the action takes place in ‘real time’, meaning that even if you don’t instruct your men to take action, the action still happens. Your units (men or vehicles) take orders from you, but carry out those orders on their own. You send them into battle, and then watch the battle happen. You can give orders on the fly, such as: attack a specific enemy unit or building, move here, retreat etc. But you don’t fire the weapons yourself. Basically, you are the general (or in the case of the game, Sergeant.)

The concept of Real Time Strategy has been around since before the PSone. But due to the complexity of gameplay, and variations of controls, there has never, until now, been a successful conversion to a console. [For evidence of this, compare the award winning Command and Conquer series on the PC, to the unplayable PSone port.] Pandemic and 3DO have done a superb job translating RTS controls to the Dualshock2. Of course some of the more complex functions (such as group formation, route markers, and unit strategy) are missing. However, once you adapt to the more limited structure of this game, the extra functions would only serve as a bonus, and not a necessity.

The thing that impressed me the most with this game was the level designs. Almost all RTS games follow this formula: start with a limited number of units, and a home base. Collect resources found around the map to build more units. Research more powerful units, repeat. The idea is that the resources available are limited, and you are in competition with the enemy over what is available. In this game, the resources are plastic, and electricity. You are required to spend a certain amount of plastic to build units; some units also require you to spend electricity. If you run out of a needed resource, you cannot build. In some of the longer, more difficult missions, near the end of the battle, resources become very limited. I actually ran out of both plastic AND electricity during the final mission of the game. I had to melt down buildings I controlled in order to create soldiers in order to attack the last remaining enemy units and buildings. In other missions, you might find that you run out of electricity but have plenty of plastic. You can therefore, only build military units, not tanks or helicopters. The game is very well balanced. In true Army Men fashion, you collect the resources a number of creative ways. In some missions you melt down plastic toys found out in the garden, or deplete a battery lying near your base. All of the missions take place in various rooms or areas around a ‘real world’ house. At one point, the enemy is found to be powering their base using the output from a PS2, complete with games and controller lying around the room.

The AI is a lot better than I expected. Especially for your dump truck units (which are used for the collection of resources.) These units have no offensive capabilities, and are exceptionally good at avoiding, or running from danger. Very important, since if you lose too many, you are probably going to lose the game. Also the units recognize when you are running low on a certain resource, and instead of continuing to deplete an unneeded resources, they will attempt to locate a needed one. Impressive.

Aside from the 15 missions in Campaign mode, this game has a TON of replay. By completing ‘bonus objectives’ within a mission, you score either a bronze, silver, or gold medal. For each gold medal you receive you unlock either a new "Great Battles", or "Special Operations" mission. Incase you aren’t paying attention, that means that you can DOUBLE the number of available missions. Not to mention that there is a fair number of units and vehicles to research. You can eventually call in paratroopers, or bombing runs, and even research an aerial magnifying glass to melt enemy buildings. Lots’o’fun.

It seems that as I review more and more ‘fully 3D’ games, the constant gripe present in nearly every game is the shoddy camera controls. Well, no change there. And again, I don’t understand it, since it seems to be an easy fix. You have control over the "zoom", but cannot rotate the camera. It’s not as big a problem as in most platformers, but the camera does at times get stuck in an awkward position making some units difficult to select or control. Otherwise, the graphics themselves are top-notch. The transitions between animations and gameplay are seamless, meaning the animation images are taken straight from the gameplay. And the game never slows down, or falters, even with thirty or more units onscreen at one time. Sound and music are also very well handled. I even thought at one point that the music score was almost too good. Like it really was from some award-winning movie, instead of a teen-rated video game. Again, great job 3DO.


  • Highly addictive, with lots of gameplay
  • Great story, and mission animations
  • What fans have been waiting for
  • Perfect translation of controls to console game


  • Lacks some of the more complex controls common in the genre
  • Limited camera control
  • Not overly challenging


This is somewhat of a ‘beginner’ RTS game. The controls are easy to learn and the button controls are almost intuitive. Fans of the genre might be disappointed at the lack of complexity, but although the ‘strategy’ aspect might not be as complex as it is when using a mouse and keyboard combination on the PC, the gameplay holds it’s own against other similar games. Finally, a console RTS with a control scheme, and gameplay that is not only playable, but also fast, and addictive. Add the great control translation, and the gameplay to the often hilarious animations, characters, and clever missions, and 3DO has a winner. Even veteran PC RTS fans should give this one a try.

Overall Score: 8.4

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