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Army Men: Air Tactics Review
P133, 32MB RAM, 2MB video card, 150MB HDD
|ESRB rating: E
release date: Mar 08, 00
|» All About Army Men: Air Tactics on ActionTrip|
3DO has indebted history with its FRP Might & Magic series (which recently got its eighth member) and the unsurpassed strategically oriented trilogy Heroes of Might & Magic, which will surely get the title of VIG (very important games) in some probable Computer game encyclopedia. Therefore, the very 3DO logo guaranties quality. A series devoted to the eternal struggle of small plastic soldiers for freedom is possible ambiguity (not to say stain) on 3DO's perfect history. Plastic soldiers, a universal toy, provided the market for this title in spite of the fact that the games were utterly mediocre, without a single advantage over the competition. There must be some profit though because 3DO released quite a couple of titles on the matter: Army Men, Army Men II, Army Men: Toys in Space and Army Men 3D. Releasing PC and PSX versions simultaneously was made a custom. The latest title in the serial is named: Air Tactics.
All forms of ground war seem to have been exhausted in real-time strategies, so 3DO decided to move the action a dozen of meters upwards. The already traditional enemy, brown General Plastro (Now, who could that be a parody of?!?) with some help of his gray scientist decided to use insects as a weapon in his world conquest. Our green plastic heroes created a flying chopper cavalry in order t stop him. Major William Blake, in charge of one of the choppers, will have about twenty missions to thwart evil general's plans.
The controls are the same as in the game's predecessors: the mouse is used to look around and maneuver, right button to thrust, and there are a couple of optional keyboard commands. Air Tactics could be called an action game with strategic elements rather that a RTS because there is only one unit you can directly issue orders to. The concept of a lone chopper fighting everyone else was first glorified in Desert Strike (and later Jungle Strike). These games were major hits on AMIGA and one of the key arguments used on behalf of Amiga owners against PC owners in I've-got -the-better-computer type of disputes.
There are indeed some serious differences between Air Tactics and Desert Strike the most obvious one being the perspective. I must admit that I started playing the campaign enthusiastically after finishing the tutorial mission. Apart from slaughtering opponents and clearing the way for infantry, there is a possibility of dropping "navigation boxes" that direct your ground troops. This opens a great number of new tactical possibilities: the major might direct his support forces towards weak defense points, coordinate the actions of different types of units, scout, and create various diversions. Unfortunately, these potentials were not fully exploited probably because they wanted to emphasize the action and simplify the command system. Hence, most of the missions will basically come down to shooting at enemies and cleaning terrain. The fact that it is not possible to change altitude proves that the game is arcade bent. The chopper will land or fly up depending on the terrain beneath it. All this doesn't look bad at all, yet I still feel that a great opportunity has been wasted. One of the game's greatest assets is its beautiful graphics. Cartoon-like cinematics are there as an award for every successfully accomplished mission. The terrains are motley and very neatly done. Some of the battles take place in the real world (garden, bathroom, nursery) while some take place in scale models of islands, forests and villages. The designers wanted to make things more realistic by making the colors a bit paler so that the player may find bigger enjoyment in melting his enemies over the toilet or sinking the ships in the bathtub.
Cheerful graphics and lack of explicit violence (there are a lot of severed limbs, but hey, it's only plastic) may suggest that the game was meant for children, still the difficulty of some missions, suggests different. If you turn on all the help modes and play on the easiest level (on which the computer does about all the playing) you will see the ending sequence after many hours of playing (and biting nails). Using unlimited lives might reduce the time needed, but even then, don't expect it to be too easy.
In the course of your battles you will use: three different choppers, fifteen weapons ranging from fire crackers and insecticides to dangerous napalm and deep bombs, and more exotic weapons like a heater (which transforms enemy soldiers into puddles of plastic) and green paint spray (paints enemies green making them fight amongst themselves). You will also encounter objects like various healing this-and-thats, chaffs, engine silencers, food used as decoy for insects and sonars that prevent underwater surprises. The equally diverse enemy units include jeeps, tanks, SAM sites, boats and submarines and possibly the most troublesome insects.
The sound effects realistically represent collision of plastic parts. As you may imagine, this does not really improve the atmosphere, still the music makes up for it. The themes are versatile and enjoyable, becoming to some good war movie.
AI is not of great importance here. As this is an action game, anything not green and moving on screen should be considered hostile and shot. Sometimes it seems that it would be impossible to finish the game without unlimited lives. Three difficulty levels only make things worse.
Another traditional thing in the series is an interesting multiplayer mode. Supported modes include LAN, modem, Internet, and HEAT and MPLAYER gaming servers. There are eight multiplayer maps and three game modes: Standard Deathmatch, Bug Hunt (slaughter most bugs in a designated time period) and the most interesting Savage Scavenge where you have to capture three enemy objects and defend three of your own.
There is nothing you couldn't say about the rest of the serial that wouldn't apply here. Nice graphics and an interesting idea may make Air Tactics seem a bit better than the rest, but it still offers only some short lasting fun. Another good side of the game is highly interactive environment, but a great minus is the very clumsy gunner (the enemies act like James Bond, standing calmly in the middle of battlefield while bullets fly around them usually missing them because of the imprecise gunner).
A new idea;
Short lasting fun.
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