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GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004

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by 3DO

Ups: Multiplayer; battle action; melting the bad guys.

Downs: Awkward movement; slow camera; lack of verve.

System Reqs:
Nintendo 64, memory expansion compatible.

sarge1-01.jpg (4144 bytes)Sarge is back, and ready to wage a one-man war on the rapacious tan army led by General Plastro. The green army is outnumbered and only you (in the form of a mean, green, plastacine soldier) can help. Your objectives are to rescue your captive Bravo Company buddies (as well as the love of your life, the curvaceous and "well-toned" Vikki) and to stop Plastro from importing weapons from an ‘alternate universe.’ And if the solo campaign mode gets too gritty for you, there’s a multi-player melee option for up to four of your couch-potato commandos.

sarge2-01.jpg (4327 bytes)The makers of Army Men: Sarge's Heroes are counting on an element of nostalgia from its players, both from childhood (yes, I too played with plastic toys other than Barbie) and from the previous Army Men titles. However, when I first began this skirmish, I wasn’t sure if the concept and updates would be enough to override some of the problems I encountered with its gameplay. While I discovered  that for some of these difficulties there was a counteractive measure that could be taken if one was patient enough to find it, there were still aspects that remained just plain annoying.

sarge3-01.jpg (4868 bytes)The first and most frustrating problem for me was Sarge’s movement. I found it most difficult to dodge bullets while turning to face rear attackers, as the game doesn’t handle this dual motion well. However, with a little trial and error I found that it did respond favorably to a pivot-then-move technique. This takes more finesse, but allows you to avoid running huge half-circles around your opponents while they take pot-shots.

sarge4-01.jpg (3533 bytes)The problem with unwieldy movement was compounded by a camera that had difficulty following high speed movements (which makes up much of the game) and getting a good view from behind obstructions and around walls. This affected my ability to sneak up on enemy soldiers and the accuracy of my shots when firing from behind cover. Luckily the enemy soldiers move and shoot fairly slowly, so for the most part this problem wasn’t terminal. The only time this wasn’t the case was when using the long-range gunsight, as it is extremely sluggish.

sarge5-01.jpg (3713 bytes)Another problematic element was the time it took to shuffle through Sarge’s weapons when facing multiple types of attackers (for example, foot soldiers backed by remote tank fire). The game suggests picking up every weapon offered, but many times they are unnecessary (you don’t get to keep them from level-to-level anyway) and just slow down your return fire. After a short recon mission, you can be choosy about which items you pick up. This streamlines your defense, and helps your chances of success if you’re the type who gets flustered in heavy fire situations.

sarge6-01.jpg (4501 bytes)One thing I noticed was that balls and brawn (oops, did I say that?) often work as well as stealth and skill in this game. The game targets your M-16 for you as long as you’re facing in generally the right direction, and the strafe-and-run is often as effective as the sneak-and-shoot. I was hoping for more of a Tenchu feel that really wasn’t utilized to its potential in this game. For experienced gamers who go into a campaign needing a challenge, I suggest turning off the battle map (L button), which shows not only the terrain but enemy forces and game objectives. This forces the player to move more deliberately and adds some fun hide-and-seek aspects that just can't happen with radar of that kind. I also suggest this in the melee mode, as it increases the difficulty of play and removes some distraction from the already-crowded screen.

The graphics on this game could have used a shot in the arm, as the backgrounds in some levels tended to be blocky and lacked detail. An expansion pack helps a lot (and you can letterbox it for that theatrical view!), but with all the great settings, a little more detail would really have spiced things up.

sarge7-01.jpg (3648 bytes)On a gender related note, I was depressed that the only female in this game was non-military (I know, I know, that’s the way it was with the toys, too) and was the only character to get "flesh tone." In the post-Lara Croft age, I would have liked to have seen more female characters to chose from in the melee mode (as well as more characters to choose from overall) and some kick-ass females doing battle in the campaign mode. I didn’t even mind the gravity-defying breasts phenomenon, I just felt that if the makers chose to include females in the story line they might have wanted to included a kind of green female other than the Star Trek Menagerie sex-pot kind.

So you might be thinking, with all the negativity, why did she even make this game a three star general? There were lots of things that made Sarge's Heroes fun to play. First, I loved the choices of setting, from the world of the green and tan battlefields to our world of oversized coffee cups, building blocks, sofas, and sandcastles. I also loved the plastic shrapnel flying off when Sarge gets hit with bullets, the melting soldiers, and the addition of the "stop, drop, and roll" move to combat the enemy’s flamethrowers. The music was very martial and made a great backdrop for the action, and I got a kick out of Sarge’s pithy comments while picking up weaponry and medikits (which were fairly plentiful). I thought the ability to crawl, kneel, roll, and climb rounded out the movement and allowed the game good vertical depth. The addition of v-bots and bugs to the ranks of tan enemies also made for a nice change of pace.

The two major strengths of this game are the ability to make the game more challenging (by setting it to expert and dropping the battle map screen) and the melee mode addition. Once the campaign has been won, the melee allows this game a longevity it wouldn’t otherwise have. It's always nice to have a mode where you and multiple friends can duke it out and which becomes more challenging as each of you becomes more adept. As far as these types of multiplayer games go, I still think Goldeneye beats all competition hands-down, but if you’re bored with the games you’ve been playing and want some fun, you wouldn’t be amiss in picking up Sarge’s Heroes for a few go-rounds.

--Monica Hafer