Army Men: Sarge's Heroes 2
After a string of stinkers, the Army Men series starts to find its way on the PS2.
This PS2 version of what was a train wreck on the N64 is the gaming equivalent of a four-day candy and soda binge: nothing substantive, you know it's terrible for you, and you'll hate yourself afterwards. In fact, you hate yourself while it's going on, but it's such tasty junk that you just can't stop.
Despite the fact that I should know better, I keep coming back to the Army Men trough, and 3DO keeps slopping it full. So, each time, as I bend down and get my face in the goodies, they--with the timeless fecklessness of a football-wielding Lucy Van Pelt--sneak up from behind and bash me in the skull with a baseball bat.
After a string of stinkers that only just ended with Final Front, this series is finding its way on the PS2. While this version of Sarge's Heroes 2 isn't great, it's better--and on this system, it could've been much better.
The evil Tan General Plastro takes on an aide-de-camp, a beautiful spy named Brigitte Bleu. Brigitte's pretty sharp and she's developed a chemical that "deplastifies" um, plastic. In exchange for her knowledge, she, of course, wants a piece of the pie.
The action takes place in by now familiar settings, pinball machines, refrigerators, atop kitchen tables and in an amazing toy store, as well as in more traditional combat zones like a canyon-laced desert and a creepy castle filled with zombie soldiers (the levels are also available for two-player deathmatches).
The control issues that have plagued this series are pretty much a thing of the past here. In fact, there's actually a very cool innovation: the L1 button can be held to strafe in either direction with the analog stick, or tapped to make your character perform an instantaneous 180.
Aiming, unfortunately, is still crap, therefore the action often consists of watching your character learn new and more stupid ways to die while you're desperately trying to bust a cap in some bad guys--sometimes with them standing right in front of you. Zoom in with the R1 button and you can actually watch your bullets fly by whatever it is you're firing at. It's frustrating, and worse, unnecessary--either the Tan soldiers are made of plastic-coated steel or you need to go back to boot camp.
The weapons are, at times, a source of frustration as well. Even when you're dead on-target, some enemies require eight or ten shots before they drop. Ridiculous. The weapon selection, on the other hand, is righteous, including every weapon those little green guys come with, and a few (like firecrackers) that could only come from the mind of a devious ten-year-old.
The game's biggest flaw is intentional, that hallmark of sado-programmers that’d rather punish than reward--a trip back to the beginning of each level should you have the nerve to get yourself picked off at any point. The only thing worse would be a game where robotic arms reach out and shove a red-hot poker up your rectum when you screw up. 3DO's probably working on that one.
Between aiming like a ten-year-old girl and repeating the same levels more times than my dumb cousin went through sixth grade, I started to wonder, even aloud, if Sarge and Co. might not be better off confining their adventures to a non-interactive cartoon or big-screen adventure.
But, as always, that was forgotten, and all forgiven, when I got my mind wrapped around one of those amazing Army Men scenes. In this case, Sarge crouching behind a chocolate-frosted doughnut while Plastro's men returned fire from a rapidly ripening banana in somebody's mom's refrigerator, then climbing stacks of American cheese slices and franks like they're Mt. Suribachi and the Pacific Islands are on the line.
- You'll save yourself a lot of frustration if you just run and gun and let the CPU auto-aim for you. I realize that's about as appealing eating a sandwich made with moldy bread, but honestly, you'll thank me later.
- If you don't have a ranged weapon, use your strafe buttons and circle bad guys while you fire away. The auto-aim will take 'em out while you take minimal damage.