3DO's Air Attack series - the most popular offshoot of its Army Men series - is coming to the PS2 in top form. The Air Attack games are easily the best in the Army Men line, and all of its installments have proven immensely playable. Taking the formula established by EA's Strike series and making it its own, the Air Attack series puts you in the cockpit of a Green Army chopper and turns you loose on a number of real-world environments with real-world hazards. Not to mention, of course, brigade upon brigade of vile Tan troops. In Army Men: Air Attack 2, you and your copilot will scour 22 levels of fast-paced shooter action, blasting, strafing, and winching your way through tons of interesting obstacles, both earthly and Tan.
As we reported earlier this month, Army Men: Air Attack 2's PS2 upgrade is coming along quite nicely. The Army Men franchise has never looked so good, and the PS2 version retains the addictive playability of its predecessors. The PS2 version of Air Attack 2 is much more than a simple port, though - 3DO has extensively retooled the game to take full advantage of the PS2's hardware set, and the difference really shows.
"No matter what game you are working on, no matter what platform, it is always a challenge trying to make everything you want to put in the game fit into whatever platform you are developing for," said Kudo Tsunoda, the game's producer. "The great thing about working on the PS2 is that we're suddenly able to get a lot more of what we actually want to put in the game, in the game. It is a great piece of hardware. Having a lot less restrictions makes development easier in many ways."
"But there are definitely things that make developing for the PS2 more challenging," Tsunoda continued. "First off, it is a new piece of hardware. We had to spend extensive R&D time figuring out the best way to develop the AM: AA2 engine for this new version. Fortunately, 3DO gave us enough development time to make sure we are creating a technology base that can really push the PS2 to its limits, even for a first-generation product."
"Since we are able to get more data into the game on the PS2, the amount of people needed to create and integrate the content has also increased," Tsunoda said. "This obviously means that there is a lot more work to do on these games. Organizing and developing these projects has become an enormous logistical effort."
"Overall, I am really happy to be working on the PS2," Tsunoda remarked. "We can make games that are a lot more impressive from both a graphical and gameplay perspective. But there is also a lot more work to do to make those games happen. I feel like we have done an excellent job on all fronts for Army Men: Air Attack 2."
The PS2's healthy hardware set will allow for a much smoother looking and quicker playing Air Attack 2. The game will run at a brisk 60fps in both the single-player and two-player modes, allowing for a sharp, swift game pace. When asked about the game's technical prowess, Tsunoda was quick to boast: "The game will feature full-scene antialiasing - this eliminates all the jagged edges you see on a lot of PS2 models. We're also rendering 80,000 polys a frame at 60fps, which equates to 5 million polys a second. Air Attack 2 will also feature real-time shadows - all objects have unique shadows that are dynamically cast on other objects in the game. So when the helicopter flies under a giant plant, you can see the shadows passing over the helicopter."
Regarding the quality of the textures that color the environments, Tsunoda had this to say: "The game will enjoy 128MB of texture data compressed down to 1MB at real-time. This means we will be able to create completely unique environments. No two parts of any level will look alike."
The choppers that you'll be piloting throughout the game have also been beefed up, thanks to the PS2 retooling. Their differences will be accentuated, and each will have a unique feel. Tsunoda had the following to say, regarding the choppers: "Yes, each of the helicopters will have a different feel than the others. We are spending a lot of time tuning all the parameters so that the player gets a different gameplay experience in any level just by using a different helicopter." Tangible differences between each vehicle will greatly enhance the game's replay value, not to mention make the strategic aspects of the multiplayer game more robust. What follows is a quick rundown of the choppers you'll see in the game.
The King Cobra is fast and light, and it's one of the game's fastest choppers. Its good turning ability makes it tricky to hit, but its armor is relatively light, making it best suited for hit-and-run tactics. The King Cobra's special weapon is its homing rockets.
The heavy-hitting Chinook boasts the game's heaviest armor rating, and its guns definitely do their job, but it's a rather slow chopper. Its special weapon is the deadly roman candle.
The Osprey has a decent armor rating, and its winch is one of the game's most efficient. What really separates it from the pack, though, is its special weapon - the fearsome thunder bomb launcher.
The Apache seems to be the most balanced chopper. It's relatively quick, and it boasts tight controls. Its armor is also fairly hearty, and its winch ability is better than most. Its special weapon, the laser, is no slouch, either.
Air Attack 2 will also feature a host of secret vehicles. About these aircraft, Tsunoda had this to say: "There is also a wide variety of other vehicles you can unlock via secrets in the game. These include a radio-controlled toy helicopter, a UFO, a zeppelin, the Tan Baron's plane, and a bee."
The game's five lively copilots will likewise return for an encore. The copilots compliment your chopper's abilities, and each offers a unique weapon: the quirky Bombshell, with her potent napalm launcher; the ever-loyal Woodstock, with his squad of crazed kamikaze paratroopers; the bloodthirsty Hardcore, with his maniacal swarm rockets; and finally, the wise-cracking Hooligan, armed with his ground-blanketing air strike. You select your copilot and chopper at the beginning of each mission, and much of the art of Air Attack 2 is in selecting a copilot and a chopper that compliment each other.
The PS2 version of Air Attack 2 will feature a fairly large array of play modes. What's more, all of the single-player missions will be playable in a cooperative mode, allowing you and a buddy to get to it via a split screen. The multiplayer game features five different play modes. There is the food fight mode, which lets you and your opponent pelt one another with various foodstuffs by means of your winches; the flag nab mode, which is a standard game of capture the flag; the tug of war mode, which has you and your opponent vying for control of a toy train; the bug hunt mode, which lets you exterminate the insects that run rampant throughout the map; and the aerial assault mode, which is simply a standard deathmatch.
Finally, we asked Tsunoda to spell out all the essential differences between the PS2 version and those that have preceded it. "The game will feature a different single-player campaign structure - while some levels are similar, the overall campaign will be somewhat different, not to mention the new head-to-head multiplayer games," Tsunoda replied. "The game's new animation system will allow for a higher level of detail to the toys in the world, and the bigger differences in helicopter parameters will more noticeably accentuate the differences between each helicopter. Finally, there are the whole new environments."
All in all, it seems as if 3DO is really putting in the extra effort to make this version of Air Attack 2 a definite winner. As was stated earlier, the game is looking simply great, and we sincerely wish it a long and healthy development cycle so the developers can truly realize their visions. The series that is undoubtedly the apple in Sarge's eye deserves no less.