Despite terminally poor reviews, the Army Men franchise spawns sequels and follow-ups like they're going out style. From a purely critical standpoint, it's difficult to see what's so compelling to gamers about a series of games that have typically suffered from poor programming, shoddy control, and uninspired gameplay. Perhaps critics miss the point, though - the series' continued popularity and decent sales record proves that there are a substantial amount of gamers who appreciate the nostalgic kick Army Men tries to impart. The games are slowly getting better, too. As Army Men: Air Combat proved earlier this year, all the series needs is a bit more spit and polish to earn its stripes.
This sets an interesting stage for the series' next installment, Army Men: Sarge's Heroes 2 for the PS2. Developed and published by The 3DO Company and intended as a direct sequel to the events that transpired in Army Men: Sarge's Heroes for the PlayStation, Sarge's Heroes again puts you in the boots of Sarge and the rest of the Bravo Company commandos. Just as in Sarge's Heroes' first series of missions, your objective is to foil General Plastro and his Tan Army minions. General Plastro has teamed up with a partner this time, Brigitte Bleu of the Blue Army, to assist him in conquering the Green Army and their lands. It's up to you to help Sarge, Vikki, and the Green Army combat the foreign encroachers and maintain peace in the land.
Even if you're unfamiliar with the Army Men series, you can correctly guess that all of the games' 18 missions take place in the confines of a realistically scaled world. This means that the levels will take you to such exotic locales as desktops, pool tables, a toy store, a graveyard, the underside of a bed, and the inside of a pinball machine. Sarge's Heroes 2 features the ability to play as either Sarge or Vikki, who both have their own unique control and abilities. Like in the original, weapons are of primary importance for survival. Sarge's Heroes 2 gives you more choices in this department as well, promising the basics that range from the assault rifle, shotgun, and sniper rifle to more extravagant death dealers like the flamethrower, M-60 machine gun, and grenade launcher. Army Men also gives you options beyond the barreled weapons, with minesweepers, mines, TNT, mortars, and the ability to call for help from the air cavalry being thrown into the armament melting pot.
Certainly, Army Men: Sarge's Heroes 2 will look better than any Army Men game to date. The big question, though, is whether or not it'll be able to tap the enormous potential of the PlayStation 2's processors. We can assume that frame rate issues, which have plagued almost all of the 3D Army Men titles to date, shouldn't be a problem here. Resolution will be high - expect intricate, detailed scenes to be pulled off without a hitch. Unfortunately, 3DO seemingly prefers to show off the game's many promises through rendered pictures rather than any actual screenshots, so it's difficult to offer much insight into how the game's visuals will finally turn out. Certainly, a lack of legitimate screenshots combined with a rapidly approaching release date isn't a good sign.
Obviously, time will tell whether or not Army Men: Sarge's Heroes will continue the positive upswing Army Men: Air Command provided to the series. With the power of a state-of-the-art console behind it, 3DO has a golden opportunity to further redeem the Army Men lineage in the eyes of many gamers.
Look for Army Men: Sarge's Heroes 2 sometime late in Q3 2000 on PS2s everywhere.