When publisher 3DO went out of business last year, many figured that the company's inviolable Army Men brand would simply disappear right along with the company. That was until budget publisher Global Star Software came swinging to the rescue and took over the Army Men brand. Army Men: Sarge's War is the first Army Men game to appear under the Global Star name, and it sticks to basically the same level of quality for which most of the other Army Men games are known. Unfortunately, that isn't really saying much, and considering that there are literally dozens of better third-person-perspective, run-and-gun shooters on the market right now, it makes it pretty tough to recommend Sarge's War.
In Sarge's War, you play as Sarge, a gruff, battle-hardened, plastic soldier who commands a squad within the Green army. Like in the previous Army Men titles, your antagonists are the vile Tan army. However, Sarge's War actually starts out with the two sides working toward a peace agreement, with only a small sect of the Tan military holding out. Of course, this small sect almost immediately turns into a much larger threat, and eventually, it will be up to you to become an army of one, as it were, and smash up the renegade Tans. As much as this might sound like the makings of a good, old-fashioned shoot-'em-up, the action in Sarge's War sadly doesn't quite live up to the premise.
The biggest fault in Sarge's War is unfortunately with the gameplay and control design. The game controls like your typical third-person shooter, but the actual keyboard and mouse mechanics are pretty bad. The default control scheme itself is exactly what you would expect, but the movement sensitivity and mouse sensitivity feel more than a little broken. The turn buttons on the keyboard veer Sarge too far in the desired direction, which causes him to simply miss doorways and paths. Trying to turn Sarge properly using the mouse is too difficult, since no matter how high you crank up the mouse sensitivity, it never moves you far enough in whatever direction you're trying to turn. This is especially bad with the first-person targeting mechanic the game gives you the option to use. Once the aiming reticle pops up, you get such a limited range of motion (and a jittery one at that) that it basically negates any usefulness of this feature, which is especially frustrating during any mission where the sniper rifle would come in handy.
The auto-aim feature, while seemingly able to catch the closest target, doesn't seem to help much, except when using weapons with a wide fire-spread, such as the shotgun, or with a tight firing scope, such as the sniper rifle. Everything else seems to just hit or miss at random. The game also completely lacks any sort of useful cover mechanics. Yes, you can duck, but unless you're behind an especially sturdy object that won't blow up, it basically does you no good, as you can't shoot or even peer around corners, or do anything else that you can do in even the most rudimentary shooters these days.
Further compounding the general unpleasantness of Sarge's War's gameplay is the seemingly nonstop onslaught of dull missions. Each and every mission is exactly the same, with only a couple of varying objectives popping up from time to time. Usually you'll just have to pick up a conveniently placed time bomb and drop it on one of the Tan army's big pieces of artillery or onto a fence that's blocking your path, and in the time between finding the bomb and planting it, you can shoot every bad guy in your path. Occasionally, you'll find yourself using a turret gun or staving off marginally more difficult enemies (such as some elite Tan soldiers that can turn invisible); but for the most part, it's just a straight shot through each level with very few twists or turns to speak of. After about four to five hours, you should be done with the entire single-player game (at least it retails for a low price).
While the PC version of Sarge's War already has specific problems compared to the console versions, what really drives the nail in the coffin for the PC version is the complete lack of multiplayer. The Xbox and GameCube versions had a couple of rudimentary multiplayer modes, such as deathmatch and capture the flag. Granted, none of the multiplayer games were really all that great on consoles, but the fact that they are completely absent from the PC version is just insane, and lazy to boot.
Much like the console versions of Sarge's War, the PC version doesn't look particularly good. Aside from a slightly shiny plasticine look for the soldier models, everything in the game looks as drab as drab can be. Muddy textures, ugly set pieces, and level designs that actually seem like they were lifted right out of older Army Men games, make up the bulk of the graphical design, along with an erratic frame rate and subpar computer-generated cutscenes. Additionally, there is no way in the PC version to improve the graphics in the slightest, since there is no option to adjust the resolution. Most of the game's audio seems as though it were lifted off some generic, copyright-free sound effects and music CDs, and the voice acting is pretty much nonexistent, save for Sarge's gruff narration (that sounds as though the actor is channeling Michael Ironside's Sam Fisher just a little too hard for comfort) and the occasional diabolical cackles of the game's main villain. All told, it's pretty hammy, unpleasant stuff.
After playing through Army Men: Sarge's War, it's likely that you'll find yourself wondering why anyone bothered to salvage the Army Men license at all. Over the years, the series has shown its flashes of playability, but Sarge's War isn't one of them. This game never shows anything above the most minimal of efforts, and even then, it seems as though you're being entertained as if by accident.