The Air Attack series has proven to be the crown jewel of the Army Men series, with tight control, fast gameplay, and a variety of mission objectives being the game's strengths. Now, Air Attack 2 has arrived for the PlayStation 2 in what is essentially a direct port of the PlayStation version. Its lack of innovation may be acceptable, since Air Attack 2 for the PlayStation was a thoroughly enjoyable game, but unfortunately a few key graphical flaws make it a significantly less enjoyable game.
SNES enthusiasts will probably notice a striking resemblance between Air Attack 2 and EA's old Strike series. Like the Strike games, Air Attack 2 puts you in control of a helicopter, which you must guide through a series of mission-based levels, each with its own set of goals. The variety in the mission objectives--ranging from guarding military installments and rescuing downed soldiers to stealing secret weapons from behind enemy lines and out-and-out demolition--keeps Air Attack 2 from getting stale and keeps you engaged from mission to mission.
Air Attack 2 for the PlayStation 2 has the same solid gameplay found in Air Attack 2 for the PlayStation. You can move in all directions in this plastic 3D world using the left analog stick. You can strafe using the L1 and R1 buttons and deploy various artillery, as well as use your chopper's winch, with the controller's face buttons. The different military hardware at your disposal is dictated directly by which helicopter and copilot you select between missions. These choices also impact other gameplay elements, such as weapons accuracy, winch speed, chopper speed, and the amount of abuse your craft can handle. These features offer nothing new in the way of gameplay, but their tight and responsive control more than make up for that.
Of course, since this is an Army Men game, any military equipment you might come upon is molded green plastic. Other toys, such as miniature dinosaurs, windup dogs, and a toy with an uncanny resemblance to Mr. Potato Head, have been thrown in the mix as well. The missions alternate between the real world, with locations such as a backyard and a living room at Christmastime, and the Army Men's native plastic world, where you'll find yourself navigating miniature cityscapes and rocky mountain ranges.
Graphically Air Attack 2 lacks polish, and this really brings the whole game down a notch. The game's polygon count hasn't changed much since the PlayStation version, though the textures are noticeably cleaner and at a higher resolution, and a bevy of new explosion effects have been added. When the action is slow, the game runs at a gorgeous 60 frames per second; however, at the slightest hint of conflict, the frame rate fluctuates radically, effectively turning what may have been a pulse-quickening firefight into a choppy, frustrating mess. The soundtrack hasn't changed since the PlayStation version, but the orchestrated, cinematic score is still effective nonetheless.
An apparent flaw inherited from the PlayStation version is the game's length. There are a total of 25 missions, each with multiple goals, but most can be easily bested in one or two tries, save for the final mission. And due to the game's mission-based structure, there is little motivation to play through the game more than once. There is a secondary goal, where you must collect all of the plastic articles (represented by little blue Lego-type blocks) scattered throughout each level. After you've run through the game once, collecting little blue Lego blocks isn't really enough motivation to go through each level again.
Air Attack 2 is a major disappointment, not because it is an exceptionally bad game, but because it had the potential to be an exceptionally great game. The game lacks refinement, and given more time, the developers could've hammered out its graphical problems. As it is, Air Attack 2 stands as the Army Men game that could've been.