Gamestyle Archive intro: there are games that linger in the memory for the great experiences, stories and gameplay that they deliver. Then there are other games that haunt the dreams of gamers for eternity and the Army Men series from 3DO was feared for those reasons by the Gamestyle team. Not normally a purchase we would make ourselves, the publisher was always forthcoming with code to raise the profile of those little green men.
Even over a decade later you can still read the disgust in the text and the nightmares continue.
Published: April 2001
To date the Army Men series has sold over 6 million copies worldwide and therefore it comes as no surprise that 3DO are embracing the Playstation 2. It has to be said that this has been the most painful experience I’ve have had to endure in many a year. It even managed to trounce a monster hangover, standing in the snow, watching Raith being beaten by our local rivals much to their delight, on January 1st and that was very cold and very painful to say the least.
At first I thought perhaps this game might be enjoyable, the basic plot wasn’t a problem, if it played like Commando on a 128bit console I was in for a treat unfortunately this wasn’t to be the case. The opening FMV sets out the basic premise and is adequate enough, then you realise its all downhill from here. Doctor X, in charge of the Green Army Advanced Research Division has created a super soldier known as Omega Soldier. Spliced together from DNA from the best soldiers within the Green Army, Omega is the strongest, fastest (cough) warrior ever seen and comes complete with some wonderful witty one-liners. His first taste of combat comes unexpectedly when his transport is shot down behind enemy lines. Omega must make his way back to base, destroying everything in his path; the fate of the Green Nation is in your hands.
This game is upgraded from the Psone version, which was released around the same time and it shows. I very much doubt that the Playstation 2 version that we have here was programmed as a separate project. The 128bit enhancements are no doubt bolted onto the original code and these were probably done within a week. As you can see from the screenshots on this page, the graphics are a major disappointment. The game chugs along at a slow rate, textures are bland, sounds are bad and within the first three levels you’ll be reaching for the off button. I did think of picking up one of the brats off my street and letting him play the game to see if kids appreciated it more but no doubt I would have been done for child abuse.
There are many design flaws with Green Rogue, in fact this game could have been renamed Green Flaws, as it’s a collection of everything that is bad about game design. The first problem is that the game is very much on the rails, the screen will scroll upwards and hey occasionally diagonally!! This allows you no time to observe the green and brown terrain, enemies and weaponry, or catch your breath before pushing onwards. Commando was a joy because you could use the landscape and objects to hide behind, while planning your next offensive. Yes, you can crouch by pressing L2 that does reduce the scrolling speed but it does not stop. Any health or weapon power ups that you discover must be seized immediately because there is no turning back or standing still. This wouldn’t have been such a problem if the action was fast and frantic but I’ve had more of that playing a PAL version of Tekken 3.
The pace is painfully slow, the game doesn’t suffer from any slowdown but that’s because if it did, you would think the game had crashed. You can see the bullets and missiles coming from far away, normally at the same angles and it’s like the Matrix slowdown scenes, all the time. The backgrounds themselves apart from being mostly from the same palate look incredibly flat and 2D, this applies to everything in the game except the characters. Enemy soldiers line up like cannon fodder and die in one of two ways, I know they’re all from the same mould but they can’t all sound the same can they? You may have the odd building of interest but because of the scrolling nature of Green Rogue you’re often limited to the centre of the screen. The scale of the graphics also at times beggar belief, enemy vehicles on screen will often be the same size whether close up or far away. Omega soldier is slightly larger than a normal soldier but bigger than an armoured vehicle? I found the most frustrating aspect (plenty to chose from) of Green Rogue to be the controls.
Without a doubt this game has the worse implementation of a control system known to man or alien. The game does use both of the analogue sticks but for the problems they create I might as well be using an Atari 2600 controller. The left stick guides Omega across the screen but the problems arise with the right stick. This is used to turn in order to fire at various angles, while he can turn 360 degrees you will soon find that firing at an angle is very difficult. Perhaps Omega was missing some DNA that allows him to fire at any degree within 360, in this game 90-degree angles are probably the most that you can hope for. Adding to the problem apart from the sensitive nature of the controls is trying to press one of the buttons to fire while using both sticks. The whole system is cramped and a nightmare to use, if you could have activated the fire command by pushing down on the sticks this would have improved things greatly. Do they have games testers at 3DO or have they all committed suicide?
Once you can fire you’ll soon realise the next problem Green Rogue has in store for you. Many of the levels contain hills and other landscape features that place enemy soldiers or you at a different height. Unfortunately you won’t be able to hit anyone on a different level to yourself as the control system won’t allow you to aim up or down – pretty pointless to include bazookas in your weaponry! What is the point of using a missile based weapon if its reduced to being only effective in close combat situations, often to the determent of your health? More often than not you’ll just end up firing into the hillside or the ground just in front of you. If you do want to play this game I would suggest strafing from left to right with your finger firmly on the fire button, don’t bother about using the right stick. Oh and book yourself in for a psychiatric evaluation as well.
It’s not professional to swear during your reviews and its something I don’t do in day today life much but if any game brought me to the point of uttering foul-mouthed obscenities then this is it. I hope 3DO have realised that they cannot get away with churning out crap like this all the time. The new GBA Army Men game has been developed by a UK team and has gone for a more cartoon look and its getting favourable reviews. Until then avoid.
Gamestyle Score: 1/10