Review – Army Men: World War: Final Front

Army Men World War Final Front Military Parade in Black and White

I had, for a time, felt I made a mistake reviewing Army Men: World War: Land Sea Air. For some reason, I got the idea that I unintentionally played the game on hard and that while I thought I reduced the difficulty, it didn’t take effect on existing save games. Considering that my main complaint about it was its insanely accurate super soldiers armed with the finest military hardware and clairvoyance, I thought I just needed to be more aware of what difficulty I was selecting. I chose “normal” and gave it another try.

Fuck that.

As it turns out, the game really is that unreasonably difficult. The whole game really does devolve into memorizing level layouts and spawn locations. That sucks since I actually enjoyed Army Men: World War and had high hopes for the sub-series as a whole. I had hoped that, while much of the Army Men series is an Olympic-sized pool filled with sea mines, the World War series would be a sanctuary that I could retreat to when I get the itch to revisit the brand. I’d rather swim in an Olympic-sized pool filled with sea mines than play Land Sea Air again. So, once again, my dreams have been crushed beneath the weight of reality.

Still, if I can muster some optimism, that doesn’t mean the other World War games will be bad.

Army Men World War Final Front Standing in front of a puzzle with an ancient Egyptian theme
Well, that’s new.

LETTERS FROM THE FINAL FRONT

Army Men: World War: Final Front picks up two years after the events of the previous game, which is amusing because that’s the sort of setup you use when a game is actually released two years after the previous one. Final Front was released about 5 months after Land Sea Air. In any case, an uneasy peace has hung in the air like urine in a public pool, and the Tan army, being the bad guys that they are, flex the only diplomatic muscle they have by attacking the Green nation yet again. This time, they have a secret weapon that they’ve obtained from… aliens? Mummies? I’m not sure, but they’re planning on using it to turn the tide of the war.

You’re once again cast as a generic Green toy soldier who is either completely different from the ones in the previous games or totally incapable of holding their rank since you again start off as a private, getting promoted as the game goes on. The gameplay is essentially the same as the previous two, with a few tweaks. First of all, enemies aren’t capable of superhuman feats of accuracy and reflexes, and secondly, most of the on-rails sections where you man the guns of various vehicles are replaced by missions where you actually take the wheel of those vehicles and drive them yourself. To say this is an improvement is — well — it’s simplifying things a bit, but it’s also fairly accurate.

Army Men World War Final Front Dual machine guns mounted on a green plane fire at  a tan plane.
The airplane gunner section is back, and it still sucks.

THE DRIVER SEAT

The World War sub-series is the most grounded of the bunch, dialing back the wackiness from even the relatively straight-faced original PC title. While Sarge’s Heroes and the related titles based around it contain whimsical cartoonish elements and run-and-gun gameplay, World War drops a lot of the fantasy and requires a more methodical approach to combat.

More specifically, they tend to be more rigid and stiff. The World War subseries feels like a weird lean toward a tactical shooter. Like this is the Army Men equivalent to Rainbow Six. You can’t strafe quickly, it’s best if you attack from behind cover, and things can go wrong really quickly if you aren’t careful.

For Final Front, however, the team seems to have been watching a lot of Indiana Jones or playing a lot of Tomb Raider (probably the latter, since it’s specifically referenced as a mission name) because there are a lot of adventure elements stitched into it for good measure. The third act, for example, takes place in the plastic version of Egypt, where you wind up navigating a trap-filled pyramid to get a lead on the Tan’s super-weapon.

The more adventuresome elements are a little tonally inconsistent and a little awkward, but I think they give Final Front its own personality and lend well to the variety. In the first campaign, you traverse rooftops to protect a convoy; in the second campaign, you ride a motorcycle to reach a secret Tan base; in the third campaign, there’s the aforementioned pyramid full of traps. There’s a part where you roll in tan paint to disguise yourself and sneak through a base, trying not to get too close to anyone who might notice your crappy disguise. Previous World War games had you moved to a different front when it was time to change scenery, Final Front takes you to a different set piece.

That can be a mixed bag since the game tends to throw things at you unexpectedly. It’s not on the level of some other Army Men games that require some level of clairvoyance to predict what manner of sudden death is going to be thrown your way, but some mechanics here appear and disappear pretty quickly. There’s one instance where you have to hide in the shadows, but what constitutes shadows isn’t obvious until you wall-hump your way into a darkened corner that you couldn’t see because it’s, well, dark. Failure to find these nooks resulted in a gunfight with supersoldiers who were apparently part of the cast of Land Sea Air, considering how easily they fill you with holes. When these instances come up, it can often require a bit of thought to figure out what the game expects of you, and that can be a pain.

The sub sandwich owes its name to the underwater vessel.

A FRIENDLIER WAR

Aside from the darkness-averse ones, it seems like most of the psychic super-soldiers that Land Sea Air had brought to the front have been eliminated since they only show up in Final Front when the game wants to tell you that you screwed up. For the most part, you’re rarely put up against more than three soldiers who have predictable behavior. Completing a level on the first attempt is actually a viable possibility. That may seem obvious, but Land Sea Air has made me question that.

Still, the series hasn’t figured out the whole checkpoint thing. Death once again sends you back to the start of the level, no matter how far along you were in the mission. This isn’t a new problem, and at least it doesn’t try to screw you over at the last minute like Army Men 3D liked to do, but when situations change so much, it can be a little overwhelming. Starting a mission in a tank, succeeding there, then dying after getting kicked out on foot; it can be a bit tedious to have to go back through the tank portion again. This is most aggravating in the game’s final mission, where you may find yourself repeating the same sections to perfection and then getting cut in half by a machine gun at the end.

Army Men World War Final Front tank battle in the desert.
The tank sections are actually quite satisfying.

TANKS A LOT

The main addition is, of course, the drivable vehicles, and this is something that the game rightfully trumpets. In the opening cinematic, which is depicted as an old WWII newsreel, points out that it has a “new submarine front” with all the enthusiasm of an infomercial. However, there are also boats, tanks, and motorcycles. The rides mostly end up positively influencing the game in a way much greater than they did in Sarge’s Heroes and Army Men 3D.

I honestly enjoyed most of these missions. Tank controls are a little unusual, but unlike the hyperactive ones found in previous games, it feels like you’re driving an armored behemoth instead of a golf cart with a cannon. The shoulder buttons control their respective treads, so the turret can be controlled separately without the need for a dual-analog setup. It makes the tank feel like the heavy piece of weaponized construction equipment that it is. The motorcycle and truck are controlled from a first-person perspective, which is a bit weird in a third-person game but feels appropriately cinematic. The only really crappy piece of military mobility is the submarine.

The submarine mission is an absolutely miserable experience. The controls of the sub are fine, and the underwater locale is a change of pace, but the combat and mission design is horrid. The torpedoes you fire don’t seem to respect the heavy auto-aim that the other missions shackle you with, nor do they come packaged with some sort of crosshair. Instead, it’s up to you to figure out whether or not your nose is pointed in the right direction, and even then, there’s nothing guaranteeing your torpedo won’t just phase through your enemy. It sucks; enemies can be above or below you, but attempting to shoot torpedos on any sort of incline often finds them going in two separate directions. Even if they went straight, judging how far away an enemy is can be tricky when viewed on a 2D display.

And yeah, as mentioned earlier, torpedoes have a habit of traveling through enemies without making contact. The first couple of times this happened, I pulled away, thinking that maybe the enemy died and just failed to explode properly, only to have them jam a shot up my exhaust. Thankfully, there is only one underwater mission.

Army Men World War Final Front the protagonist is painted tan in an attempt to infiltrate a base.
A flawless disguise.

TAN PAINT

Speaking of there being only one mission, holy crap, that last mission is excruciating. I’ve played through Army Men: World War: Final Front about three times now, and for the first two times, I couldn’t get through the last mission. It has a mounted gun section, then goes on foot, then you’re in a boat, and then you’re on foot again, and if you die anywhere throughout all of these sections, you’re sent back to the beginning. The third time I played the game, I actually used an emulator so I could make use of save states to avoid having to constantly replay that level. It’s the only way I can see it being done.

It’s weird, because one place that Final Front improves from Land Sea Air is with its more reasonable difficulty. However, I think the last mission of Final Front is much more difficult than anything in the entirety of Land Sea Air. Everything up to that is fine, but not being able to complete the game is disappointing.

Even beyond that, there’s a certain lack of polish that may be the hardware’s fault. I mentioned torpedoes going through their target, but there are also instances where tan soldiers can shoot through solid walls. It didn’t happen enough to be a real barrier for me, but it did happen.

Army Men World War Final Front green soldier running towards sandbags firing his gun.
The World War gunplay isn’t going to click with some players.

NOT QUITE FINAL

It’s also worth noting that Army Men: World War: Final Front has a cooperative mode. However, this seems more like a prototypical feature added for value rather than a fully developed feature. The co-op isn’t just playing through the campaign with another person. There are four levels, and each one presents a different mode of gameplay, such as on-foot or with tanks. What makes it feel especially lacking, however, is that when a player dies, they’re just dropped right back into the game. So, there’s no real challenge or resistance. It’s just two players messing around.

The campaign’s more adventurous tilt leaves it feeling a bit less focused than previous games, but that lends well to the sense of variety. It’s a pretty short game; including essentially the same amount of content as its predecessor but requiring less repetition to actually reach the end. It doesn’t diverge much from the previous formula, but the changes that have been made have been for the best. Most of the vehicle sections, I really enjoyed. The tank missions especially are rather solid, and trust me, I know my tanks.

Army Men: World War: Final Front is a decent step forward, and I feel like it would have been even better if it had more time to develop. This is essentially the same team behind the last game, which was released a scant few months previously. It’s actually pretty impressive when you keep that in mind. They maybe couldn’t overhaul World War into a more solid game in that brief period, but they made some appreciable fixes and additions.

Just to note; Final Front isn’t actually the last World War game, despite what the name implies. That honour goes to Team Assault.

6/10

In other territories, Army Men: World War: Final Front is known as Army Men: Lock ‘n’ Load. This review was conducted on a PSOne using an original copy of the game, but an emulator was used to get through the final level. The author paid for their own copy of the game.

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About Zoey Handley 243 Articles
Zoey made up for her mundane childhood by playing video games. Now she won't shut up about them. Her eclectic tastes have led them across a vast assortment of consoles and both the best and worst games they have to offer. A lover of discovery, she can often be found scouring through retro and indie games. She currently works as a Staff Writer at Destructoid.

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