I’ll be honest; I’m completely useless at anything that involves more than a hint of strategy. There are some people who are fantastic at analysing a situation and deploying the most suitable units, but I like to follow the words of President Grant: “shoot first, shoot later, shoot some more and then when everybody’s dead try to ask a question or two.” This is why I approached Toy Soldiers: Cold War with a hint of caution, as it seemed to slip into the realm of something tactical. As it turns out I was totally wrong, and the game really does love to blow the heck out of everything on the map. Praise be to Batman![boxout] As one might assume from the title, Toy Soldiers puts you in command of…toy soldiers (the plastic kind). Now you might be thinking of cute little images of happy friends such as those found in Toy Story, but these are toys of war and as such have decided to dredge up the old USA vs. USSR Cold War conflict. The aim of the game is the annihilation of the opposing team.
The first place you’ll want to head when booting up the game is the main campaign, which has eleven maps for you to unlock. Upon starting this each map is divided into two parts; the player’s section and the enemy spawn area. The player’s section contains a number of build points where you can erect various weaponry, with the ultimate goal of stopping the enemy reaching your toy box at the back of the map. The enemy spawn area is where various enemy units will appear as they attempt to storm your part of the map and get into your toy box (settle down, it’s not as dirty as it sounds).
Rather than face one massive attack, the game throws stuff at you in waves, thus mixing the action up a bit. For example, wave one might consist of nothing but foot soldiers, whereas by the time you reach wave seven you can expect to be fighting off tanks, helicopters, soldiers and much more. Between waves you get a small breather to assess your situation. It’s here where a little bit of thought is required.
As the player you get to survey the map from above and choose what weapon to place on what build point. The game has a little wave icon at the top of the screen, and this gives you a clue as to what type of enemy unit will be spawning. It’s then down to you to decide the most effective tactic. A trio of machine guns might make short work of any foot soldiers, but they will be useless against armoured vehicles; anti-aircraft guns are perfect for turning helicopters into Swiss cheese, but they are good at naff-all else.[drop] Of course, just because the game says one type of unit is on the way, don’t expect it to play fair. Preparation is key and ideally it’s best to have at least one of most major weapon on the field. This doesn’t come cheap though, and to earn money you first have to destroy things. Buildings, cars, enemies; it’s all fair game and will see the cash flooding in. Money is also useful for making repairs to any damaged units, as well as some all-important upgrades which will make your units more effective.
The selection of units on offer isn’t staggering, but it suits the fast paced gameplay perfectly as you are able to quickly select and swap around things whilst under attack. You’ll also gain access to vehicles which you can drive/fly around in and cause absolute mayhem with their powerful weapons. Unfortunately these vehicles don’t last long and will self-destruct, meaning you’ll have to wait for a new one to charge up. I can see why this has been done though, as the game would be heavily swung in your favour with unlimited access. Pew pew!
For those who like the more ‘hands-on’ approach, never fear as Cold War has you covered. By selecting any unit in play you can zoom in and take control of them. This is useful for situations where you want to take out an enemy you deem to be dangerous. Taking control of a unit also unlocks a secondary function; for example the anti-tank gun has a projectile that can be guided to where you want it to strike.
Score enough consecutive kills with your turrets and you become turbocharged. This means that you gain unlimited ammo and do more damage, with the ultimate goal of unlocking an Attack Barrage. These Attack Barrages range from the rather annoying close air support, to a nuclear strike, right up to my personal favourite; a guy dressed as Rambo running across the field with a massive gun and unlimited ammo. In fact I liked him so much, here’s a video.
The main campaign is a lot of fun. You’re constantly on edge as you battle to eliminate the enemy, and the sweet scent of victory is often quickly blown away by the fumes from the exhausts of newly launched tanks. As well as your main mission, every map also throws a couple of separate challenges at you so you can earn awards. Those who don’t like to be alone (it’s ok, no one likes to be alone) will be pleased to hear that you can play co-op via LIVE or split-screen. Unfortunately I didn’t get a match on LIVE, but split-screen is a laugh, with the added benefit of being able to form strategies with someone sitting next to you. There’s also a head to head mode over LIVE and split-screen, but seriously I can imagine living room fisticuffs over bouts of this game. “Whoops I slipped and knocked the controller out of your hands…and then stamped on it.” Yeah, you don’t want any of this.[drop2] Moving away from the campaign you will find the mini-games mode and Survival. The mini-games are ridiculously addictive, and consist of six different stages. The stages are broken down into several challenges each, with the idea of building up the highest score and posting it on the leaderboard. Trust me, start one round of “thread the needle” and you can kiss your day goodbye. Survival is pretty much what you would expect, and you have to see how many waves you can defeat before being overcome.
It’s good stuff, and the only real niggle I can find is the feeling of déjà vu after a couple of hours play. Yes, the maps are nice and varied, and the vehicles are a nice addition, but you’re essentially being asked to do the same thing time and again. It’s in no way a major flaw, but is something I feel worth mentioning.
- A very enjoyable campaign mode.
- Well-paced battles.
- Just the right number of units.
- Addictive mini-games.
- Both online and offline co-op.
- A sense of déjà vu.
Toy Soldiers: Cold War is a fitting end to what has been a stunning Summer of Arcade. It manages to tread just the right path between brain-power and fire-power, and wraps it up in an addictive game that plays fantastically whether you’re on or offline. Superb.