Game Rant’s William Case reviews Toy Soldiers Cold War
Long before there were devices like Atari and Xbox 360, kids would reenact there war-games the best way they knew how: plastic soldiers and makeshift battlegrounds. Digging in the dirt, imagining the bullets and bombs as the toy figurines made their stand was a hallmark of an afternoon, and a cherished memory by many.
Like it or not, those days seem to have passed by, but the act of toy soldiers living out combat drills has yet to lose its appeal. Signal Studios has taken the nostalgia into consideration with Toy Soldiers: Cold War, their latest release for Xbox Live’s Summer of Arcade, and not only incorporated the wartime ascetic into gameplay but also the sheer over-the-top childhood antics that came from playing with plastic figurines.
Embracing the 1980s, Toy Soldiers: Cold War, is about Rambo-esq explosions, Top Gun dogfights, and Red Dawn defense lines. It’s a game that strives to be a little bit of everything: some 3rd-person shooter, a dash of flight simulation, and a heap of RTS/turret defense, all packed tightly into a powder keg. The interesting thing is that, if managed correctly, it can actually come off without a hitch, but correctly is that key word.
Cold War fundamentally is a turret defense game, staging players to defend their “toy box” from incoming waves of enemy units by building and upgrading turrets. Players will have seven different choices to choose from, in terms of offense or defense, ranging from the impact-heavy Artillery turret, to the run-and-gun Machine Gun turret. Most can be built anywhere within the given turret points, as long as the money is available, and their upgrades (which there are three of) have room to expand).
At any given time, if the player feels like the combat is moving too slow (or there is a key unit on the field), the player can jump into one of the turrets and fire at will. It’s probably one of the more interesting and entertaining parts of the battle, as you can lose yourself in the early stages of combat, just by attacking and gunning down lines of foes. The downfall is that, in this mode, there are no indicators for your turret, or the other turrets, to indicate when health is running low – so micromanaging becomes priority.
But that doesn’t mean players shouldn’t use those turrets. If a user-controlled turret shoots down one of the aforementioned “key units,” a new feature called “Barrage” becomes available. Much like with the Call of Duty Airstrikes, Barrage allows abilities to be stockpiled for later use: Nuclear Strike, Air Raid, Commando (a limited time user-controlled character that looks like Rambo) and others are all on the list. Players can also catch a Barrage by earning a 40x multiplier.
Using one of the potential “battery powered” units can also work to collect a Barrage. Attack helos, tanks and fighter jets all make an appearance – allowing players to jump in and deliver carnal damage to the enemy as long as the battery meter lasts in their toy. Usually there are additional batteries floating around the map, but they only grant so much additional power – and can be a hassle to collect, causing more pain than they’re worth. As a result, there are plenty of strategic decisions: when to pull out your big guns during a wave or when to use a Barrage.
Yet, through it’s interesting design, some of Cold War’s plastic melts – and gums up the works. A lot of the issues with the game stem from poor maneuverability within the turrets and lackluster response times. You will be in those turrets, as more often than not, the AI controlling them will miss vital shots or wait until the enemy is right on top of them – while the player can shoot down an enemy tank on the other side of the map.
There’s also issues around how the waves are tiered, some tanks and enemies simply run over the turrets and destroy them, even when they are at full health. Couple that to a tittering level of difficulty near the latter end of the 11 campaign levels and Toy Soldiers: Cold War can get a bit frustrating.
That’s why there’s the option to go co-op, either online of split-screen. This makes the game move smoother and easier and also helps build a world of different tactical strategies that, with future DLC, could be worth checking-out. That same mentality carries over to its Versus Mode as well, where players turn the tables and can take control of their own minions, throwing them against either AI or online counterpart to claim building dominance. The sad part is that there are only three maps for online (as it is for the Survival mode – which is exactly what its name implies) but, despite a lack of maps, there’ll still be enough to keep players invested.
Plus if players want to hone their skills and build up achievements or challenge points for a better solider, they can always head to the Mini-games. Inspired by the campaign themselves, the six different modes simply give players a chance to blow things up and test their mettle. The only complaint is that with limiting times it’s hard to really get into a groove – and cheapens the no-holds-barred experience.
Toy Soldiers: Cold War isn’t your parent’s kind of toy soldier game, played in the backyard or in the bedroom: it’s the kind where a hodgepodge of 80s nostalgia, gameplay, and solid design come to meet under one banner. For the most part, they meet with honor and dignity, striving for a better tomorrow. Yet with the slight hiccups in combat, a flippant AI, and some definitive issue with later campaign designs, it could be that the game might not be for everyone. But for those that do pick it up, they will have an entertaining time.
Toy Soldiers: Cold War is out exclusively for the Xbox 360 on Tuesday August 16th.