For a fleeting minute, I thought we were getting a new Army Men game. The idea of a sequel to 2000’s Army Men: Sarge’s Heroes made us a little giddy. But no: the series is laying dormant somewhere in a 2K vault, and we’re stuck here playing Green Soldiers Heroes.
Green Soldiers Heroes is made by a single developer, the mysteriously named DERIK DF (who also has Super Snake Block DX and SHMUP Mania on the Xbox Store). A single developer goes some way to explaining Green Soldiers Heroes, which can charitably be described as about one-tenth of a game.
You play a Green Soldier, a dead mercenary who has been reanimated with the side-effect of a permanent green lacquer. Thanks to the green skin, the soldier can never return to its family and must instead eternally fight enemy soldiers. The story made us think of a Mitchell & Webb ‘Are we the baddies?’ skit, as there’s no way that the Green Soldiers are on the right side of history with this one. They’re definitely the bad guys.
It’s all an excuse for some on-rails shooting. Your tragic green soldier runs to the nearest spot of cover, where you’re locked into some target practice. By moving a reticule about with your analogue stick, you can very slowly get enemies in your sights and gun them down in anticipation of a Time-Crisis-like warning that appears over their heads showing that they are about to shoot you. Except they’re all bullet-sponges, so you’re pumping bullets into the faces of them all, before dragging that cursor over to the next and the next. Finally, the level is done.
There might be a few enemies to slowly chip away at in each scene before the Green Soldier pivots and runs down yet another corridor and finds some more enemies minding their own business. After a maximum of four of these shooting ranges, the level is done in about the time it takes to boil a kettle. There are seven levels, plus one more extended final battle, and then Green Soldiers Heroes is done. That makes fifteen minutes total, before Green Soldiers Heroes has precious little else to offer, other than grinding through the same levels to unlock new uniforms for your walking-dead hero, or a couple of guns.
Yep, no doubt about it, Green Soldiers Heroes is a late entry to the list of ‘worst games of 2023’. Skull Island: Rise of Kong come back, all is forgiven. It’s a half-hearted shrug of a game, delivering the bare minimum to pass certification and haul itself onto the Xbox Store.
Where to start? We’re not sure why our Green Soldier Hero is killing people in an 1880’s western town, with sheriff houses and saloons. Is he jumping through time? Is this a Hollywood film set, overtaken by terrorists? It’s one more onto the pile of odd mysteries around the game, and we don’t really care enough to find out an answer.
Each level takes place in this same set, shuffling about explosive barrels and the odd bit of cover to make it seem different. But there’s no hiding that, when Green Soldiers Heroes teleports from one arena to another, we’re just coming back to the same arena, but some stage hands have been busy in the meantime moving things about.
The enemies do change, but there’s only so many of them. There are riflemen, snipers in distant towers, a rocket-launcher dude (the first to go down), and – for one level only – an armoured vehicle. These get shuffled and redistributed in each level and at least offer some strategy, since you’re probably best killing them in the order of rocket launcher, sniper, armoured vehicle and soldier, simply because of how much damage they deal. While a rocket might slowly trundle towards you at the pace of a shopping trolley, you can’t shoot them when they’re in flight, so you’re best stopping them at the source.
But Green Soldiers Heroes’ achilles heel is that the shooting is no fun at all. It all stems from an auto-aim system that really shouldn’t have been there at all. You don’t get to accurately fire at each of these enemies, nailing headshots from behind cover. You move your cursor to an enemy where Green Soldiers Heroes promptly takes over and snaps to their chest. All you can do is hold the trigger to slowly drain them of life, then move and lock onto the next.
Which offers virtually no joy at all. Lock onto an enemy, and you sap away their health whether they are in cover or out of it. Barry can hide all he wants behind that crate, because our assault rifle will nibble away at his life when he’s not visible at all. Far-away troops and those in your face are both equally easy to kill, since the lock-on has no issues hitting either of them. This isn’t how life really works.
Explosive barrels are bullet-teases. They tempt you to shoot them, but they take longer to destroy than a soldier does, and only blow up one soldier anyway. Which, as you might deduct from that sentence, means they’re not worth shooting at all. The only stimulation comes from unlocking some new guns from the shop, which are bought once you’ve finished the levels (so, after you’ve completed the game). A plasma gun and rocket launcher have the dubious honour of, in order, completely breaking the game by being way too overpowered (plasma gun) and somehow being worse than the standard rifle (rocket launcher).
Not that you’ll get to use these hard-fought weapons on the game’s final mission. They’re stolen away from you, as you’re stationed in a turret of some kind, as helicopters puff into existence and then drop soldiers down. Some of them take a long time to kill, others take no time at all, but it’s impossible to tell the difference, so it’s a bit like eating a pack of Revels. Ah, bugger, it’s a coffee Revel. All of the soldiers are dealt with through the lock-on feature. Swing it round to the next soldier and the next, in an interminable game of absolutely zero skill. Well, interminable for five minutes.
Which, if we gather together all this criticism into a couple of sentences, means you get fifteen minutes of on-rails shooting where you don’t get to move or even aim – not really. Green Soldiers Heroes does all of this for you, whether you like it or not, leaving you to hold RT and watch as enemy life bars deplete. We started disassociating, a bit like drone pilots do. We weren’t really playing Green Soldiers Heroes. It was playing us.
Don’t get suckered into thinking this is the next in the classic Army Men series. This isn’t fit to tie its boots.