First let’s get the Elephant in the Room out of the way: why the hell is this not called “Army Men”? Was the license too expensive or something? When I was growing up there was a new Army Men game out every other week, so why didn’t developer Virtual Basement reach out the rights holders and get it instead of giving their game the terrible title of The Mean Greens: Plastic Warfare? Not least because the Green army guys aren’t any different from the Tans or the Pinks or whatever. They’re certainly not any meaner, and there’s no single-player to make them the good guys. Whatever.
Just don't call it "Army Men".
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Anyway, The Mean Greens: Superfluous Subtitle is a multiplayer-only online-only shooter where you play as plastic Definitely Not Army Men toys across ten maps where every map is a different mode. Levels are built around the still-novel idea of waging war around a normal house as a tiny soldier, with levels taking place in such amusing locales as a kitchen, bathtub, Football Table, Fish Tank, and a constantly moving toy train at Christmas. Ten modes across ten maps, and six weapons. That’s your lot.
The first thing you’ll notice about The Mean Greens is the price you just paid for it: £10.99/$14.99. That’s an absolute bargain compared to recently released full-price multiplayer-only titles like Star Wars Battlefront and Rainbow Six Siege, especially considering both of those games were criticised for not having enough content. You can argue the same for The Mean Greens except it’s a quarter of the price of those games, making it far more acceptable. And ten maps is more than Battlefront currently has.
As Toy Story taught us, Christmas is a nightmare for the presents.
The Mean Greens is pure online simplicity, for better or worse. One map for each mode. You carry the six weapons with you from the start. There’s no single-player campaign, no pickups, no perspective other than third-person, no loadouts, no stats, no weapon upgrades, no loadouts, no character classes, no XP, no levelling up, no customization, and no women. The last one at least makes sense, because it’s Army M-… actually, no, wait, it’s The Mean Greens isn’t it? So why the hell isn’t there at least some avatar customization here?
This is online multiplayer at it’s most straightforward and basic, and while it’s refreshing at first I worry about the game’s longevity. If you’ve played one game on a map in The Mean Greens you’ve played them all, so after ten matches you’ve literally seen everything the game has to offer. Simplicity is fun for newcomers, but there has to be something more to keep people playing.
The maps and modes are also very simple, well, for the most part. Variations on Deathmatch, CTF, Domination and the like. Sometimes there’s multiple flags such the level set in a bathtub, and ‘Birthday Bash’ is a King of the Hill-type scenario set on top of a huge birthday cake where it took me ages to realise that I was expected to light the candles using a sustained burst of the Flamethrower. There’s also an actual King of the Hill battle set in a Toy Box. The birthday one’s more interesting once you work it out. The highlight is probably ‘Barnyard Ball’, a game of lethal football set inside a barnyard-themed Table Football/Foosball table (Pigs Vs Cows). It can be incredibly difficult to score with players shooting at you from all angles, not to mention the giant football players blocking half your shots, but it’s lots of fun. I just wish there were more levels for it.
Now that's my kind of football!
The level design is one of the highlights, at least in appearance rather than gameplay. Every level is based around a common household feature, like a kitchen or a bath, and then gloriously imagined in Unreal Engine 4. The popping soap bubbles in the sink in ‘Kitchen Run’, the bouncing jellies in ‘Operation Birthday’, the lovely underwater shimmer in ‘Fishtank Frenzy’ (set in a fishtank), all wonderful little details that add lots of character to The Mean Greens. I just wish that there was more of them, and that gameplay worked as well. Most of the maps end up with some hideous choke points that don’t allow anyone to progress. ‘Off The Rails’ is a game of Domination set over one long linear line of command points with no possible shortcuts, which is the dumbest idea ever especially as you respawn right at the start every time and there’s no way of pushing up. ‘Bathtub Bash’ requires collecting flags but also requires riding a slow-moving tiny duck past the enemy respawn point to do so - and consequently I was killed every single time I tried. Most of the maps are just too confined to be really fun, and I don’t think only giving one map for every mode was the right call. If I don’t want to touch Deathmatch again it means I’m down one entire map forever, and if I like Domination but hate ‘Off The Rails’ (which I do) I can’t play Domination at all.
As for the systems in place, the first great news is that there’s a Server Browser List (which you can now organise by Ping, Player Count etc as of the last patch) and you can change teams in a lobby. Hoo-ray, suck on that Star Wars Battlefront. The bad news is that Join Game on the main menu is useless and there’s currently no way of hiding full games on the Server List (yet). There’s a decent player base so far though, and I’ve never really had a problem finding a game on a particular map. Keeping connected to it is another matter. Literally 3 times out of 5 I’ll get kicked immediately because the game’s full, the match is ended, or I “Lost Connection” for no apparent reason, so it’s really pot luck whether you’ll get into a game or not.
This isn't going to end well for me.
The guns themselves are a bit floaty and unsatisfying, with the default Assault Rifle being the weapon of choice for 90% of encounters unless you’re a devil with the Shotgun. Grenades are terrible, so’s the Flamethrower, and the less said about the Sniper Rifle the better - which will either work or it won’t. I like that the Rocket Launcher only has one shot though.
One area which I unequivocally love is the soundtrack by Gareth Coker, Zach Lemmon, and Alexander Rudd, which is immensely catchy and toe-tapping. There’s a great bombastic theme tune which weaves itself into most of the songs, but each of those has a great tune in their own right. The “Happy Happy Happy Happy Birthday” song is my personal highlight, although I also love the Christmas-themed ‘Off The Rails’ music and the ‘Ride of the Valkyries’-esque ‘Bathtub Bash’ song.
THE MEAN GREENS: PLASTIC WARFARE VERDICT
The Mean Greens is one of the simplest multiplayer games ever with about quarter the depth of the already puddle-thin Star Wars Battlefront, and yet for a quick blast now and again that type of game is totally fine. There’s no campaign, customization, loadouts, power-ups, upgrades, or women, with only one map per mode and a few of those aren’t much fun. And yet the style, soundtrack, straightforwardness and “tiny soldiers in a big house” motif is infectious and a great antidote to all the shooters these days that take themselves too seriously. It’s hard to play more than a couple of matches without wanting to see what else is on your hard drive, but sometimes this is all you want from a multiplayer game. And it’s only £10.99/$14.99! Next time though guys, get the Army Men license. It’ll probably be even cheaper than the game.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Scoring a goal in ‘Barnyard Ball’. Take that Pelé.
Lovely (undereused if not original) Toy Story style tiny soldiers in a house theme that's been pretty well implemented.
Superb, catchy soundtrack! Also it's only £10.99/$14.99 so the barrier to entry is low.
The shallowest multiplayer game ever, with only one map for each of the ten modes.
Guns are unsatisfying and the lack of pickups make levels a bit unexciting.
About Chris J Capel
Chris joined us in 2011 and loves Star Wars, comics and bad videogame movies.