Toy Soldiers: Cold War is the last release in the XBLA Summer of Arcade, and it is a good one. I would even venture to say with a few more campaign missions and mini-games it could be worthy of a retail price tag. The team at Signal Studios has really outdone themselves this time. In the Cold War campaign, you control the U.S. military and are charged with pushing back the Russian forces. Oh yeah…the 80’s are back, in a good way. This is a tower defense game, where you have the option of controlling your turrets to ensure that they are functioning to the best of their capabilities. On top of controlling turrets, you also get to control a variety of tanks, fighter jets, and helicopters. There are a wide variety of turrets/upgrades/tools at your disposal as well. The game simply looks, sounds, and plays beautifully; all while offering hours of replay potential including multiplayer games and online leaderboards.
From the very beginning, the graphics presented in the game are astounding. I found myself watching the opening title sequence, just because of the frantic action onscreen. This assault on your eyeballs is maintained throughout the entire game, sometimes with hundreds of infantry and vehicles onscreen at one time. All of this is accomplished with little to no slow down at all. The environments are almost entirely destructible, and when a vehicle is destroyed it rains down debris on the battlefield, adding to the realism.
The single player campaign and the six included mini games make Toy Soldiers: Cold War a full and complete game. However, Signal Studios had other ideas. They went as far as to include co-op play over Xbox Live, as well as Versus and Survival modes. None of the game modes feel as though they were thrown in last minute, like a versus mode in a survival horror game. Each game mode is unique and fully fleshed out, providing a great experience for gamers interested in a variety of different play mechanics.
The six included mini games are: Dolled Up, CAS Roundup, Thread the Needle (which is by far the most difficult), Flyswatter, Cardboard Theater, and High Noon. Dolled Up and Cardboard Theater are included in the single player campaign as part of the tutorial/basic training mission. I do not want to give much away, but to touch on two of the mini games I found to be the most enjoyable. First is the CAS Roundup. In this game mode, you are controlling the gun emplacements on an AC-130 and must wipe out as much of the opposing forces as possible. While this isn’t the most original concept, it is very fun and addicting. The next mini game is Flyswatter. In this game mode you man an anti-air turret and shoot down swarms of flies. The goal is to shoot down as many as you can, aiming primarily for the golden flies, since there is a challenge tied to shooting golden flies, and they explode killing all surrounding flies. You kill dozens of flies, and the little boy that owns all of these amazing toys has the filthiest room ever. You can’t help but wonder what is on this kid’s floor.
The Survival mode is exactly what it sounds like. You face wave after wave of enemy forces and survive as long as you can. There are three different maps: Bleak Outlook, Sinister Bend, and Fateful Bluff. Also in true Toy Soldiers: Cold War form, there are three different modes including Classic, Lockdown, and Hardcore. The name Hardcore says it all. Wow.
In Versus mode, you and a rival gamer go head to head in a battle between the USA forces and the USSR. The game plays the same as certain levels in the campaign, with opposing turrets sending out waves of enemies. However, the game goes to a whole new level when each player earns a “Commando” Attack Barrage. When you call this perk in, you call in what is essentially a running and gunning version of Rambo, if you are on the USA side, or Ivan on the USSR side. Oh and speaking of Ivan, they look like Dolph Lundgren playing Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. This is completely intentional, and awesome.
The sound is where Toy Soldiers: Cold War really shines. This is even more so for those of us who grew up in the 80’s and recognize that Signal Studios has accomplished their goal. The music does a great job of conveying an epic story with the covers of popular 80’s songs that will only be familiar to older gamers, but are still fun and add to the overall experience. This is amazing since there really isn’t a story, but it sure feels like you’re right in the middle of an extremely intricate campaign. This is just the songs and isn’t even including the ambient sounds of orders being barked, as well as the explosions and guns from surrounding turrets. All of these areas combine together to form one of the best sounding games of the year, including retail releases.
Overall Toy Soldiers: Cold War is the way to close out the Summer of Arcade. You couldn’t ask for a better action/strategy game. All of the different tiny details come together to form one of the best arcade titles you’re likely to find on XBLA. Hopefully, there will be some DLC in the future to add some Campaign/Co-op scenarios that will help add to the length of the game. Other than that, you will be hard pressed to come up with instances of this game coming up short. I would normally say to pick the game up if you have played and enjoyed the trial, but in this instance I will just flat out say, buy it. If for no other reason than the setting, and using a Rambo-esque soldier to run around yelling 80’s references while mowing down the opposition. So from the Commando’s lips to your ears “Go hard or go home!”
*Signal Studios provided SlimGamer.com with a promo code for a review copy.