When we were kids, toys were awesome. They allowed us to live out fantasies limited only by our imagination and the size of our toyboxes. We had video games sure, although they paled to the comparatively polished wonders of technology out there in the world today. I personally found endless fun in tipping out a bag of green plastic army men at the end of each school day to wage war against the treasure trove of dinosaurs, aliens, and cheap tat sold as “children’s toys” by the local convenience store. Now the folks over at Virtual Basement have decided it’s time to bring back those halcyon days with The Mean Greens – Plastic Warfare.
Before stepping over the threshold into this maelstrom of combatants made purely from an offshoots of the petroleum production process, kindly melt any comparisons to Ubisoft’s Toy Soldiers you’re having right now through the use of a magnifying glass or advanced laser. They may both contain tiny men of war sold in a bag, but that’s where the similarity ends.
The Mean Greens – Plastic Warfare is a multiplayer online third person shooter — not to mention an egregiously lengthy name obviously fashioned to ape the grand success of the Modern Warfare family. However, unlike that massively successful series, The Mean Greens doesn’t have the legs to reinvent the multiplayer landscape for the next decade.
That being said, its landscapes are the epitome of ‘dope,’ or whatever the kids are saying these days. When stepping out into combat, these are often breath-taking in both their whimsy and inventiveness. Pumping rounds into an opponent after bouncing over a multi-tiered birthday cake thanks to the helping hand of jelly (or jello for the Americans out there) is an experience I’ve never been regaled with before and likely never will be again. Other ingenious battlefields include the freezer, a bathtub full of rubber ducks, and a toy train strewn with christmas paraphernalia that’s chugging around a circular track. I’ll be honest, there isn’t a single map in this game that doesn’t have the raw power to make you smile; even if it’s only in wonder.
Hands down, these maps are the highlight of The Mean Greens. They perfectly encapsulate the child-like imagination we’ve all used at one time or another in our lives to raise a battlefield from the ashes of discarded cutlery and cardboard boxes without coming across as the cheap gimmick they could easily have been. They work so well because each one has been designed with a specific game mode in mind, rather than a blank mess built to allow for multiple different brands of warfare.
That design genuinely does show as each game of The Mean Greens has strategic points specifically designed to change the flow of battle in every single one . The freezer stage, for example, demands that both teams descend into an open area flanked by two dinosaur toys frozen in ice. This in itself opens up a wealth of tactical opportunities alongside the tricky choice between defending your team’s plastic reptile or screwing up the enemy’s. Granted the flow of gameplay is predictable as there are rarely more than three separate approaches to any given objective, but it makes sense as this sort of design offers newcomers an easy avenue to understanding how each game will go.
After the blood has boiled and excitement has bubbled upon your first witnessing of these imaginative arenas however, The Mean Greens’ true nature becomes apparent. It happens pretty quickly too. If you were to boil up a fresh cup of tea when stepping into the game, this sheen would’ve faded away by the time your drink was tepid. Combat itself is extremely lacking in the sort of drama one might expect from a battle raging over rubber ducks floating in a bathtub. Due to the decision of giving players every weapon in the game, there’s rarely any risk to be associated with making a move. More often than not, engagements are decided by whichever team’s rocket launchers are no longer on cooldown rather than the tactical positioning of each member. This is great at first. After a couple of hours of play, it becomes boring, predictable, and quite frankly about as inspiring as a book of carpet samples.
Not the nice carpet samples either. Oh no, the odd-smelling ones that feel gritty and extremely cheap.
Without a doubt, the greatest problem with The Mean Greens appears to be it’s lack of desire to go a step further. Think back to the aforementioned defrosting a dinosaur ditty. Toys are brought to life here, right? Then why in the name of all that’s holy did they allow us to thaw out a monster capable of destroying a whole army of plastic soldiers only to have the match end the moment it’s freed? Let the stupid thing roam around a bit; it’d make the core gameplay a lot more exciting even if it’s a guaranteed loss for the slower team.
On the plus side, The Mean Greens’ shooting isn’t completely reprehensible. It gets the job done and gives you a warm sense of achievement whenever you don’t get instantly killed by an enemy; something which happens all the time thanks to every combatant having access to a long ranged sniper rifle, a shotgun, and a bloody rocket launcher almost all the time.
There just isn’t any consequence to proceedings and, perhaps most depressingly, no reason at all to come back after seeing the maps on offer. With no experience system to speak of or unlocks, The Mean Greens is forced to rely completely upon its core gameplay to bring you back into the fold and it simply doesn’t have the strength to do that. If Virtual Basement did this to ensure the game would be balanced no matter what, then I can kind of respect that, but it still doesn’t give players any reason to spend time with The Mean Greens after one session. The addition of an inconsequential system to unlock character customizations or an absolutely pointless leveling system which does nothing more than stick a number next to your name on the leaderboards would at least be something.
But no. The Mean Greens lives and dies by its core gameplay. We want to be invested in our games. We want to see some return for our investment of time, especially multiplayer ones where there’s no end credits sequence payoff. Sadly, The Mean Greens outright doesn’t deliver on this front, damning the game to a short life of mediocrity.
Actually that’s a little harsh. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with The Mean Greens on a base level. It plays alright, it looks alright, and it sounds alright. That’s just it though; it’s alright. Nothing more. Nothing less. If you were to buy The Mean Greens then I doubt you’d be disappointed initially anyway. Well, until you check back in on your Steam library in a few months and realise that you totally forgot about ever buying the game after that one night in the bathtub.
The Mean Greens – Plastic Warfare is technically an alright game. However, the lack of reasons to come back, entwined with the rudimentary weapons system, stops what could be a great pick-up-and-play shooter dead in its tracks.