Review: Toy Soldiers Cold War DLC Packs (XBLA)
Title: Toy Soldiers Cold War – Evil Empire and Napalm DLC Packs
Developer: Signal Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Games Studio
Tagline: More warfare from the bottom of the toybox
Family Friendly: Click here for more information.
Verdict: Buy it Already
Last year, I got the chance to play Toy Soldiers: Cold War and I was amazed at how much fun I had with the title. I had never played the first entry in the series, but growing up in the midst of the Cold War period of time that game held more relevance for me. Now, almost a year later, Signal Studios has released two new DLC expansions that add two new mini-campaigns, new minigames and new decorations to earn. After playing both, I found myself enjoying both quite a bit, although with a minor caveat depending on where you are at with the series.
Coming in first is Evil Empire, which will have you playing as the USSR, looking to take down the capitalist pigs of America once and for all. Taking the route of playing as the Soviets allows you to play with new vehicles and supposedly new turret types, although the weapon placements look visually similar to their American counterparts.
The new mini-campaign for Evil Empire has you playing through three new missions, with each one ramping up the difficulty in each instance. And believe me, that difficulty is no joke, as I probably died at least a dozen times on the very first map. Signal Studios does not pull any punches with these new campaign maps and if you are a bit rusty, or unfamiliar with the series, you will find yourself on the losing end of battles the first few times out the gate.
Visually, the game is still as impressive as it was at the original launch, and I did love the idea of storming the grounds as the Spetsnaz commando, Ivan when you hit your Barrage meter. It should be noted though that the engine is really pushing the limits of the hardware at times, as I noted several points of frame rate issues and slowdowns when smoke effects and lots of troops and vehicles were on the screen.
Little touches like funny quips from your turret units and vehicles, all provided with a clichéd Russian accent are here in all their glory, and plays up the humor that Signal has infused into this brand name.
Napalm is the second of the new DLC expansions and it moves the action of the Cold War to a different period in time, focusing on the jungles of Vietnam. This is a tough era to pull off in any video game, as the subject matter is still a bit touchy, even 40 years after the events of the conflict depicted. That said the idea is to play up the lighter fare found at the bottom of a child’s toy box and the Napalm pack does deliver. As with the Evil Empire DLC, you get three new missions, and each is more challenging than the next. Of note was the Ambush map, where you have to defend your base from three different fronts, and with a limited budget to get turrets erected in time for a good defence.
As with Evil Empire, Napalm is all about challenging battlefield masters and it pushed my patience at first, as I was routinely losing the battle. Careful strategy and planning, as well as relearning the gane mechanics slowly made me better at the new campaigns, but diehard fans may find the most entertainment with these new maps.
I did have an odd occurrence with Napalm, as the first map in the mini-campaign crashed on me twice. And when I say crashed, I mean, frozen Xbox 360 and had to unplug the device to get it to shut off. I never had this happen in the Evil Empire pack and it did not happen at the same point in the first mission on the Napalm pack, but it makes me wonder if the game is taxing the system a little too hard as frame rate issues cropped up several times with the Napalm maps as well.
Both packs come with new co-op maps as well as some neat little mini-games and are packed with enough content to more than justify their 400 MS Point cost. The biggest issue I had with both of these packs is the incredible difficulty ramp that they put in front of me as a player. Sure, I had moments of challenge in the original game, but I always felt that the loss was on me, and not because of the game. Here, I felt that the game had stacked the deck against me, and the loss came from cheap gameplay than bad strategy. That said, I did overcome my issues over time, but it took many hard knocks to get to that final nirvana.
But both the Evil Empire and Napalm map packs are a thrill to play and freshen up a classic XBLA franchise that is a ton of fun to play. Add in the leaderboard support and medals that you can earn for completing challenges and you will find a ton of additional content to tickle your toy box kid fantasies for hours on end.
- Maps are very well designed
- Lots of content and unlockables
- New weapons and vehicles
- Difficulty seems very steep
Both the Evil Empire and Napalm maps are very friendly for kids. Yes, there is a lot of gunplay, but all the enemies are toys, and therefore, never shed blood or become dismembered. The violence plays out akin to a cartoon. However, if you are sensitive to weapon fire and guns, you should probably keep this out of your child’s hands. Otherwise, the Toy Soliders expansions are fine for all ages.