Okay, the above isnít true. The game is set some time in the 1980s during the Cold War where the threat of communism (naughty communism!) feels very real. Levels resemble events such as the Vietnam War among other unspecified scenarios but never specifically say so, thereís never a time or a place. The whole thing is vague in setting and even worse, it never feels like thereís an enemy beyond generic communists. The player never feels quite as involved in the conflict as they did in the original Toy Soldiers because it barely feels like thereís a conflict there. Thereís fighting, but thereís not any point to it. Itís a hollow experience.
The basic gameplay remains identical to that seen before. A combination of tower defence and action, the player can set up different towers (machine guns, anti-aircraft, etc) that will automatically attack enemy forces which rush towards a toy box in waves. If too many enemies reach the toy box their invasion is complete and the level is lost, so itís important to kill them all before they reach it. To aid in this, each tower can be controlled manually so you can take control of a machine gun and shoot the enemies yourself from a first person viewpoint. As it was in the first game, itís a nice idea to keep the gameplay varied, but as in the first game, it just doesnít work. It doesnít work because in not adjusting the gameplay at all, theyíve carried all the flaws from the original game into its sequel.
The chief problem here, in exactly the same manner as before, is the AI. The AI doesnít even need to have much intelligence really, all it needs to do is ensure that towers attack the most immediate threat to the playerís toy box Ė it doesnít even manage this. This means that with a band of soldiers running towards your toy box youíll sit and watch as your machine gun turrets just shoot the soldiers at random while the ones at the head of the pack are ignored and run into the toy box completely free of any fire. If youíre controlling the machine gun yourself you can ensure that this doesnít happen. If youíre controlling any other unit on the battlefield this all happens out of your sight and by the time youíre warned about it itís too late to recover. It means that controlling towers yourself can be a disadvantage and even when itís not, you never feel in control of a battle when youíre controlling a tower because the AI just canít be trusted.
Unfortunately, it also means that the gameís newest difficulty, ďGeneral,Ē is not the welcome addition it should be. This difficulty removes the ability to control your towers yourself, and so the game becomes a pure tower defence title where tower placement and upgrades are the key to success, a completely different way to play. The AI is no better in this mode, though, and so you still get to watch soldiers that are well within range of your towers be completely ignored as they saunter into your toy box and break your perfect record. In General, thereís literally nothing at all that can be done about it. Itís very frustrating, and the most basic thing that the game should have got right, especially since the issue has existed for well over a year. Thereís simply no excuse.
General mode also highlights another of the gameís problems, and another holdover from its predecessor. The game is very, very slow. It starts with the (still slow) loading screens and then continues into the gameplay. Once a wave has been launched by an enemy it can take thirty seconds to a minute before they actually come into range of any towers. Where other tower defence games include a button to fast forward the action in such instances, Toy Soldiers: Cold War lacks this and so much of the action involves the player twiddling their thumbs as they wait for something to happen.
One welcome change comes with the addition of a rewind mechanic which means that if the player does fall victim to poor AI or a stage goes otherwise pear-shaped, the game can be rewound to a previously completed wave, which means that losing to a boss at the end of a long level wonít require the whole thing to be started again.
Itís Toy Soldiers all over again, basically, just without any of the atmosphere. There are a few other tweaks such as special moves that are earned if you kill a lot of enemies in control of a tower, and activated by pressing Y. These are mainly air-strikes, but the Commando power-up takes the game all-out third-person shooter and puts you in control of Rambo (by any other name) and lets you run around taking out waves of enemies for a short time. Itís a minor addition and in the greater scheme of things, doesnít add much.
Elsewhere there are minigames which take place outside of the war environment, these involve such things as directing missiles through a maze of rotating walls, or at targets, or taking on waves of soldiers to see how many points you can score in a certain amount of time. These are a break from the action but if the experience of the main game is hollow, these random set-pieces removed from it feel even more so.
Toy Soldiers: Cold War is the same game all over again, only this time it lacks the things that kept Toy Soldiers interesting throughout its frustrating gameplay: a story; an atmosphere; a feeling that your actions mattered. Signal Studios never looked at the things that didnít work in its predecessor and didnít bother to fix them. They didnít learn from their mistakes and so history just repeats itself. All that ever leads to is more wars - and disappointing video games.