Review – Toy Soldiers HD

I’ve been waiting to get my hands on Toy Soldiers HD ever since its first reveal during that bizarre period some dared to call a proper E3 last June. Even if it was basically an announcement that the franchise wasn’t dead and that it was getting a remaster that didn’t add new gameplay features. Although, the proper visual and performance enhancements you’d expect from a current-gen remaster were more than enough to make me happy. Toy Soldiers was a unique XBLA game from back in the day, loved by a handful and overlooked by many, so being able to replay it with a better coat of paint is already worth the admission ticket.

Toy Soldiers HD Third Person

This is why they used trenches, duh!

Toy Soldiers HD retains the unique gameplay loop that made the original stand out from its XBLA peers. It’s a mix between third-person shooting, vehicular combat, real-time strategy, and tower defense. It sounds bizarre, but it works because it never forces you to play all four styles at once. You’re given a battlefield to defend, and resources to spend on units and defensive structures. Waves upon waves of enemies are being thrown at you. You need to defend yourself with whichever units you can afford, but instead of relying solely on your run-of-the-mill RTS artificial intelligence, you can choose any of your units and play as them in real time.

Sure, it is a simplified RTS tied to a simplified action control scheme, but this is the beauty of it: it’s quite accessible. Even though the RTS controls are a bit weird at first, you can get used to them quite quickly. The same can be said about the real-time action controls. There are tons of units to control, each one with a unique control scheme, so getting used to all of them is nigh impossible. You will usually get used to a handful of them and “main” them during single-player campaigns and multiplayer skirmishes. This is essentially what I did, as I love possessing a Vickers machine gun turret to mow down tons of toy-like enemies from a distance. Not to mention raising hell as a miniature Red Baron with an airplane.

Toy Soldiers HD Defenses

I added a ton of barbed wire thinking that would halt the enemy completely. Then they deployed a bunch of horses that could jump over them…

The improvements seem minute at first, but the improved textures and framerate go a long way to make the game look pretty appealing for 2021 standards. Well, considering it is a budget title, that is. In no moment, even when the screen was absolutely packed with miniature soldiers ready to die for Kaiser Wilhelm II, did the framerate stutter. The only instance I noticed any kind of framerate issues was with a non-gameplay feature. Whenever I would take a screenshot for reviewing purposes, the game would slow down a bit, but immediately pick up after half a second.

The only aspect in which Toy Soldiers HD falters quite seriously, in my opinion, is its sound department. It’s not bad per se, but considering the World War I theme and the fact that the game went out of its way to include a few real-life songs from the time, I ended up wanting a bit more from it. I craved a few more songs, even if they ended up being recycled from the same library Bioshock Infinite used in its soundtrack. Also, I expected a bit more from the sound effects. I get that these are toys in a make believe war, but the game is a bit too “quiet” during gameplay. A bit more action would have improved the experience quite significantly.

Final Wave

Well, bullets didn’t exactly work very well with these armored cars. Thank goodness it was the last wave.

In short, Toy Soldiers HD is exactly what you were expecting from a remaster of the XBLA cult classic: the same game from a decade ago, with all previously released expansions included in the package, as well as some new units and options, all covered up by some subtle, but very significant presentation and performance improvements. It’s not a game changer by any means, but it’s a great way to reintroduce the franchise to a younger audience, as well as provide the best the series has ever looked and played to old-time fans. What a way to make WWI look borderline adorable.


Graphics: 7.0

For all intents and purposes, it still looks like the XBLA (and therefore, lower budgeted) classic, but the textural and framerate improvements are more than welcome.

Gameplay: 8.0

It takes some time to get used to playing an RTS with a controller, but it’s much more intuitive than you could ever imagine. The same goes for the vast amount of control schemes when you play as a specific unit.

Sound: 6.5

Even if the battles themselves sound a bit too quiet, I do like Toy Soldiers HD‘s soundtrack, purely comprised of 1910’s standards.

Fun Factor: 8.0

The fact that Toy Soldiers HD is still tons of fun despite not receiving any gameplay improvements on this remaster is a testament to how strong its original concept is.

Final Verdict: 7.5

Toy Soldiers HD is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch.

Reviewed on Xbox One.

A copy of Toy Soldiers HD was provided by the publisher.