As a a gritty, realistic-ish multiplayer FPS about 64-player, brutal, attritional warfare with napalm strikes, flamethrowers, and helicopters, Rising Storm 2: Vietnam is the perfect fit for a novelty map. Miniaturized maps like Counter-Strike's de_rats have never been balanced tactical chessboards—they're playgrounds of stupidity that give us permission to play loosely in competitive games.
The Green Army Men Christmas event happening now in RS2 is refreshing, transformative, and exactly the sort of lighthearted thing I want to play over holiday break. Moving the mechanics of RS2 out of Vietnam and into a toy-cluttered suburban living room that looks like it just got carpet bombed by Santa injects a new mood and fighting style into Antimatter and Tripwire's scrappy shooter.
Camouflage is non-existent on the hardwood floor. Your whole body is a single shade of luminous, plastic blue or green (the two factions battling for domestic supremacy), and even at extreme ranges, a single pixel of your body catches the eye. There are lengths of tinsel up on the banister that you can kinda-sorta hide in, but otherwise almost all of the dozens of props populating the map are solid toys and household objects set at right angles. Around stacks of giant Duplo blocks, I fought like I was in a speedball match, holding down an angle behind cover as a teammate leapfrogged forward, advancing once they could cover me.
In other zones, the absence of jungle to hide in makes Green Army Men feel like a high-fidelity amusement park shooting gallery. From certain positions, you can see almost the entire length of the massive, seven-capture-point map. In an elevated spot like above the fireplace mantle, you might eye three for four enemies darting between different areas of Lincoln Log cover, moments that test your target prioritization and ability to snap off quick shots. Elevated positions are really valuable, though, and a skilled player can do serious damage from up high by firing, retreating a little back behind their ledge, then reemerging to pick from the many unaware targets scurrying across the floor.
RS2's easy lethality does work well with this theme, though. One burst of an M16 is usually all it takes to knock over a blue bad guy, so the lives of these cheap plastic men feel disposable, as if the whole match is the effort of kids invisibly knocking over figurines with rubber bands. That mindset had me playing less cautiously, embracing the absurdity of calling in an artillery strike on a highway of orange Hot Wheels track or charging through a cavernous ventilation shaft that's been graffitied with crayon.
I was going to end this story advocating for Green Army Men being more than a temporary event, when I was reminded that, duh, like a few of the most popular things on PC, Green Army Men emerged from a mod. The mode was one of the winners of Tripwire and Antimatter's modding contest earlier this year, and this Christmas map is a continuation of that work by the original, four-person team. Multiple GAM maps are already available on Steam Workshop, including a Pool Party, and it isn't hard to find servers that exclusively run the mode through RS2's browser.
Asked about the possibility of making this mod a more permanent part of RS2, Tripwire VP Alan Wilson told me via email says it's already heard lots of positive feedback in the last year. "We'll take stock after the holidays and see what the demand for it is," Wilson says. "We'll certainly be happy to help the mod team along—but we may need to look at it more seriously."