by Andrew Hallam
reviewed on PC
Show Me Your War Face! (cont.)
Each line of defense contains three capture points, each awarding you with both a steady stream of manpower (the game's resource to buy units with) and access to new units. You start off with the ability to call in a few different infantry elements at the start, such as a mixed infantry squad and flamethrower units as well as having access to mortars and stationary machine guns. As the missions progress and you gradually capture more and more points, the AI will call in differing sizes of reinforcements of its own, depending on the difficulty level, and attempt to take these points back from you, effectively creating a tug of war scenario. If you don't defend these points once you've taken them, you'll find that the AI will gladly take them from you, denying you access to the units and resources the points once provided you with.
Each scenario has a very short and vague little storyline to it, based on a real life battles that took place in World War II. While a lot of artistic licence has been taken to make these cater more towards gameplay than story-based missions, it still adds a nice element to the gameplay. However, it is disappointing that they decided to completely throw away the old single-player campaign concepts where you were forced to use only the units you were given throughout the campaign and the sense of narrative and unique challenges these missions created. It's unknown as to why they decided to make the Skirmishes such a prominent feature instead of a more secondary mission element which could be enjoyed in addition to a full campaign.
However, that's where DigitalMindSoft's promise of regular DLC and patches comes in. Already in the making is their first patch, which is set to not only bring fixes to the game but more maps and units too. This being said, it would have been nice to see some variety in the skirmish missions to start with, rather than having to wait for future DLC to see if they become slightly less repetitive.
Band Of Brothers
As with many games nowadays, it is important to keep your fans connected so they can mash the living crap out of each other online and Assault Squad doesn't disappoint in this area. With the inclusion of four different gametypes, there is a lot to do insofar as the multiplayer is concerned. I've already mentioned the Frontlines gametype, in which two teams take turns to attack and defend, much like the skirmishes in single-player. Combat is a straight-up slog match between two teams of up to 4 vs 4, in which each team chooses its faction and battles it out over a single map. Assault Zones, the most popular of the four gametypes, is a simple capture the points scenario, where a number of points are dotted over the map and the more you hold the faster your team gains victory points. Skirmishes are also available in multiplayer, adding a co-op element where up to eight players must work together to beat a skirmish, sharing resources and units as they battle against the AI.
This last mode is where Assault Squad's balance and unit innovation comes into its own. Each faction has units that are modelled exactly on their real world counterparts. This means that each faction has its own units that are completely unique and require a certain playing style in order to win. For example, Germany and Russia come equipped with the best tanks, meaning that other factions must use their more agile counterparts to their advantage. However, while previous instalments of Men of War usually had their multiplayer matches divulge into boring slog matches between heavily armoured behemoths, Assault Squad has put a lot more emphasis on the importance of infantry, meaning that even the lowliest soldier can crawl along the ground and blow the crap out of a Tiger tank with nothing more than balls of steel and a Molotov cocktail.
Some gripes remain
While a few bugs are still present, such as units getting stuck within each other if spawned too close, the game is surprisingly stable throughout - with next to no crashes and no real glaring issues. Likewise, the overall graphics are visually stunning and engrossing as each unit is lovingly modelled after its real life counterpart and the visual effects are eye-poppingly brilliant. However, the Infantry does still have a few robotic-like animations that take away from the impressiveness of it all.
A gripe that has been a constant throughout the series is the absolutely shocking voice acting in the narrative sections. You get an obviously American voice actor to voice a Japanese officer, showing no attempt of putting on an accent. The in-game unit voice-overs are great, using authentic accents, location specific voice actors and proper language appropriate for each faction. But the characters who speak at the start of each skirmish, introducing the objective to the player, are downright annoying and off-putting at best. Let's hope that DMS fixes this issue in future content releases to perfect this addition to the series.
V For Victory
Men of War: Assault Squad is a sound game, reinforcing the already great formula that Best Way have been perfecting since 2004 with Soldiers: Heroes of World War II. The single-player skirmishes will no doubt lose their appeal after you've completed a few of them, they are a nice addition to the game. It would have been some of them replaced with a proper narrative campaign, but hopefully that will come in a future DLC. The multiplayer aspect is great overall, with a good variety of maps as well as interesting units and gametypes that are balanced to not only provide unique play styles for each faction, but an overall fairness to the gameplay.
A vast improvement on almost all aspects from the previous instalments. Fun, balanced multiplayer.
Lack of proper campaign, skirmishes have low replay value, voice acting is utter crap.