by Ingvi Snædal
reviewed on PC
The Men of War series has had its ups and downs over the past 3 years. The first game in the series was released in March, 2009 and was generally hailed as a breath of fresh air in the rather stagnant RTS genre. Nothing much changed in the iterations that followed, save for a couple of engine changes such as the inclusion of more destructible environments, better hit/ricochet calculations, AI upgrades and such. Last September, however, the developers made a mistake by trying to bring the formula that had worked so well in this World War II RTS series to the Vietnam War in Men of War: Vietnam. Needless to say: the style of gameplay the series was known for did not fit well with the new gorilla-warfare setting. This time, however, they have returned to their beloved era of excellence and are focusing their attention on a little known area of WWII history: the Red Army’s penal battalions.
Penal battalions consisted of disgraced officers and soldiers who were generally stripped of all ranks and used for missions considered to be extremely dangerous. The lucky ones went on these suicide missions. The unlucky ones were organised into so-called “thrasher” battalions. Their only goal was to run through minefields, unarmed, clearing a path for the main assault force to follow them. The setting of Men of War: Condemned Heroes puts you in control of these penal battalions and it is up to you to pull these impossible suicide missions off. In most missions, you start off with a handful of soldiers and face an overwhelming force of enemies in your path. You will have to sneak, flank, steal equipment, loot dead soldiers; anything to get your men through their ordeal. This will require skill, cunning, tactical intelligence, and lots and lots of saves and loads. As a confident veteran of old-school RTS titles (although this is the first Men of War title I play) I felt no reservations about choosing the “Medium” setting in the difficulty dialogue. After being wiped out eight times in the tutorial mission, however, I quickly switched over to “Easy”.
For those of you who fondly remember the good old days of games that actually posed a challenge: this game is most definitely for you. Everything about it sets you up to lose, which only serves to sweeten the inevitable taste of victory. Your men are few, they are ill-equipped, they rarely set off with any descent hardware, but you can micromanage each and every aspect of their actions, from the standard fire modes to movement and even to the inventory of each individual unit. When all the fighting is taking place in the trenches: make some of your riflemen pick up machine guns or SMGs from fallen enemies. When assaulting over a field where accuracy over long distances is required: make your SMG infantry pick up rifles, but most importantly: try to disable vehicles and stationary weapons without actually destroying them. They play a vital part in any assault and winning without a couple of commandeered pieces of quality German engineering on your side is a virtual impossibility.
Direct Control Mode
The direct control mode is a neat feature which allows you to take control of a unit’s movements and attacks. This is very handy when it comes to artillery and mortars, as it allows you to use those to destroy unselectable objects such as empty buildings, as well as to fire in the direction of a group of enemies simply to draw their attention and lead them into an ambush. It can, however, feel a bit over-powered in cases where you fire in the direction of an armoured vehicle which is out of range, without it being able to shoot back.
A very challenging brainteaser.
A bit rough around the edges.