by Marko Susimetsä
reviewed on PC
Where is that rifleman running to?
You control your units by selecting them and then clicking on the destination where you want them to go to. But whereas you can usually draw a rectangle over several units in order to select them all, in Red Tide this action will only select one of the units inside that rectangle. Instead, you should select the units that you want to command from the list on the left side of the screen. But even this way you can only order the units one at a time. This tends to break up your formation into smaller units at whim, leaving you with a new button for a single machine gunner or a single officer and no clue as to how you could attach them back to their original units.
So much for 'collective heroism'. Many times I saw a single soldier standing somewhere far outside the action, apparently bent on taking a nap while his pals were engaged in battle. Similarly, when I ordered a single unit to attack a certain enemy stronghold, one of the soldiers decided to run straight at the enemy while the rest of the selected unit remained where they had been, or decided to start shooting at the enemy from where they were at the moment. Naturally, the single attacker usually perished as the enemy battery opened fire at the fool.
Other problems arise in the pathfinding algorithms. I once ordered a single soldier standing at one end of a trench to traverse to the other end of the same trench. ‘Naturally’ this fellow decided to do this by jumping out of the trench and running through enemy fire until he reached the other end of the trench, where he got back into cover, much to the detriment of his health.
When everything works
Looking beyond these quirks, the gameplay of Men of War: Red Tide does give the player detailed control over the units, allowing you to order your men into defensive positions in trenches, bushes, behind vehicles and in buildings with great accuracy. The tactical detail of your controls is superb as you can command a group of men to capture a 75mm Schneider artillery, take direct control of the unit and blast away with the artillery at precise spots of enemy defenses, instead of letting the AI to decide what to shoot at.
The sounds and graphics are certainly the weakest spot of the game. The visuals are mediocre at best at today's standards and the sound consists of basic pops of small-arms and explosions of bigger guns. Both the graphics and the sounds certainly achieve what they were meant to, but they will not treat the player any more than that.
There is also some voice acting included, mainly consisting of the cries of the soldiers on the field, but also featuring during the cut-scenes. Some of the voice actors seem to be trying hard at sounding realistic, but their efforts are undercut by their fellow actors who have all the enthusiasm of an S-Mart clerk using the store sound system to tell the customers about various deals of the day.
Men of War: Red Tide is seriously hardcore on many fronts. First, learning the controls takes time and patience and forces the player to refer to the game manual, instead of teaching the controls and other basics during gameplay. Second, the missions themselves are very difficult to perform. Many times you find yourself having completed one main objective, but facing the next one with far fewer soldiers due to the casualties that you have taken. This forces you to start over, trying to perform the initial objectives with less casualties so that you can even hope to overcome the main objectives. Third, the historical accuracy of vehicles and the men's uniforms really shows the enthusiasm of the developers and how they love their subject matter.
Overall, I was left with an impression that Men of War: Red Tide would have been a far better game if the developers had paid more attention to the controls and user-friendliness of the interface. As it is, the interface seems to hamper your actions more than it helps you perform them. This may drive away many traditional RTS fans. Still, I am sure that World War II buffs will enjoy this title as much as they enjoyed the original Men of War. And after all, war was never meant to be easy.
Fabulous attention given to historical detail, low-level tactical control of single unit members.
Clumsy interface, dated graphics, anemic voice-acting.