by Marko Susimetsä
reviewed on PC
Few against many
Men of War: Red Tide is the sequel of Men of War that was released earlier this year. Like the original, Red Tide will place you in control of vastly outnumbered units going against the German war machine. But instead of the cooperative gameplay possibilities of the original, Red Tide features a single-player campaign of over 20 missions in which the player follows a group of Soviet commando’s called ‘The Black Coats' during the Black Sea campaigns of World War II.
Men of War: Red Tide is based on the writings of Alexander Zorich, which is actually a pen-name of two Russian authors Yana Botsman and Dmitry Gordevsky. The two are known for their sci-fi, fantasy and alternate history novels and are regularly asked to create original scripts for games, including Men of War: Red Tide. Good news to those who were disappointed with the haphazard way the scenarios of the original Men of War were tied together.
The authors' most obvious input can be found during the loading screens that feature texts recognizable to those who are familiar with Alexander Zorich. One such paragraph sets the scene for the Red Tide pretty well and I quote a part of it here:
"There is a certain popular concept known as 'collective heroism'. If there is a single perfect example of this notion, it would be the Soviet naval infantry of the Second World War. [. . .] With a grenade in one hand and a standard-issue rifle or machinegun on their back, the infantrymen could do wonders: they waded through ice-cold water submerged to the neck, attacked German and Romanian coastal batteries, turned captured guns at the enemy, detonated enemy offices and ammunition stockpiles..." etc. etc.
Men of War: Red Tide not only puts you in charge of the heroes as mentioned in that quote but also of tanks, armored trains, landing craft, artillery and enemy weapons that can be captured and used. The campaign will carry you back in time to the famous theatres of war, including Odessa, Sevastopol, Theodosia and Eltingen.
The most striking feature of Men of War: Red Tide is undoubtedly the historical detail that has been inscribed into the game. This becomes apparent right from the start of the game as the player is treated with period documentary film material of the Soviet Black Coats and the battles that they fought in. Similar background documentaries are offered for each of the six battles that the campaign covers. This film material and written descriptions of the battles are wonderful at setting the scene for the game.
Like the original Men of War, Red Tide challenges the armchair generals' to an ultimate test. Unlike other RTS games that pretty much guide the player by the hand for the first mission or two, Red Tide simply throws a couple of units of the Black Coats on the coast of Odessa and tells you to get through the first line of defense of the Romanians. The player will have to figure out the main controls as enemy fire rains down on his units and learn more detailed controls on the go.
This introduction proves to set a steep learning curve that is complicated further by inordinately high challenges very early in the game. For instance, you are vastly outnumbered and your units seem to hardly care about your commands at all. The first battle is set at night-time, making it very hard for you to tell your men apart from the enemy and allies. So there are no easy starts to be had here, but on the plus side, you find new appreciation for the confusion of a real battlefield.
Fabulous attention given to historical detail, low-level tactical control of single unit members.
Clumsy interface, dated graphics, anemic voice-acting.