The sequel to Soldiers: Heroes of World War II, Men of War is a tactical, real-time strategy game which takes place in North Africa. It allows you to control three different sides of the conflict in three separate campaigns consisting of 19 single-player missions total. You will take command of Russian, British, and American forces while able to access Japanese units in multi-player games only.
Visually, the actual game is pleasing enough. It won’t break any records in the looks department, but the presentation works for the type of game it is. Typically, hardcore strategy fans can overlook lackluster graphics if the gameplay is good enough. The environments in Men of War are some of the most destructible I have ever seen in an RTS. Pretty much anything can be blown to smithereens. This makes cover precarious as today’s sand bag barricade is tomorrow’s scattered pile of sand. Also, camera system is generally well-designed and fully 3d by way of the middle mouse button. Unfortunately, the cut scenes are sub-par at best.
Sound design is decent, giving you a good amount of queues as to what is happening in the battle at hand. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the voice over work and writing of the game’s dialogue. Perhaps it is because the developers, Digital Mind Soft and Best Way Games, are located in Germany and the Ukraine, respectively. Actors are wooden and obviously do not understand the nuances of North American English. Also, the writing they were provided also lacks the language’s natural flow a native speaker is accustomed to.
Controlling your units can be very tricky as well as confusing, especially if you are a long-time PC RTS gamer. Instead of freely being able to select units with the left mouse button, Men of War requires you to right-click in order to clear your selected units first. Clicking the left mouse button while having troops selected will issue a move order. This seemingly simple system is sure to give you more than a few headaches, especially when the action starts heating up. I found myself, on more than one occasion, left-clicking a tank in order to select it while already having infantry selected. Instead of switching over to the tank, this just made my infantry huddle around the vehicle, using it for cover.
Speaking of cover, something that Men of War does very well is implement a VITAL cover system. Utilizing this cover system effectively is the only sure way to win the game’s difficult missions. After selecting unit(s), hovering your mouse cursor over coverable-items will illuminate various positions your troops can take. If there is no cover available, left clicking will simply order your troops to move to the location. Double-clicking will order them to perform the action ‘on the run’.
Your units are capable of a number of actions not normally seen in RTS titles. You can select their stance (e.g. prone or standing), weapons, fire modes… The list goes on. You can even loot boxes and other items to better equip your units. Sometimes, all of these possibilities can be overwhelming, especially when controlling a ton of units on the field and having. Usually, the unit AI is forgiving enough to take cover, etc. Pathfinding, however, is a totally different story. I have seen tanks attempt to plow through whole buildings to reach a destination. This is one area where the game needs some serious work. If I have to micro-manage how exactly a unit reaches a location, I will never get anything else done!
Battles are frenetic and sometimes leave you in a wreck of adrenaline as to the number of actions you were required to pull off in order to achieve your goals. Mission difficulty is spotty regardless of difficulty level selected, and will require all of your experience, reflexes, and tactical planning to complete them. Many missions are multi-stage, scripted event-based and provide plenty of the aforementioned challenge and excitement.
Provided out of the box are both LAN and Internet-based multi-player gaming options with all manner of game types including co-operative missions. Something I would have liked to have seen is a random mission generator for the single-player gamer as it would seriously increase the replayability (look at Battlefront’s Combat Mission Shock Force as an example).
Overall, Men of War is worth you time only if you are looking for an in-depth, tactical game of combat on a large scale. At times it will be frustrating from a technical standpoint and, at others, it will provide you with exceptional joy at completing what looked to be an insurmountable mission. Men of War is a very in-depth RTS game that should definitely be given a look, especially at the Direct2Drive purchase price of $29.99