The one real criticism I have with the gameplay in Faces of War is the AI; to explain why, I would like to describe my first hand account of the loss of my beloved squadron. I’ll set the scene. A Sherman tank near a gun emplacement with some troops wandering around is in the distance. My squad, the hard-nuts they are, are fully equipped with the variety of guns and grenades needed to dispose of this hazard.
OK, so I’m navigating my way through the abundance of debris that is lying around on the floor. Oh god, I’ve been spotted. I’m clicking to run my troops to cover whilst they get pulverized by shells and gun fire. Oh dear, nope, they’ve for some reason unbeknown to me, decided to drop to floor and crawl to cover and one of my units has just stopped entirely as it can’t find a route through the rubble to safety.
I give up and begin to tell them to attack in a vain attempt to rescue the situation. Oh what’s this? My sniper has moved out of cover to attack at close range for that extra accuracy and my bazooka man, for some reason, thinks it’s wise to attack the infantry rather than the Sherman tank. Excellent. Now, what’s this? Oh that’s right, my units have decided to stop firing and run right up next to the enemy for a bit of hand to hand combat – with grenades…
Although a slight exaggeration, the variety of problems addressed did occur quite regularly throughout the campaign but, in fairness, to counterbalance the rather reckless nature of the AI “direct control” can be used. This feature was used in the previous game and worked a treat, providing a new innovative playing style. Unfortunately, it does not work as well with Faces of War and although enjoyable, you lose the ability to jump obstacles and loot bodies which is essential to succeed in the game.
Thankfully, at least some of these issues have been addressed in the 1.0.4 patch, which has rather better AI!
In addition, you lack squad control commands when in direct control and therefore you have to either keep holding down the ctrl key or repeatedly bash the end key to switch in and out of direct control as you manoeuvre your squad. This I found complicated matters too much and essentially, rendering the direct control pretty useless.
Faces of War is aesthetically pleasing, a big step up from its predecessor, Soldiers. The cityscapes that you fight in are rich in detail; streets are littered with rubble, bits of furniture and civilian cars. The vehicles and units are well designed with smooth, accurate textures and realistic equipment. The animation is also faultless and works well when units enter vehicles and gun emplacements. All these elements combined really brings the battlefield to life and at points, even with the slightly reckless decisions my units seemed to make, I found myself totally absorbed. It's no Company of Heroes, but it's not a world away.
Another impressive factor of the game is the physics engine. I revelled in the fact that I could watch mortar shells deliver a deadly blow to my squad and witness units go flying through the air with helmets and rifles cart-wheeling off into the distance. Demolishing buildings with rockets and tanks was a thrilling experience and gave the same great sense of realism.
Although the impressive graphics and physics engine brings the game to life, it is a bit of a poison chalice. The game suffers from regular framerate drops similar to that of Soldiers and when the physics effects begin to pile up, it can cause the game to slow down quite severely, even with an impressive system. There was a patch out on Friday to fix the frame rate issues, but we haven't had a chance to test that comprehensively!
Every person that helped with the sound should be lined up and shot, preferably by one of my dodgy soldiers who'd probably fluff it up and put a bullet in their nether regions leaving them writhing in agony. The voice work is just horrible because of inconsistent accents and units from Russia, Germany and Britain all sounding shadily similar. There are frequent and blatant mistakes in the text and dialogue. The only upside is that some sound effects can add to the action and allow a player to truly immerse themselves in the given scenario. However, this will probably happen very infrequently. Although being a criticism, I found it more amusing than irritating and you will have a good chuckle to yourself at all the mission briefings.
I didn’t venture too deeply into the multiplayer but I did find my small experience relatively satisfying. The co-operative play is by far the best part, whereby you can play through whole missions together completing tasks. Additionally, your usual stack of traditional multiplayer modes are available including deathmatch and king of the hill and the most novel, Chicken Run, where you compete to collect the most chickens. Er, what?
I have almost avoided mentioning the rather supendous Company of Heroes throughout this review as I didn’t particularly want to compare it against Faces of War, since I believe the games are quite different. I am well aware that Company of Heroes is remarkable and should be the rule by now. However, I think that Faces of War suffers severely from being in Company of Heroes’ shadow and shouldn’t as they are very different games.
In saying that, though, there are plenty of criticisms about Faces of War, such as aggravating AI, framerate drops and system slow down. However, on the whole, it can be rather enjoyable when things are going your way. It is quite unique in terms of playing style and does differ from your old-school classic WW2 RTS.