Men of War - Gameplay

What’s also impressive is how the direct control system has been implemented into the game’s remarkably varied (and numerous) campaign missions. Men of War lacks any sort of base building, you just start with a given a set of units and the option of calling in various reinforcements as time goes on, but the variety between levels is simply awesome, with each making use of direct control in a different way.

On some missions you’ll be taking command of just a handful of operatives behind enemy lines and making heavy use of direct control to sneak them past sentries, while others see you defending enormous stretches of defensive line with literally hundreds of troops under your command, with direct control mostly used to maximise the effectiveness of key units like machine guns and anti-tank emplacements. Others still have you taking command of a few dozen units as part of much larger offensives, with the AI handling supporting units around you and direct control best used to lead your forces into battle with a heavy tank or tooled up infantryman.

This ability to shift in scale from truly grand to intimate without ever having to change the core gameplay is fantastic, and helps keep the game fresh as you progress through the lengthy campaign, which is filled to the brim with memorable highlights.

Men of War Men of War - Gameplay
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Storming a German occupied hill as part of a massive Penal battalion, the epic defence of Sevastopol (complete with enormous controllable naval defence batteries turned inland) and the storming of the Seelow heights following a night of espionage are all highlights of the Russian campaign. That’s not to mention there are also full campaigns for German and American forces too. There's also a solid handful of standalone missions on top of that which, when you consider that some levels can last for well over an hour, certainly gives you value for money.

While the exhaustive attention to detail and generally excellent core gameplay count for a lot in Men of War’s favour though, but there are some pretty glaring problems: the most jarring of which is the horribly bad voice acting used in-between mission cutscenes and briefings. It’s like all sense of tone and urgency has been lost the in translation from the game’s native Russian, and the result is hilarious in that B-movie kind of way.

It’s like the last 15 years of game production values never happened, with everything from possibly the worst Russian and German accents ever recorded to a monotone mission briefing voiceover that was clearly recorded in one single take. You can even detect how the actor got more into the role as his day continued, as you get further through the game.

It’s a continually frustrating shortcoming that you’re reminded of throughout the game as the budget voice actors stagger through their lines like uninterested GCSE students. Frankly, we expect better production values from a modern game, foreign or otherwise.

Men of War Men of War - Gameplay
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Another key issue is the game’s total lack of any sort of separate tutorial. While the first campaign mission does its best to ease you into the complex controls with a few tool tips, you’ll still find yourself diving for the manual to figure out how to open a unit’s inventory or throw an anti-tank grenade; stuff that could easily be covered in a 15 minute basic training mission. With so many controls and unit abilities to master this throws up a whopping great anti-tank ditch across the route into Men of War’s sublime gameplay and will likely deter many more casual players.

Such players will also be put off by the game’s extreme level of difficulty – if there was ever a game worthy of the Chuck Norris “Tough as Nails” award, Men of War would be it. Stray your one and only tank too close to enemy infantry and they’ll bury it in anti-tank grenades before you’ve recognised your mistake, reducing it to a smouldering wreck. The same goes for infantry combat, which is brutal to say the least. Badly managed troops won’t last five seconds under fire without cover and are easily massacred by machine guns, tanks and artillery - and this is just on easy difficulty!

As we’ve already said, the chaps at Best Way have focussed on making the game as realistic as possible, but this has come at the cost of accessibility. The game is wonderful, but really hard to get into.

While those who persevere will be rewarded by a game that doesn’t compromise on detail, don’t expect to be able to just jump into Men of War even if you’re a hardened RTS veteran. The unique gameplay mechanics really do take some getting used to, and the brutal difficulty level and realism make this game very much one for the hardest of the hardcore RTS fans.
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May 21 2021 | 09:55