ReviewMen of War

  • April 18, 2009
  • Red Dawn, eat your heart out
  • by: dain120475
  • available on: PC

Men of War

Developer: Best Way
Publisher: Aspyr Media

Release Date: 03/16/2009

ESRB: M

Genre: real time
Setting: WWII

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Men of War is a strategic real-time combat simulator that takes place during World War II and pits primarily Russian forces against Germans, with backup from the British and American forces. The game was made by Best Way, a developer made of a couple of Ukrainian boys.

Yeah, we get it. So what makes this game better or worse than any real-time combat I’ve played? One word: real.

That doesn’t say much, so let me lay it out for you. I’m starting on the first mission, and my objective is to guide a pair of Russian students through the ranks of the army in some sort of simulated role-playing game in which they complete some sort of lengthy and potentially interesting quest. Frankly, I couldn’t really care about that part. I’ve seen better variations of this type of game. Instead I was caught up in the way the game actually worked.

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I take my gang of товарищи on this mission to liberate a town from German forces. I’ve got a few lads and a tank and have them all rush into the enemy-occupied village. After cutting my teeth as a kid on StarCraft, WarCraft, Age of Empires, etc., I was all set for the basics of how these things work. I knew lines of movement and cover positions for advancing men in platoon formations — you know, the usual basics you pick up over the years to get your boys from point A to B.

But this game threw me for a loop. First, I get to a tank and am forced to fix it. Fixing stuff in these types of games doesn’t really work the way it does in this game. In other games, you rebuild your structures and “heal” your combatants. And whoever heard of having to fix equipment or gear in the middle of a fire-fight? But fine, I have one of my guys run out, find a repair kit and start working on the tank while the others are laying down suppressing fire to keep the Gerries pinned down in the trenches.

No worries, I figured. Point-click-shoot. I got that down pat. That is, until my boys were running out of ammo, a point that caught me up short. Because everyone in the video game industry knows the golden rule: Ammo is unlimited except for grenades, in which case you get three.

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Once my lads were out of ammo, they were cut down, so I started over, rethinking my strategy a little. This time I fixed the tank before advancing, but it didn’t matter, because the lads were getting shot up as they jogged alongside it. Damn it!

But wait. Can I get them all inside the tank?

Sure, they all fit inside, but the bloody Gerries come in a wide angle, throwing a bunch of “potato mashers” at my tank. I kept trying to swivel my tanks’ heavy machine gun, but the bleeders were moving in at a wide circle, and I couldn’t rotate my weapons fast enough. After a few explosions, they were blowing up my treads, leaving me unable to move. I tried to rotate my guns only to have them blow that up too. This was despite the fact that I was shredding them all like bloody bratwurst, but they didn’t stop coming until I was eventually dead.

OK, reboot, try again.

This time I’m playing it safe. I move my tank to a relatively defensible position and then I don’t waste time. I start using my cannon to blow the hell out of those goose-stepping morons. I saw some of them hiding behind houses and ditches and soon discovered that I must “unlearn what I have learned.” Because as I calmly rotated my heavy cannon to level house after house that hid the elusive sniper or other such enemy, it suddenly occurred to me: “Aren’t I in a bleeding tank? Why am I shooting the houses?”

So I just aimed my tank where I wanted to go, kicked up the speed and drove forward, crushing buildings and Nazi tyranny under the heel of my iron treads. That tactic was working well — until I came to a column of advancing trucks and jeeps and needed to stop them. I died so many times at this point that I was starting to get convinced that the game was rigged or something. I mean, this was the earliest stage of the game, right?

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But that’s the joy and the hurt of Men of War; you really have to forget about everything you know about old real-time combat games. You want to move a tank to the top of a hill, you don’t just point to the top of the hill and trust your tank will get there; you kind of have to control your angle of movement and push your speed. If you go up too steep of an incline, you’re going to get stuck, waste fuel or even tip over.

Of course, if the hill is too steep and you’re impatient, you just blow massive chunks out of the hill, making it less steep, then you can go up relatively easily (provided the Gerries aren’t pouring out of the woodwork, which they inevitably do).

In the end, I found that if I wanted to beat the level, the thing I needed to do was treat it like a real-life situation (again, real is the key word here). I moved the tank to key points, away from enemy fire, had my guys jump out of the belly of the beast and take cover positions behind the tank, used the cannon to cause a bottleneck in the road and block the enemy convoy; the heavy machine gun to butcher anyone who got close enough to do any real damage to my boys, while my comrades kept sniping off anyone who might come close from behind me or to the sides then I just might have a chance.

If my tank started to get messed up, I’d have a guy rush forward with a repair kit and work on fixing it fast. If one my guys were really getting shot up, I’d have him crawl into the tank to operate it from the inside and swap places with the current driver. And despite my enthusiasm for the strategy, I would hold position until the enemy had been neutralized, then I would move forward slowly to another similar spot and redo the strategy.

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But that’s the way the game works, see? You don’t have a company of men move forward to position X and shoot at the other bad guys, hoping that superior firepower will win it, because there’s really so many variables to consider. Does the elevation or terrain offer cover, and if so, how much? How much more ammo do I have to play around with giving cover fire, or should I just go the whole nine and hope I get lucky? Do I use my cannon to wipe out that sniper or send in a few guys, knowing that I might lose a man or two, but I only have a few shells left that are crucial for halting an advancing enemy column?

Anyway, I loved the game. You can play the same levels over and over, and each time, it’s a new experience. You can retry tactics that shouldn’t work, but get lucky because of an unplanned variable. One time, for example, one of the Gerries’ trucks caught fire and exploded in the middle of the road for some reason after only a few rounds from my heavy machine gun just because it cracked the fuel tanks. It took out a bunch of charging enemy soldiers like a Valkyrie ... the shot wasn’t planned by me. In fact, it was just pure luck, but it really changed the tide of the enemies charge in that incident.

The only complaint is that there is so much micromanaging that you really have to work to keep track of everything. In a real-time strategy game, that isn’t easy, because you’re unused to things like dragging bodies, positioning snipers, staging booby traps and all of it with a massive amount of troops in a fluid, ongoing time frame. But you have to do all of that, because that’s how a firefight would work. If the Gerries take cover in a cottage, level the cottage. If they’re sending in an armored car, set up a booby trap under the bridge so it will collapse on the car and kill the enemy and block their advance, then when their guys are struggling over the rubble, level them with the heavy machine guns.

Well, even though the game does spend some time with the Brits and Yanks, I still feel it is my duty to end by saying “Хорошо сделанный! Это была большая игра.”

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About the Author, Joseph (A.K.A dain120475)