505 Games Men of War review
The title may be reminiscent of numerous other World War 2 strategy games, but after playing Men of War, you won't confuse it with any of them.
For starters, the presentation is comically poor. The cut scenes are fuzzy, pre-rendered affairs and the voice acting sounds as if it was recorded by amateurs. This is all forgotten on the battlefield, though, thanks to the explosive gameplay, precise detail, huge scale and some truly original ideas.
The most obvious of these is the Direct Control mode. This lets you control the movement and shooting of a single unit using the arrow keys and mouse. The game doesn't instantly become a slick third-person shooter, but it does give you an opportunity to manoeuvre your unit precisely and select targets with pin-point accuracy. This is particularly useful, as the game's own unit path finding is very poor around buildings. Controlling infantry this way in the stealthier missions is essential, while in bigger battles we found that micro-managing a single tank could be devastating.
The 19 missions - spread across Soviet, German and Allied campaigns - provide an impressive variety of tasks. In one you defend a big train yard in a battle with over 800 casualties, while the next starts with you controlling just a single soldier. The units and weapons are historically accurate, but the depiction of war blends simulation with action movies. For example, every building on the battlefield can be destroyed, but a single high-explosive tank shell is enough to rip most of them to shreds.
Despite the Direct Control mode and Hollywood-style explosions, this is no arcade game. Between you and the action lies a complex control system, which is made necessary by the sheer number of options on offer. For starters, every soldier on the battlefield has an inventory. This includes weapons and body armour plus limited ammunition, grenades and medical supplies. You can even loot corpses, which is essential when you run out of anti-tank grenades.
Every soldier can take charge of any vehicle - be it a truck, tank, armoured car or artillery piece belonging to either side. The tanks have multiple damage locations, and often need repairing in the field after being hit. Tracks can be thrown off, turrets frozen in place and main weapons destroyed. What's more, you must select the correct ammo types and keep an eye on your fuel supply.
Amazingly, there are few tool-tips and no tutorial missions - the game drops you into the chaos and lets you get on with it. It's hard, too, and we had to play it on Easy to get anywhere. Men of War is ambitious, but it takes dedication. That said, if you love World War 2 strategy games, it's well worth the effort.