If you ever wanted a realistic RTS about World War II, you have your wish in Men of War: Condemned Heroes.
Gameplay: Men of War: Condemned Heroes follows the story of the Soviet penal battalions during World War II. These battalions are famous for being formed under Stalin’s “No step back!” order #227. They consisted of court-martial officers that were into serving as the lowest enlisted rank in a battalion that was assigned the most dangerous tasks. These battalions’ images are surrounded by many myths, and this game tells the truth about these regiments based on real evidence from their former members. Out manned, out gunned, and out of morale, you must lead your troops to victory in some of the most insanely challenging, yet rewarding missions.
The core gameplay of Men of War is simple. You must lead your small squads into combat facing off against heavily armed and entrenched forces. You will start off your missions with the bare essentials for combat, having to methodically pick off your enemies, and steal their weapons and ammo, which you will have to micro manage for each soldier you control. This becomes a bit tedious, but isn’t as frustrating as the fact that your soldiers don’t really seem to like shooting. I am unsure if this is to add to the realism of the game, but far too often you will sit there with your soldiers in prime locations to take out the enemy (after spending ten minutes getting them carefully into position) and will try to open fire, only to have a couple of soldiers fire, while the others sit there getting shot at while not returning fire. This can be somewhat worked around by taking direct control of a soldier, but if the AI would work right in the first place, this wouldn’t be needed to use as a work around in the first place.
Presentation: The visual direction of the game is very gritty and realistic, doing it’s best to capture the feel of the times. The voice acting is gruff and to the point, and the sound effects are pretty good, though not as great as say Battlefield. Overall the game looks and sounds above average. However, the part that really makes this game is the included historical reference. As you boot up the game, you are greeted with with a menu option that will let you read through the events of what transpired with the penal battalions, which really helps to ground you in just what it is that you are playing.
Value: The game spans across 15 missions which may not sound like a whole lot, but trust me, they will be making you work for your victory in each and every battle. You will easily find yourself dumping hours into fine tuning your tactics as you methodically advance your troops to victory. Like the said, the game is harsh, but never unfairly so. There is a multiplayer aspect… Which I have honestly yet to actually play. Not for a lack of trying, but simply a lack of any community. Even more hardcore of Men of Honor fans seem to turn their nose to this game, and most messages boards maybe have a few passing posts about the game. This is a shame, as the game as a whole is pretty great, if extremely niche. So sadly, if you are looking for a multiplayer experience, you may have to look elsewhere.
Final Thoughts: Men of War: Condemned Heroes is not a bad game. It seems to be getting a bad rap from casuals and hardcores alike for its brutal gameplay and complex control scheme. Long time fans seem to feel that the game just doesn’t live up to past iterations. I’ll admit, this is my first experience with the Men of War series, but honestly, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it so far. It’s tough, but never unfairly so, much in the same way of games like Demon Souls. However, the dead multiplayer at launch does make one wonder about the longevity of a game that’s soul appeal is rooted in it’s realistic take on historical events. Because of this, I have to give Men of War: Condemned Heroes a C.
+Grounded, real life scenarios
-Balls to the walls hard
-Not for everyone
Acquired: Review Copy
Link to buy: Steam
Release date: 04/27/12