Men of War: Condemned Heroes Review
Not your typical strategy game.
The Men of War series has been around for quite a while, reaching back to 2004, with the latest in the series, Men of War: Condemned Heroes being released last week. It was one of those series that I had always heard about, but never actually played, so I was really excited to sit down and play Condemned Heroes.
Not that it really matters since there are no fancy cut scenes or real dialogue to follow, but the story in Men of War Condemned Heroes follows different Soviet penal battalions during World War II and the missions that they went through. These battalions were made up of court-martialed officers, who have now been given a second-chance under the rule of Stalin’s order #227. I’m not really a history buff or anything, but it is kind of neat that the missions you play are based on real-life events.
Men of War doesn’t feature the standard gameplay that you’re used to in other Strategy games, as it only lets you control certain squads on the battlefield, while the rest of your troops are controlled by the game. It also features a really cool game mechanic called Direct Control, which let’s you take control of one unit on the battlefield and control them almost as if you were playing a third-person shooter. When in Direct Control, you can zoom in behind the soldier and control their movement and aim their gun freely. I haven’t played a strategy game before that lets you get that deep in controlling your units and I had way more fun playing this way. Another cool feature in Men of War is once you kill an enemy unit, you can go over to their body and loot it to pick-up new weapons and replenish your ammo, grenades and health kits, which you’ll need quite often. I love looting in games, so I was beyond thrilled to discover that I could loot all those dead bodies on the battlefield, as cold as that sounds.
The campaign is split into four sections, with each section only having a few missions, but they are all fairly long that it will still provide anywhere from 8-10 hours of gameplay, or longer if you crank the difficulty. During the missions you’ll capture trenches and artillery bunkers, raid towns and destroy enemy camps, with most of them starting you off with a squad of infantry and once you complete the first objective, you’ll receive some back up in the form of AI controlled troops. These AI troops are usually pretty good, but they can have some issues from time to time. I’ve seen them run right by a trench full of enemy infantry, then stop and just stand around with neither side fighting each other, only to then have both open fire on each other. They also love to keep shooting for a few minutes even after the enemies at that location are dead. It’s mostly just funny that they keep shooting, and since I don’t think the AI can run out of ammo, I guess they can waste it all they want.
Men of War has a few other issues as well, which you should be aware of before playing. First off, if you fail a mission, the game will just sit there and do nothing instead of prompting you to load or restart. This may seem petty, but this has become standard in almost every game I can think of and it’s just annoying to have to manually load the game each time. Another issue that I found is when you are controlling a Mortar team, sometimes when you click to fold or unfold them, they don’t do anything and you have to click like 10 times before the game recognizes it. This also happened on a few occasions with other artillery units, but it seemed to happen almost every time with Mortar units. Controlling a tank can also have some issues, as I found they really liked to go backwards instead of forward like I told them to. Those silly tanks.
Overall I had a decent time with the single player campaign, and was really impressed with the Direct Control feature, but I was ready to see what the game had in store with the multiplayer.
There are two different multiplayer modes that you can play online using GameSpy, or locally on your LAN; Capture The Flag and Victory Flag. In both modes the goal is to secure the flag and hold that position until it reaches 100%. The difference between the two modes is that Victory Flag only has one flag and Capture The Flag has three of them.
In both modes you build units that can include infantry, artillery and vehicles, with a max unit count of 100, with each type costing a different amount of your pool. Just like in the campaign, you can Direct Control units as well in multiplayer games. The main problem with the multiplayer in Men of War: Condemned Heroes is that no one is playing. Over a three-day span I tried to play online quite a few times and there were only like 30-40 other players showing online, with very few, if any, available games to be found. Most of the games that are available take so long to fill up you could end up sitting there for quite a while.
Even creating my own game took so long to fill-up, it wasn’t worth the wait. The few games I did get to play were fun, but I’m not going to wait an hour to play a game online when I can play a million others with no waiting around. I don’t fault the game, completely, for this, but unfortunately that’s the way it is and it’s something to be aware of if you plan on buying this game with the idea of going online.
Men of War: Condemned Heroes does some things really well, such as Direct Control which is an awesome feature to have in a Strategy game, and looting, albeit surprising to find in a Strategy game, was also a really great feature to include. Unfortunately the ghost town that is the multiplayer and the growing list of technical issues with the game hold it back from being the great game it has the potential to be. If you have been searching for an interesting new Strategy game and don’t care about the multiplayer and can handle a few glitches here and there, then Men of War: Condemned Heroes is worth checking out.