|Release: September 9, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood, Mile Language, Violence|
by Robert VerBruggen
Like many franchises set in World War II, Men of War is branching out into new conflicts. Its latest standalone expansion pack lets you see the Vietnam War from both sides—and forces you to confront incredibly long odds, no matter whose army you're fighting for. This is a great entry to the Men of War series, and at $35, it's a must-buy for longtime fans of real-time strategy. Just steer clear if you want any handholding whatsoever, or if high difficulty is offputting to you.
This game offers two different campaigns. In the first, you play as a group of two Vietnamese soldiers and two Soviet military consultants who managed to survive an American assault. Stuck deep in enemy territory, they have no means of transportation, and in order to escape, they have to make it through miles of jungle that are packed with U.S. troops. And even after working their way through enemy territory, they find themselves playing a role in the Tet Offensive.
Things are no easier for the U.S. troops you get to control. They're members of a special-ops team. Occasionally they fight alongside larger groups of soldiers, but just as often they strike out on their own to accomplish important objectives. They have a lot more personality than their Vietnamese counterparts, and you'll need to take advantage of each man's specialty.
As fans of previous Men of War games can probably predict, this is not an easy game, no matter where you set your difficulty. While the members of your squad can do some things for themselves, at a minimum you have to tell them where to go, which enemies to pick off, and which weapons to use. And since you're severely outnumbered most of the time, small mistakes can wipe out your whole team. These missions involve a lot of stealth, and if an enemy sees you out in the open, it's game over. Similarly, if you fail to find good enough cover, or if you start a fight with a group that's too big, or if your attempt to melee-attack a lone soldier goes wrong, forget about it. You have to reload your game.
That's not to say you have to do everything in a prescribed manner, however. Once you get a hang of the game and learn what your men are capable of, you'll find that you can accomplish some of the missions in a variety of ways. The decision of when to switch between sneaking around and firing fully automatic weapons is an especially gratifying one to make—assuming your enemies don't spot you. It's also fun to break your group up into different roles, maybe with a sniper providing cover from a distance while another soldier accomplishes the objective.
When you consider the fact that the missions here force you to confront a dizzying array of situations—from quietly destroying enemy encampments to fighting side-by-side with allies in large-scale battles—this game will never get boring, no matter how many times you replay it. There's always a new way to approach a situation, a better execution of the strategy you tried last time, or a higher difficulty to play on. And if you get sick of playing by yourself, you can team up with up to three friends for some co-op multiplayer. (Unfortunately, if you want competitive multiplayer, you'll have to turn to the franchise's Assault Squad titles. The Men of War tend to focus on one or the other in their games.)
Realism is a prized value for 1C. They went to great lengths to get everything correct, right down to the number of bullets in each rifle magazine, various weapons' ranges, and the places men sit in tanks. So, when you click too close to an enemy and get mowed down in a split second, you can rest assured that that's how it would have played out in real life.
This is the third expansion pack for Men of War, and by this point, most of it is a well-oiled machine. Enemy soldiers act just like real ones might, patrolling the area carefully at times, yet also wandering unsuspectingly when they let their guard down. However, there are a few quirks you'll have to learn so that your men always understand your commands correctly—for example, I once told a soldier to move along a piece of cover to avoid a grenade, but instead, he jumped over the piece of cover and got shot. But those types of situations are the exception, not the rule.