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Game Info:

Men of War: Assault Squad
Developed By: DigitalMindSoft
Published By: C1 Company
Release Date: February 25, 2011
Available On: PC
Genre: Real-Time Strategy
ESRB Rating: Teen 
Single Player/Multiplayer/Co-op
MSRP: $33.95

Thank you GamersGate for sending us this game to review!

World War II: No single event in history has had such an impact on our culture, politics, technology, and entertainment. There have been numerous games based on this deadliest of wars, and this is one of them. Assault Squad is a stand-alone expansion to C1 Company's  Men of War, a World War 2 themed Real Time Strategy game that focuses on tactical battles and unit micro-management, more so than many main-stream RTS games. Assault Squad adds new single and mutiplayer maps, graphical enhancements, and gameplay tweaks that have a lot to offer the hardcore WW2 RTS enthusiast. 

 The original Men of War featured a campaign for the Soviets, Germans, Americans and the Commonwealth. Assault Squad includes new missions for all four factions, plus adds a fifth: the Japanese. There are 15 single player missions in all (plus a few bonus missions), featuring battles from famous locations (such as the D-Day landing at Normandy). But there are also missions of less well known battles. For instance, the first Japanese mission has you commanding a force that must drive Soviet troops out of Mongolia. This is great for the WW2 history buff, and provides a little more variety for those that have played and seen the same old battles dozens of times before. You can play these missions co-op over the Internet, and there are also a number of purpose-built multiplayer maps if you prefer your online play competitive.

 The basics of the game should be fairly familiar to RTS veterans: You play with a bird’s eye view of the battlefield, dozens of units obeying your every mouse click. The objective of the game is to capture strategic points on the map. These give you additional Man Power (MP), which used like money to recruit new units onto the battlefield. There aren’t any other resources that you can gather, and Man Power regenerates very slowly (in singleplayer Skirmishes you get MP bonus from capturing a point, but not much) so it is important to use every unit to its greatest effect. There are a number of different types of units for you to recruit, ranging from your  basic squad of infantry to tanks and artillery. Some units are more specialized than others (such as snipers and flame throwers) but all of them still follow the same basic principals of cover, shoot, move. Even heavy tanks can find them selves in a tight spot if not properly supported, and since they tend to be rather expensive you will truly feel their loss.

Highlights:

Strong Points: High degree of unit control; five factions; good verity of maps; co-op missions fit well with the gameplay.
Weak Points: Managing squads can be a pain; easy to focus too much on individual units (or not enough); vehicles are expensive, yet not always useful, and can be hard to keep alive; steep learning curve with little in-game help.
Moral Warnings: War violence, some blood and language.

This means that strategies from other RTS games just won’t do here. Without proper cover, mass infantry rushes usually end in tears. Fortunately there are plenty of things to take cover behind. Just about every object that stands more than two feet high on the map can be used as cover, but there is no UI element that lets you know how safe cover is. So you’ll have to use common sense to determine that a boulder is going to stop bullets better than a bush. Vehicles can’t use most cover, but they can duck behind a building to avoid enemy shells or rockets. However, it does tend to be hard to keep even heavy tanks alive for very long on most maps. While tanks can be excellent at supporting your other units, their cost and the abundance of long anti-tank weapons makes them difficult to make worth the investment.

 Fortunately, the game also has a number of useful features to help you get the most out of each and every unit, by providing a high degree of control over them. You can set their stance, firing behavior, current weapon, manage their equipment, and even take full control of individual units. But this level of control can be a double edged sword, as focusing too much on an individual unit, or squad, can make you lose perspective on the battlefield as a whole. The maps themselves are rather large, rectangular swatches of land, with many strategic points scattered throughout. The enemy will not hesitate to take an undefended point in territory on your flank. You do get free heavy machine gun emplacements when you capture a point, but they must be manned by one of your infantry to be useful. To make things worse, your units must come in from off the map (on the end that you started from) to get into the fight. While your starting position is well defended (by a friendly AI), you still have to be careful that units coming into the fight don’t blindly wander through enemy territory before meeting the rest of your forces.

 If a soldier looses all his health, but doesn't die outright (indicated by a red tear drop over him), you can patch him up with a medic. Without medical attention he will die within a few seconds. Unfortunately you may find that the hardest part of reviving that soldier will be finding a medic to do it. You can’t recruit medics directly, they come as part of a standard squad. But the only way to tell if a unit is a medic or not is to look for his little arm band. This highlights one of the biggest problems I have with Men of War: sometimes the interface is your toughest enemy. While you are given lots of options, they can be very hard to make useful without memorizing dozens of hotkeys. You can, for example, make that medic the squad leader so that he is selected whenever you click on his squad. But setting this up takes time that you might not have in the heat of a battle. Also, things like inventory management and direct control are cool, but only truly useful in very specific situations. Add to this a fairly realistic (and thus unforgiving) damage model that can have one mistake see your squads mowed down by machine gun fire in a few seconds flat. All of this makes for a fairly steep learning curve that might frustrate a new player, since you only get a brief introductory mission that really didn’t cut it for me.

Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 78%
Gameplay - 14/20
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 7/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls 3/5

Morality Score - 79%
Violence - 4.5/10
Language - 6.5/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

If you want to win a game in Assault Squad, it’s going to take a bit of a commitment. Battles can drag on into a deadly tug of war, with both sides expelling dozens of men to gain the slightest bit of ground. If you lose momentum it can be very hard to move forward again. As a result casualties will mount. All of this violence is presented with a degree of restraint. Some blood spurts from  soldiers when hit, and there is some blood under their bodies when killed. The most graphic images come from men that catch on fire. They will run about wildly for a few seconds before falling to the ground, their bodies badly burned. Wounded troops will writhe on the ground, reaching out for help, but when they die their corpses will disappear after a few seconds. There is also a swearing that can be heard during combat such as d***, h*** and b***h - as well some reported s-bombs in German (I don’t speak the language, so I can’t confirm). The whole feel of the game is much less gritty than, say, Company of Heros. And though the game distances itself from the atrocities that plagued that conflict, this is still war and that's a violent business.

  Though you may be unattached from the violence that happens below you most of the time, the direct fire option lets you take a more active role in it. But don’t expect this to be a great third person shooter, as infantry just doesn't handle very well. Vehicles (especially tanks) fair much better under your direct control, and can be used in creative ways. While the camera doesn't automatically change position to accommodate direct fire, you do have a good amount of control of the camera at all times. You can zoom in close enough to see the eyes of a soldier and change the angle to get a better field of view. This allows you to admire the scenery, which can be rather lovely at times. Assault Squad’s graphics have a definite bent toward reality. Units and buildings are all properly scaled, textures are generally crisp and models are of good quality. It doesn't try and blow you away with over-the-top effects either. There is an impressive amount of destructibility to the environments, which can effect gameplay as well as being eye candy. However, it’s not perfect. The animation of destroyed bits of buildings, tanks and the like aren’t very smooth. Fortunately there’s usually enough going on that it’s not all that glaring a blemish. Sounds are also generally good, with orchestral music hitting the proper thematic notes. However there's nothing truly standout about Assault Squad's presentation, it just gets the job done well.

 Assault Squad offers quite a lot of new content for an expansion, even a stand-alone. So there's a lot to like, if you're into tactical battles and micro-managing units. The gameplay feels something like a cross between Close Combat, Commandos and Company of Heros. But its complexity, and the sometimes awkward interface, will make it hard to get into for most mainstream RTS players - and even a few hard core fans. If you have the time and the patience then Men of War: Assault Squad can be a rewarding experience. As far as appropriateness, it's better than some but still a violent game about a violent time. Ultimately what you have to decide is if this battle is one worth fighting.

 Assault Squad offers quite a lot of new content for an expansion, even a stand-alone. So there's a lot to like, if you're into tactical battles and micro-managing units. The gameplay feels something like a cross between Close Combat, Commandos and Company of Heros. But its complexity, and the sometimes awkward interface, will make it hard to get into for most mainstream RTS players - and even a few hard core fans. If you have the time and the patience then Men of War: Assault Squad can be a rewarding experience. As far as appropriateness, it's better than some but still a violent game about a violent time. Ultimately what you have to decide is if this battle is one worth fighting.

 

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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