Preview

Men of War: Assault Squad Preview (PC)

Men of War is another one of those titles that I like to call a 'silent stunner'. It didn't make many waves, and probably went relatively unnoticed by more mainstream audiences (strategy games not part of blockbuster series generally do). It's realistic approach to combat, its focus on action orientated game play (as opposed to the tried and tired base building of old) made it shine as bright as any AAA release. Without a doubt, it was one of the best World War II strategy title since Company of Heroes, and now it's about to get a whole lot better.

Tanks will now have more value on a battlefield

The second stand-alone expansion for Men of War, Assault Squad once again focuses on just a single element of the game, in this case multiplayer and co-op. Co-developers Digital Mind Soft have spent the intervening time studying gamers' habits and wishes online, and have tried their very best to make them so. In the words of DMS Managing Director Chris Kramer, they wanted to take Men of War to the "next level", and we think they may have achieved that.

The only content that's really 'new' here however (apart from altered unit rosters) are the skirmish maps. Fifteen equally diverse and equally challenging scenarios have been included for the offline portion of the game, and these basically involve the player fighting from their starting end of the map to the end, facing increasingly tougher waves of enemy resistance as they go. Each map is slated to last at least forty minutes, and there are different difficulty levels that further add to replay ability. As well as offline single player, these maps can also be played co-operatively online, but more about that in a bit.

There may be some grumblings as to whether 15 extra maps show true 'value for money' as with Red Tide, but from what we've tested so far, there shouldn't be many worries. These skirmish matches are incredibly well made, satisfyingly challenging, and the most important thing: fun. But it still would be taking the biscuit a bit if that's all we were getting. Thankfully, unlike the lack-lustre Red Tide, it's not.

When relating how they were trying to improve on Men of War for Assault Squad, Kramer alluded to how DMS left no stone unturned, no file untouched. Everything they could possible change, alter or improve, they did, and nowhere is this more evident than in the multiplayer. If anything, this new expansion is an online expansion in the sense that that's where the focus is.
 
If you win a map via one route, win it again via  different one

It's unclear at this point at how much true 'new' content, as Kramer repeatedly emphasised how they focused on polishing what they had, as well getting rid of anything they didn't think worked well. Expect to lose some game modes, units, even possibly whole maps. But we all know the saying about how the lord taketh away, but before that He must give, and give DMS have.

The first thing you will notice is the improved graphics. Don't get us wrong, Men of War was a fine looking game, but now it looks absolutely gorgeous. Better textures, better watershaders, improved depth of field, bigger explosions, everything about just looks so good now, and believe us when we say we know who strange it sounds getting excited over some pixels, but combined with the rest of the changes it just creates a really charged atmosphere. We sorely wish we had our hands on some code right now.

The unit rosters have been given a major overhaul to promote balance, improve tactical choices, and stop this 'tank warfare' mentality that seems to have cropped up on online matches. Now armoured units are a lot more expensive, and so are considered more a precious commodity than cannon fodder, so expect infantry to play an even more important role online. Squad makes up have been tweaked slightly, and you can also purchase more individual units to create your own squad. There are more vehicles, improved vehicles, and things like artillery have been group into Light, Medium and Heavy categories for ease of use.

Each faction now also has its own selection of 'special' units. These units are under a time-lock and differ in price, but are bought using a separate allocation of points that never recharges. Do you go for more of the cheaper ones? Or do you wait till the end and deploy the one-shot uber fortress of death? These extra tactical choices reflect the most on what DMS have been trying to achieve with the multiplayer overhaul. And, just to top it all off, the Great Britain faction has been renamed the 'Commonwealth' faction, just for increased historical accuracy - I mean what more could you want?

Forgive us if we seem to be foaming at the mouth - we honestly haven't been this excited about a game in while. If you were harbouring any doubts since Red Tide or the whole 1.16 patch fiasco, doubt no longer. Red Tide was actually developed by an internal 1C studio, and not Digital Mind Soft who worked on the first game and Assault Squad. Furthermore, DMS have streamlined the patching process, and eliminated Best Way (the developers of the engine) altogether, thus making the process simpler. They've even allegedly sorted things out for Steam users as well, who sometimes had to wait even longer for patches to be released for their version of the game.

Only Men of War has really managed to capture the carnage of WW2

Men of War: Assault Squad may not promise much, but if everything goes according to plan, it could make a good game even better. One wonders what the plans are for the series after his. Will they continue adding to the experience bit by bit? Or are all these changes leading to an inevitable sequel of some kind? If you read our interview, you may glimpse some hints as to what such a sequel could tail. Either way, we can't wait. Check out our interview more for information!

Men of War: Assault Squad is due out in Winter 2010 for PC.

Comments

By Rabone (I just got here) on Jun 13, 2010
Rabone
now we're talking!
By ironmike71 (SI Veteran Newbie) on Jun 20, 2010
ironmike71
Here's hoping they improved the game. It had faults, but it was pretty darn good.
By Steamnut44 (I just got here) on Oct 26, 2010
Steamnut44
You'll need a top end PC for this baby for the best results