Men of War: Vietnam, like the Theatre of War games, prides itself on being the most realistic, real time strategy games available. This is both true and untrue in certain respects, and by the same token this is both good and bad. While Men of War: Vietnam is an enjoyable strategy title, it has a wealth of problems and provides you with too little content to distract you for more than a handful of hours.
Instead of taking control of entire armies like Theatre of War, Men of War has you taking control of a squad of soldiers over a handful of missions. In these missions, you direct your soldiers forward completing objectives and trying to keep as many alive as you can. There is a story here, although it’s about as bare bones as you can get. Two campaigns, one following a Vietcong/Russian squad and the other following a U.S. squad are presented to you. You get a cut scene at the beginning of each mission and dialogue throughout each mission. Unfortunately, the story here is pretty unsatisfying and presented rather poorly. But then again, not many RTS’s have good stories anyway; it’s for the game play that we usually play an RTS. Well the bad part is that Men of War‘s gameplay falls apart a bit as well.
You control your various soldiers like any other strategy title, with left and right clicks. You can order any unit to take cover behind most objects in the world, and you have to move your soldiers tactically forward while defeating enemies that may come your way. Men of War does end up being a lot more tactical than your average RTS. You have various options of attack like having your soldiers be defensive or fire at-will. Your soldiers also have limited ammo and med kits they can use to heal themselves. This isn’t a situation you normally have to deal with in a strategy game, but it’s not a bother since all you have to do to find more ammo, weapons, or med kits is search the packs of enemy soldiers that you have killed or certain containers in the world. There is generally more than enough ammo and equipment that you can find lying around.
All of this heavy tactical gameplay does lend itself to the kind of game Men of War is, but unfortunately combat doesn’t work as well as you would think. Your soldiers die incredibly quickly (although it adds to how realistic the game is); the big problem is that because of all of the growth in the environments it’s oftentimes hard to spot enemies. There are many times you will be directing soldiers only to find that you’ve led them directly into enemy fire. In addition, the game is brutally difficult even on the easiest setting, so missions tend to be more of a test of your patience more than anything. The odds are always heavily slanted against you; take the first mission for example. You’re left with only four survivors after a Huey obliterates your convey, and for the rest of the mission you only get these four soldiers to complete all of the objectives. And once someone is dead they are dead, there’s no bringing a fallen soldier back to life.
Another big problem is the stupidity of the AI, both enemies and your own soldiers. Enemies will hardly ever pursue your soldiers if you run away, choosing to stay where they are instead. When they are attacked, enemies will stick to their patrol routes, often ignoring their dead comrades and the wreckage around them. While this bad AI does make it a bit easier to conquer the difficult missions, the unfortunate part is that your soldiers AI isn’t much better. There will be times you’ll find your soldiers switching weapons in the middle of a firefight for no apparent reason, as well as completely ignoring enemies that are in shooting range of them. It certainly stings to lose a precious unit because they didn’t see an approaching enemy.
There is a saving grace among this muddled game play system. Most of your objectives have multiple ways of being completed, not forcing you to take the one route into a situation. While there isn’t always a way of approaching a problem that is necessarily in your favor, it’s nice to have a little variety in how you can complete your objectives. There’s also a pretty handy autosaving feature that saves your data at certain instances during a mission. This saves you frustration from having to start a mission over again, especially seeing how difficult the game is.
One of the biggest downfalls for Men of War Vietnam is the lack of content there is. There are a total of 10 missions in the game, 5 for the Vietcong forces, and 5 for the American forces. While these missions are decently long, the fact that there are only 5 is definitely a bit disappointing. There is also a co-op mode, although the same missions are used for co-op. In fact, some of the missions definitely feel like they were designed with co-op in mind. The bad news is, it’s generally pretty hard to find anyone to play with. There aren’t many people playing the game anyway, but connection problems abound when you try and find someone to play with. Unless you have a friend to play co-op with, don’t count on it being easy to find someone.
There is bit of a role playing element that comes in, with differently named characters that have different weapons. But because of the small squad size, it’s a crippling blow whenever you lose a soldier. If you lose your sniper in a mission, you’re as good as done for. When you combine all of these systems, you get a game that is absolutely punishing with its difficulty.
Men of War: Vietnam is a decent enough looking game. The graphics aren’t as good as they could be, but they suffice. Environments and water effects look pretty good, but character models are pretty ugly. Graphic aren’t going to turn you off of the game, but it’s nothing you haven’t seen before.
Sound design on the other hand, is pretty bad across the board. First off, voice acting is downright bad, especially when dealing with the foreign accents in the game. The soundtrack is a bit questionable too. Most of the music in the game is filled with thumping rock music. While I can understand the vibe they were going for with the Vietnam setting and all, the music just doesn’t seem to fit, especially when you’re in heavy combat. Luckily, the sound effects for weapons sound good.
The insane difficulty of Men of War: Vietnam is sure to turn a lot of people off, especially after the brutal opening of the first mission. The game has a lot of problems, but regardless there is still fun to be had, if you can sit through time upon time of retries. People looking for a hardcore strategy game may find a good amount of fun with Men of War, but there are better alternatives out there for people looking for an easier, more accessible RTS.
1C Publishing provided SlimGamer.com with a promo code for a review copy.