Game Review: Men of War: Vietnam (PC)
Release: September 9th, 2011
Genre: Real-Time Tactical (RTT)/Action
Available Platforms: PC
MSRP: $35 for Standard Edition, $40 for Special Edition
ESRB Rating: Teen
The Men of War series is a unique one. They are not quite RTS’s or action games. They are overambitious, incredibly detailed, wide-open battles of insanity. You don’t build units or a base like in a traditional RTS. When a mission starts you are given a set of units, and the game plays similar to a RTT game. What is great about the Men of War series is that there is no constriction. Men, tanks, boats, tucks, planes, artillery; all were in your command. In past games missions have had you leading entire armies into battle or sneaking in a individual squad for infiltration and sabotage. No matter what size force you were commanding you could still micromanage to the smallest detail. Each unit in your 100+ troop army had an individual inventory and equipment, each one could be commanded with the Direct Control mode which lets you aim and move any unit yourself, letting you get more personally involved with the battle. You were the commander and the foot soldier all at once, and the last three games in the series all followed this formula and found great success.
But not this time. Wait, what? Your telling me the expansive and unconstricted gameplay style that flocked fans to this unique series suddenly disappeared?
Well, not entirely, but stay with me. You can still control each unit individually if you want to, and modify his inventory how you like, but the large size battles are gone. Forget massive coordinated strikes, forget armored detachments and sweeping assaults. You get a squad. That’s right, one squad. In both the Vietnamese and American campaigns each mission starts out almost exactly the same. You get 4 or 5 guys to start out with, and for almost every mission that’s what you end with… assuming they didn’t all die. Once in a while you will get another group of units, or even a truck, and even more rarely a tank. The helicopters, which are new to this entry, are not usable by the player at all, only being accessible to the AI or for calling in air strikes. The balance has been forgotten, instead of a mix of missions covering different combinations of units, every mission in Vietnam keeps it simple. This is similar to the style used in Men of War: Assault Squad, which was also a departure from the series and featured mechanics closer to a RTS. But Men of War: Vietnam simply took everything out like Assault Squad did, but forgot to put other stuff in.
This leaves the game with an empty feeling. You always feel bare, vulnerable, and the Game Over screen can appear at any time. With such a small force the feeling of combat is never truly captured, and instead of creating a deep and fun war game, 1C has just created a repetitive and stressful one that punishes deviation with instant failure. 1C developed this game on their own, and they don’t seem to have the same finesse in crafting missions. Since you are limited to infantry units almost exclusively, the dynamic of the game changes quite a bit. You can no longer use tanks to break through areas guarded by mounted machine guns or snipers, or use light armor to quickly charge into an enemy base. However the game does not account for this. While you have a significantly compromised force the enemy is still playing with a full army. Its like playing rock,paper,scissors, except the person you are playing with gets to use all three at once. For people not familiar to the way the Men of War series plays, its set up to be equal, meaning that your units are no stronger than the enemies units. You are not commanding a super team that can get blasted with a million rounds and be fine, your units can be killed in just one shot just like the units you are fighting. This makes it difficult to take on 100 or more enemy units with less than ten of your own.
There is no learning curve or ramping difficulty, from the first mission you will need to be a Men of War expert. From there on it will only get worse, with missions capitalizing on the worst aspects of the game, such as missions based around using stealth, which is a completely broken system; or instituting mechanics that are completely opposite of what the series teaches you. Unique additions to the Vietnam game, such as booby traps, are equally annoying. Punji stick pits are scattered about randomly, sometimes directly near main paths, and when you order your entire squad to move somewhere the default AI pathing will cause them to walk into them and immediately die. By putting you in charge of a small squad, MOW: Vietnam also hopes to instill the strong squad loyalty many Vietnam games try to capitalize on, however they characters lack any depth and since they are so fragile it makes them seem disposable.
All past Men of War games have featured medics with special equipment that can revive dead soldiers, it would seem to be a no-brainer to include this functionality in MOW: Vietnam seeing as you control such a small squad. Yet I never saw one medic, so when a soldier dies, he is dead. This mean losing even one soldier is a massive handicap to your fighting power. The AI has never been amazing in Men of War, so unless you constantly micro manage your troops you are sure to lose them to poor pathing or slow reaction times. Since it can take just one shot to kill, you need super-human skill to help your team survive.
The Vietnam setting also feels completely empty. The maps are mainly forests and small bases, with no unique set pieces that take advantage of the jungle setting. It would have been nice to see a waterfall, or a lusher look for the jungle, but nothing about the graphics stood out at all.
Past games in the series featured a wealth of content, for both single player and multiplayer. With Men of War: Vietnam however, is available in two different versions, one of which is lacking in content. The standard version is available for $34.99, it has 5 mission for the American campaign, and 5 missions for the Vietnamese campaign, as well as online cooperative multiplayer that allows you to play with friends. For another $5 you can upgrade to the Special Edition, which adds in an additional 5 missions and adversarial multiplier – which has been included for free in every past series. Those exclusions are pretty massive, effectively leaving 50% of the game out of the Standard Edition. This move is quite disheartening, why create this two version scheme? Luckily you can buy the Special Edition Upgrade as DLC anytime so you can get the extra stuff, but as a consumer it’s still off-putting (not to mention the copy provided was the Standard Edition, so I cannot even vouch for the quality of the extra content, but I bet it’s safe to assume it’s as sub-par as the rest of the game).
Overall Men of War: Vietnam is a complete disappointment. Everything from the main mechanics down to the little things, like the worse than normal voice acting (with the terribly contrived “Asian” accents..) and typo filled text. It’s such a letdown to see the game fail on even the most basic levels. I have played and beaten every Men of War game up to this point, but Vietnam gave me an incredibly hard time, even on easy difficulty on the hardest level. The gameplay is just too shallow and the missions too difficult to recommend this purchase. Men of War: Vietnam is available now on Steam and other digital distribution services for $35/$40 if you really want it, but I recommend skipping this tour and picking up one of the cheaper and better entries in the series.
– Poorly designed missions are boring and difficult
– Game doesn’t utilize many units
– “Special Edition” of the game contains a lot more content, forcing users into a upgrade scheme
5/10, on further consideration I must change this score to a 1/10, this game has no redeeming qualities.