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Men of War: Assault Squad 2

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By Toast06-03-2014
StuntmanLT (editor)
Men of War: Assault Squad 2

The Defence

Developer:
Digitalmindsoft
Publisher:
1C Company
Genre:
Stealth
Release Date:
14-05-2014

The Prosecution

CPU:
Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0 GHz
AMD equivalent
VGA:
Nvidia GeForce 260
AMD equivalent
RAM:
4 GB
HDD:
6 GB
DirectX:
9.0c, 10, 11

Men of War is a beloved RTS franchise with many concepts that have been crafted almost perfectly. Almost. That little word entails a very important part of the idea; certain gameplay concepts have always been flawed to a certain degree. Some of you will know that Men of War has its roots in Soldiers: Heroes of WW2 and Faces of War, but since then, the game had some new ideas and mechanics thrown into the mix. There are even brand new units and a new nation to fight as in the newest installation, but these are just two of many changes and additions that are afoot, so, to the point; what are they?

Obviously with a new iteration the first thing we witness are the visuals. Though in Assault Squad 2 this part of the update is subtle enough to not be noticed immediately, the visual details in the game have been spruced up again. This refresh of the graphics includes textural improvements that cover a dramatic makeover of certain soldiers and vehicles, as well as some of the finer details of weaponry and specialised equipment. If you zoom in close enough, you’ll be able to easily spot the highly detailed models, bullet casings and tank shells being discarded into the environment. This shows you how much detail, which can easily be overlooked, was embedded into their latest outing.

Just another day as an engineer at war...

Just another day as an engineer at war...

Sound-wise, there are some new instrumental tunes added to the soundtrack. When sneaking around, calm but cautious-styled tunes are played, but once spotted transitions into music to reflect the chaos and carnage about to unfold with the charge of the enemy. There are new ambient sounds from the vehicles and the environment, of a snow storm brewing off the side of the map, or animals calling out for communication. Regarding the technical specs of the game, you aren’t going to see anything else that’s new or any other drastic changes. Men at War: Assault Squad 2 seems to have taken much of these aspects from the first Assault Squad and Condemned Heroes, and has improved upon what didn’t work from those two games.

In the previous iterations of the Men of War series, you had the choice of playing as America, Britain, Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, and Japan, though Japan was only available in Assault Squad 1. There aren’t any new armies to command over, but there are certain theatres of war and peninsulas that have been opened up and expanded upon from the last time you saw them. For example, if you are engaging the Germans as the Soviets in Eastern Europe, you’ll be more likely to see some maps that resemble the icy hinterlands that beat back Hitler’s notorious war machine during World War 2 - this is something that is sure to be a bonus for history buffs. There will also be more of an emphasis on other geographic locations, such as the Pacific. There units and supplies will be limited to what can be logically used in those conditions; i.e. light armour combat supplies will be used in hot desert climates or vehicles being restricted during stealth encounters to avoid full-on confrontation.

There’s new equipment on the battlefield for your soldiers in addition to new armoured vehicles and personnel in the newest iteration of the franchise. If you’d rather sample some of the fallen enemy’s toys, you can retrieve it off of dead bodies or wreckages of enemy vehicles. Special teams are also able to be called in with their own personalised equipment. This feature can be especially useful in these specialized roles, allowing a sniper to pick up camouflage equipment to set up a makeshift shelter for cover, which also reduces the likelihood of being seen. It also stands out for AT riflemen carrying in anti-material rifles for damaging wheels or treads on vehicles. These specialized units, when compared to older units, don’t completely eliminate the need for the older ones. They still have a fair amount of usage on the battlefield, and are just as useful as before. Still required are the likes of paratroopers, for example, due to their effectiveness with their armaments and how well they perform with almost any piece of weaponry.

Damn Soviets sure know how to make a mess!

Damn Soviets sure know how to make a mess!

Tanks work literally the same way as they always have within the Men of War franchise - the more crew members they have, the more effective they are, and the faster they perform. The tanks carry mostly the same supplies as they did in previous installations, but they now tend to be more balanced in favour of having more ammunition for cheaper units, and less ammunition for the more experienced units and deadlier types with thicker armour and high calibre cannon barrels. Tanks still have a high resistance to certain millimetre shells, depending on the thickness of the armour, and of course, it will still likely take more than several shots to even pierce the front armour, so it’s essential to flank and crack them open from the side or rear. If one part of the tank gets damaged enough such as the turret, it’ll become ineffective and will require repairs to get it working again, if a lucky shot is achieved, the entire tank can be exploded or set on fire, rendering it from being repaired at all. Which is good when you want to deal with an enemy tank and stop it from being operable ever again, and bad if you planned to capture it and repurpose it for your own use or for gathering ammunition.

You’ll be able to put these new tools to good use in Defence skirmish and Stealth skirmish. For Defence, you better be damn well prepared for an amassing force ready to crush you and take the land for themselves; fortunately, you can fight back. Defence skirmish allows you many ways of defending your territory, including assembling one solitary strong defensive position, or the old “divide and conquer” approach, if you feel comfortable enough. With stealth based skirmishes, you have a wide range of scenarios and possibilities for you to approach an objective and complete it. In these skirmishes, you can make use of the new items, or re-purpose enemy equipment. The choice here, as was with defence, is yours.

There are some noticeable changes to the UI, including different icons. All in all, it’s a very nice touch, as it allows you several new features, the first being that you are now able to see each squad that is deployed onto the battlefield. You can also see who is grouped into what squad, and how many squads there are overall. If some of the squads are killed or heavily injured later in battle, their icon colours will change depending on how many units are getting hurt. The number of units getting hurt will be shown by one of the dots beside the squad’s symbol. You can manoeuvre squads in all of the obvious ways; there are optional split ups, connections, and large assemblies. There are also now icons for things such as when a unit has no ammo left, is bleeding out on the battlefield before death, and which unit is repairing a vehicle or piece of equipment. All in all, it’s a touch that I welcome, as I feel it makes gameplay that much simpler and smoother.

Effective use of artillery, on poor unsuspecting Russians.

Effective use of artillery, on poor unsuspecting Russians.

There are several issues with the game, which is to be expected. The first, and most glaring issue, is the lag in the multiplayer mode. This has been a minor problem that has persisted in the past, but the transition to Steamworks from GameSpy gives a solid improvement on that end. The AI pathfinding is another issue that still needs to be addressed; when you aren’t manually controlling a tank, for example, you would like to think that it wouldn’t run over live ammo or soldiers. You’d like to think, anyways. It still happens with Men of War: Assault Squad 2’s AI pathfinding, and it happens easier than you’d think. There’s a lot going on in the gameplay here, and you need to be able to depend on the game to make good advancement decisions for you in order to have any semblance of manageable gameplay when things get really hectic and the multiplayer and skirmishes are being used to their fullest capacity.

Digitalmindsoft is clearly aiming to give us different perceptions on certain World War 2 conflicts, as well as aiming to provide a more objective-based co-op mode. The variety and potential for more story-like missions here is much appreciated, as they have been rather absent from the first Assault Squad. With workshop support and the editor in hand, once there is a dedicated community to make additional content for versus and co-op, the game really has potential to take off and have some rather unique content that can be shared easily.

All in all, the game is still fantastic to the very core. It has a solid base in where it came from, but the premise of new defence and stealth based skirmishes added to the flavour of the game certainly changes it up from the last time. When full access is granted, I’d love to see more nations added in from the Axis and Allied sides, but I’m also willing to wait for it in future DLC, or perhaps a possible sequel. It will also be interesting to see what is developed within the editor, as previously, mods developed for the game were scattered around, with workshop we are going to have a very quick and easy access. There is reason to be excited, if you were a fan of Assault Squad and previous games, there is definitely more on offer here, and with the infrastructure changes over to Steam, it certainly has a bright future ahead, along with other future titles.

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