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Men of War: Assault Squad 2

By zethalee26-05-2014
StuntmanLT (editor)
MrJenssen (editor)
Men of War: Assault Squad 2

The Defence

1C Company
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0 GHz
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce 260
AMD equivalent
2 GB
6 GB
9.0c, 10, 11

The Case

After taking over the original Men of War series from Best Way in 2009, Digitalmindsoft has developed six games in the series, the latest being Assault Squad 2. Focusing more on individual squad tactics and micromanaging rather than base and empire-building, the series has always had a knack for generating stories and some tactically unique gameplay. So then, does this entry in the series deserve a hard-fought Medal of Honor like the others, or is it left floundering on the beaches of Normandy?

The Trial

Armor-penetrating rounds are slicing through sandbags above, showering grit and fear below. You've got a small handful of rounds left for your Kar98 rifle. The rest of your squad, called up to the front only a half hour previous, lies in the street, obliterated by high-caliber artillery and sniper fire. Two lightly armored vehicles, once armed with devastating flak cannons, now lie upturned, emitting the stench of burning rubber and singed hair, yet still a relief from the cloying, effusive death. Bandage on your bandages, you can hear your bones protesting every time you shift against the rapidly decaying barrier. Across the street you can see, you hope to God that, under the meteoric hail of the Allies' gunfire, a fellow squad can hold on for the victory.

Don’t drink and drive. Not even at war.

Don’t drink and drive. Not even at war.

This is Men of War: Assault Squad 2, a sequel to the earlier Assault Squad, and emphasizing infantry tactics over larger, armor-heavy warfare. You will find yourself mired in Russian swamps, rooting out the unshakeable Japanese infantry in claustrophobic trench warfare, sneaking around frozen Belgian streets, and engaging legendary Panzers on the plains of North Africa. The game so obviously wants you to create, experience, and share your struggles to victory and heartbreaking defeats, even as the game engine may prove to be the most formidable enemy of all.

As someone entirely new to the Men of War series, my first impressions of the game were none too kind. Lacking the campaign efforts of previous entries, it's instead replaced with “skirmish” missions, loosely connected battles taking place with you controlling the nation of your choosing. The missions seem to be functionally similar across factions, though I can't entirely fault the developers for choosing this route, as engineering entirely new missions would get to be a chore, and you would quickly run out of ideas. The missions we are left with, an introductory one, a few urban-based levels, a stealth mission, and more, do prove to be quite entertaining. The ability to control units in a semi-third person perspective, learning about the game mechanics, watching the AI stumble over themselves upon finding a body or destroyed Sherman, it's all fun.

In fact, quite simply put, the game is and feels satisfying. There's immense joy to be gained by slowly and steadily rooting out entrenched enemy soldiers via crumbling buildings, sliding from cover to cover, and baiting opposing forces into ambushes. It all makes for good fun, and good tactical play, too. The cover system is robust, and even if you don't line up your soldiers just right, they'll find a way to avoid being shot, for the time being. Buildings, while not inherently explorable, do make for good positions to cover streets and “capture zones” with, and it's a nice touch that as the battlefield degrades, craters become places for your soldiers to hide, along with newly constructed ruins and the shells of armored vehicles.

I see you...

I see you...

The inventory system is nicely done as well, with each soldier spawning with a different loadout, depending on their assigned class and weapon type. Ammunition is tracked across all entities in the world, and while it's not realistic that Thompson ammo could be repurposed for use in the MP 40, in longer slugfests when squads may run low on ammo, scavenging spare rounds is a viable tactic. This inventory and logistical management applies to armored vehicles as well. During an extended wave-survival battle, my King Tiger found itself out of AP rounds, and I was forced to have a nearby tank commander pick up rounds and load the Tiger, even while deflecting incoming Russian armor.

One of the statistical improvements that I could see arising from the game is a lack of an in-game unit inspector, or at the very least, an info-dump of units available. During loading screens, you're advised to attack tanks from preferable angles, usually the side and rear, where the armor is weakest, and yet, occasionally, shooting the turret is a solution as well. In either case, there's no way for me to learn the weak spots outside of playing the game, and hoping the AI or online opponent spawns the tank I'm trying to learn about. It would also be nice to see the balance, or lack thereof, too. While it certainly feels as though Germany has the better armored vehicles, AT launcher, and elite infantry, this is based off of supposition, and a robust unit encyclopedia would help visualize this much more clearly.

Furthermore, some sort of introduction to the mechanics and how they can affect play in the game world would be nice. It took more time than I would like to admit to understand just exactly why a particular unit wouldn't fire on another, so even just a small message popup would be nice, alerting that I didn't have line of sight to the target. I'm also not entirely sure why, when attempting to attack something out of range, your unit will simply not fire, yet, assuming they miss, they might very well end up hitting the thing you were aiming at. That, in addition to the inventory management, cover system, and armor mechanics, make me wish some sort of tutorial was in the game. I understand that the developers may have wished for players to organically discover and learn about the game, but when the first experience learning the hotkeys for something such as repairing is during the middle of a firefight, I'm not going to appreciate the moment.

Free holiday trips to the beach.

Free holiday trips to the beach.

Returning to the campaign missions, the AI of both the enemy and your own soldiers is, unfortunately, utterly abysmal. When moving units from one cover to the next, if at any point, they encounter enemy fire, bafflingly, they will immediately return fire, instead of doing so at cover. I've lost multiple squads to their own decision to experience the variety in American calibers of ammunition, and I cannot fathom why this is in the game. Micromanagement is certainly essential in a game of this scale and depth, but I shouldn't have to ensure that all of my infantry, when I may have scores of them, reach their destinations without handholding.

Pathfinding too is atrocious, and some units, for reasons entirely unknown, will not move when giving them orders, forcing you to waste precious time manually moving them into position. Other times, such as moving a mortar near trenches, they will accept the move command over trenches, but since the mortar can't be moved over them, they'll just sit there, again, forcing you to manually plot out the route around the obstacle.

Hilariously enough, if you've got just one soldier in a building scouting out the area for a possible engagement, and they get detected, instead of rooting out said soldier by clearing floor by floor, they will just crowd the doorway with more and more soldiers, until usually, a tank blows away much of the building. Detection with the AI is pretty poor in general, with even multiple elite squads able to be mowed down by one SMG wielding recruit in a bush, as was the case in a multiplayer match. Whether this is due to myself and the AI just not understanding the spotting system, or just a bug remains a mystery.

How stuff works.

How stuff works.

Speaking of multiplayer, if you're looking for a reliable, stable experience, I can safely say that you're not going to find one here. In the lobby, no one wanted to play the US team, as it was going to crash their game. Even then, once in the match, it was consistently laggy, units would disappear and reappear seemingly at will, and the entire match felt sluggish, with someone eventually crashing out anyway. To be perfectly honest, I found the entire match so excruciatingly awful that I seriously considered leaving early, just to spare myself the frustration. This was not helped by the fact that the rules for the multiplayer match were not outlined in detail, and I had to figure them out as the match progressed, certainly missing some key points along the way.

This is not to mention the myriad of bugs that I encountered along the way, either. Most of them were encountered while moving the soldiers in third person mode, but I got stuck on world geometry multiple times, couldn't move up and down steps, and god forbid you try to move a unit currently taking cover in a building, because it won't be able to leave afterward. In addition, I experienced immense slowdowns when angling the camera a certain way, even as the game isn’t particularly visually impressive. These issues have turned me off to the engine entirely, and I'm sure that there are many more bugs that I've yet to discover.

The Verdict

Assault Squad 2 is a paradoxical game; there are moments of intense fun, even when so many things that aren't lead up to them. Given time, I could see improvements in the netcode and AI, along with optimizing the graphical engine, but as it stands now, I cannot in good faith recommend this game to all but diehard fans of the series, especially when I'm hearing that there are only marginal improvements over the original Assault Squad.

Case Review

  • Immensely Fun: Provides a sense of accomplishment and achievement.
  • Like an Ocean: Persistent tactical and logistical depth.
  • A Storyteller: Everyone will have stories to share.
  • No Intel: Surprising lack of a unit encyclopedia.
  • Airdrop: Lack of a substantial tutorial.
  • Miscommunication: Infuriating AI and pathfinding.
  • War Crimes: Terrible netcode and a plethora of multiplayer crashes.
  • Stuck in a Swamp: Bugs and framerate issues can render units useless.
Score: 3/5
Fun, despite the game's engine.


Men of War: Assault Squad 2 is not a single player game. No way. You might mistakenly thing it is, but it‘s not. Even if it has a campaign for all the countries present in the game, they follow largely the same structure. It‘s like playing Dawn of War 2 again, only this time, all of them are Tyranid (also known as „the worst“) campaigns. A better solution is to ramp up the difficulty and do it with a friend. After all, Men of War is about playing with individual soldiers, despite looking like it‘s all about massive charges and what not. You don’t want to just send infantry or tanks, you want to control them in Direct Control mode. And that is way easier to do when you have a buddy doing the same on his flank.

Plus, all the different toys and factions differences are better felt in PvP where differences between historical tanks and vehicles can be brought to bear with relative ease. While there’s usually little noticeable difference between your and enemy infantry, it sure is felt with more solid stuff. That is not to say that infantry isn’t fun. You can still raid for ammunition, try and sneak up on tanks with dynamite or attack said metal beasts with flamethrowers (flamethrowers are awesome!). The improved graphics engine really helps to sell the game, and the gameplay is miles above the likes of Company of Heroes 2. Only wish that AI was better and they fixed the damn inventory.

Score: 4/5


The game that some have been waiting for is back. Men of War: Assault Squad 2, is the next exciting iteration in the series that has expanded upon the first Assault Squad, as well as the other titles. Main focus again is in the backdrop of World War 2, across familiar theatres of war between 5 of the biggest fighting forces during the war, The Commonwealth, USA, Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia and Imperial Japan. Missions range from full on assault on the enemy, defensive missions against an overwhelming force and limited use of reinforcements, and pure stealth missions to deal a blow to the enemy.

The satisfactory feel to the series has always been the same, the destruction of each opposing vehicle, and the death of each enemy soldier is satisfying, as you feel as you’ve really accomplished something. Looting the corpse or wreck of a vehicle for supplies, or to repurpose them as your own if you can repair the vehicle, leaves certain situations open to all sorts of possibilities including the destruction of an entire building to make a pathway to the enemy for your units. Not to mention directly controlling the movement and aim of each of your soldiers and vehicles adds a layer of depth which is missing from so many other RTSs, that it’s honestly hard not to love this game despite its hard teeth-grinding difficulty.

Assault Squad 2 honestly feels more like an expansion rather than a full priced game, and therefore despite that it has ‘reworked’ the returning 25 skirmish missions and only introducing 15 new ones, does speak volumes in itself. It probably shouldn’t have been priced as high as it should have, as it feels they’re only doing this to get more funding for their next release Call to Arms. Although, the advantages they have here is that it has Steamworks integration multiplayer, and workshop, which should vastly extend its lifetime for years to come. I only recommend it if you’re a fan of the series, but only approach it at a lower price if you’ve played the first Assault Squad.

Score: 4/5
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