Men at War: Condemned Heroes is an interesting game in that it’s not quite a pure real-time-strategy game, instead it closer to a ‘real-time-tactics’ game. Instead of managing entire armies like a general, you’re controlling small groups of soldiers to do specific goals, leading to the completion of each mission.
As for the theme and story: though it’s set in World War II that setting isn’t as tiring as it would have been just a couple of years ago, as most war games have moved on to the modern era. Setting the era aside, the plot itself is pretty unique, focusing on the actions of nations and military groups that have been ignored in past games — namely the Soviet penal battalions. These battalions were mainly comprised of disgraced officers who were basically sent to their deaths in missions that were considered the bloodiest and most dangerous in the war. These men have nothing to lose, as even if they fail and survive their missions, they’ll likely be executed anyway by Stalin.
While the theme and plot is interesting, it’s unfortunate it’s mostly wasted by the horrid voice acting and dialog present throughout the game. The voice-acting is so bad, it approaches levels of awful not seen (or heard) since the days of Sega-CD or early Playstation one games. The music itself is actually pretty good: the dramatic orchestral soundtrack makes the player feel like they’re fighting in near hopeless conditions.
As for the game itself, there are a number of problems that will cause all but the most hardcore of Men of War fans to take a pass on this game — number one is the brutal difficulty. Even on the so-called ‘easy’ setting you will struggle to even progress to the next section of the first few chapters. One wrong click and your game is pretty-much over. Also many of the mid-missions goals are vague and you’ll end up inching slowly to an enemy encampment trying to pick them off one-by-one until the next section of the map unlocks. Another annoying problem is that the mouse cursor occasionally blends in with the environment, causing you to frantically try to look for it while your guys are getting gunned down by enemy gun-nests. One interesting innovation is the ability to take direct aiming control of one of you characters on the battlefield so that, in theory, you’ll have a better shot of killing your opponent by manually taking aim at them. In practice however, you’ll be better off simply letting the computer do the work of aiming and firing. By the time you get in range; select the manual aiming; then aim at your target your characters health will have dwindled down to almost nothing.
Visually there’s nothing particularly special about the game that separates it from recent PC games. Even at max settings, pop-in – particularly the foliage – is laughably frequent; textures are average and there’s almost nothing in terms of fancy graphical effects. In fact, there’s really nothing that distinguishes this game from any similar PC game from four-years-ago. To its credit, there are some nice details like having the characters helmet get blown off, but it’s nothing to special. Oddly enough, despite the fact that I’m playing this game using a 3.5 GHZ i7 CPU, 8-gigs of ram and a 500-dollar video card (AMD Radeon 7970) the game has a tendency to chug at 20-25 frames-per-second on some maps. While most people should easily be able to run this game on almost anything recent with lower settings (the games minimum requirements are specs that even a decent PC from 2006 can handle), it’s a little odd an i7 and 7970 is getting low frame rates on a game that isn’t pushing any graphics that approach state-of-the-art.
Overall Men of War: Condemned Heroes is a game that’s strictly for hard-core fans of the previous games. While the price of admission isn’t too steep at 30-bucks, the games brutal difficulty, cheesy voice acting and average graphics will turn-off the less hardcore fans of this series.