MEN of WAR

By Alec Meer on January 31st, 2008 at 9:28 pm.


Anyone ever play Soldiers: Heroes of World War II? I must write a retrospective of it sometime. Though a very different breed of strategy game, it was out there doing some of the stuff Company of Heroes did, but two full years before Relic’s tankiest opus – Dubya Dubya Too with hugely destructible environments, ultra-death and a smart emphasis on use of cover. While COH is by far the more polished option, this outdoes it for sheer ambition. It had stealable, pilotable vehicles. It had an RPG-lite inventory system. It had online co-op play. Perhaps most adorably, there was also a little of the Cannon Fodder to it -just a handful of all-too-easily killed squaddies against a whole bally army. It was also weird and rickety in the way so many Russian-made games seem to be. If you’ve never played it, try the demo – it’s a fair fascinating wee thing.

I missed the sequel, the unfortunately-named Faeces of War, as is too often the case for games that don’t drift onto my hard drive for work purposes. Hopefully I will get to play the freshly-revealed third game, Men of War. MEN of WAR. Men! War! That’s definitely a name I can get behind.

Sounds as though it’s largely the same shtick as the last two, in a sparkly new engine – which you can peek at below. The announcement worries me slightly, banging on as it does about:

“Dynamic in-game video enhances the single player missions, while the sounds of war have been given new range with over one hundred new sound effects of weapons and combat gear, recorded under real operating conditions. The single player campaign will also feature a fully customisable user interface, so players are able to have their command layout just as they please.”

These do not seem like priorities to me. Tell me more about the explosions and setting Nazis on fire, please. Anyway, pictures. Click on each to see it full-size, and without my haphazard widescreen cropping:

‘squite pretty, that. Mostly. I do declare myself interested.

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28 Comments »

  1. RiptoR says:

    Aaaaah, Soldiers… I remember doing coop with a mate of mine from the UK and having a blast with it. OK, i was running at like 15-20fps at the lowest possible res on my old comp, but we had hours of fun.

    Must search those cd’s, might be fun to have another go at it. (Well, first gonna finish bioshock on hard, my new comp was screaming to play bioshock, and now my comp is grinning at me all the time for letting it run the game XD )

  2. sh33333p says:

    With regard to the glut of WW2-based games in general: Big Yawn.

    For some reason I never go into the RTS genre. I mostly play FPSs, but I have tremendously enjoyed certain RPGs, like the Fallout and Elder Scrolls series. A big hurdle for me is having to learn a bazillion keys and a brand new interface for each game. Maybe if I played alot of RTSs it wouldn’t be as steep a curve, but going from my WSAD roots to something like Company of Heroes…let’s just say I never got past the 5th mission even with a system that can run it. RTSs also don’t have that instant payoff that I get when I nail an enemy in the head with a shotgun in an FPS, or the sense of danger that proceeds it. That’s just how it is for me…

    Hey Alec,

    I had heard a rumor that you liked to “get behind” the men, but I had dismissed it as hearsay until now. You go girl!

    (sorry)

  3. UncleLou says:

    Soldiers was indeed great. Bit fiddly, but very satisfying if everything went according to plan – and the physics were terrific at the time, blowing up tanks was more fiun than it is in CoH.

  4. sh33333p says:

    Hey Rip, I am also replaying Bioshock on hard.

    It’s such a better game when you can max out the graphics and still get a decent framerate, as opposed to how it was with my 7600GT, where I could do neither.

    Certain elements of the game get a bit tedious, like the hacking, not to mention the message not to turn off my (PC) every time I tell it to save, but I think they did a really good job with almost everything else. They do a good job of training the player to use new skills before they are required, the pacing is fantastic, and I basically agree with every good thing anyone else has said about the game.

  5. MEOW says:

    Soldiers is great fun. The control scheme (or possibly: the 5hour journey that is remapping the keyboard) is a right pain. It’s a great little game though!

    Nothing like commanding a squad of guys RTS style, selecting one of them and then using a traditional FPS mouse WASD movement to go round zapping germans with their own guns. Mwahahah…

    I’m glad you liked it, Alec! Not many people did :(

    edit: Stop polluting threads with mentions of Bioshock! Boo.
    edit2: WE CAN EDIT NOW?! YAY

  6. The_Mhor says:

    So, is Soldiers available without Starforce yet? That’s the reason I didn’t pick it up originally…

  7. Andrew says:

    Soldiers was incredible. It did some stuff better than Company of Heroes did.

    I tried the demo of Faces of War and it put me right off. Your men were practically invincible! Tanks could run them over and they’d get up with 5% less health. In Soldiers, if a tank ran over your men they’d disintegrate into blobby internal organs and a patch of blood. Also, they got rid of the individual Commandos 2-style inventories for every single soldier, and made the interface WORSE in Faces of War. Poor show.

    Soldiers was rock hard, even on the normal setting (I only ever completed most missions on easy, and one of the bonus ones I never even managed on that difficulty), but much better for it. Because your men were so fragile the triumph-against-the-odds was much better.

    And each mission always played out differently… I remember replaying the first American mission endlessly, where you had to rescue misdropped paratroopers during Market Garden while the world went to shit around you.

  8. nimble says:

    sh33333p: Soldiers is just the sort of RTS you’d like, since it lets you take direct control of a soldier and run about shooting nazis and looting their corpses for better guns. And then driving a tank around blowing stuff up until the enemy had shot it enough times that you were stuck driving in widening circles, trying to get it positioned at just the right angle on a hill that the damaged turret would be pointing at the little men running at you with grenades. It even had head-shots and little knives that you could throw to take out sentries silently.

    And then there’s the coop mode, so you can play with friends who do like RTSes, allowing them to deal with the whole “strategy” thing when it turns out playing as Rambo doesn’t work against an entire army and you can’t get past the first level by yourself.

    What impressed me most about the game was how many little details it had, and how interactive everything was. You could tell your man to take cover against the blown-out husk of a tank, or shoot a helmet off an enemy soldier, and it remembered the location of each dropped gun and corpse. And then vehicles could have their tires shot out, or their turrets jammed. It was surprisingly detailed for a little Russian game, and gave the impression of having had a great deal of effort put into it.

  9. malkav11 says:

    I believe GoGamer gave me Soldiers for free as a bonus in an order a while back. I never installed it, partly because of the Starforce, partly because it’s WWII. And partly because it sounded like way too much to manage in real-time. Can you give orders while paused? I might do it then. (And that cooperative mode sounds intriguing, although I don’t think I know anyone who owns it other than me.)

  10. TychoCelchuuu says:

    I played the heck out of the demo but never bought the game because of Starforce. My fondest memory is flipping a tank upside-down, only to have it continue to fire on me. No, wait, realizing that the game was so detailed that I could blow the helmets off of individual German soldiers, then put them in my soldiers’ inventory. No, it was the destructable buildings that haven’t been done better in any game since then. Or maybe it was the extreme difficulty, which instead of being frustrated just made me feel more awesome by the time I finished the level. Or sneaking my soldier through the enemy held town, and watching the German troops riding on the side of a tank jump off and scatter into cover when I opened fire…

    I tried the Faces of War demo and it blew. I had enough trouble telling my people what to do that I never even got to figure out if I was having fun actually playing. Hopefully MEN of WAR will be awesome.

  11. nimble says:

    Starforce: After installing the game from CD, install the latest patch and replace the original .exe with a cracked exe. Then run the starforce driver remover. You’ll have a working copy of Soldiers and no copy of starforce drivers. At least, I’ve never noticed problems after removing the starforce drivers (and my computer is one of those that has problems when they’re present), though I can’t guarantee that the driver remover leaves your machine in the same state it was in prior to the drivers being installed.

    If you want to be paranoid about it, install Soldiers to another machine (a good chance to try out a virtual machine if you’ve been looking for an excuse) and then move the directory over to your gaming machine. The cracked .exe stops Soldiers from trying to install starforce drivers on startup like most (uncracked) starforce games do, and I’m pretty sure Soldiers doesn’t need any registry entries or anything. At least, I think it was one of the games I was able to just copy over and run when I reinstalled Windows to a new bigger hard drive, though maybe it was part of the stack of CDs I had to reinstall.

    Especially in the case of starforce, cracks are wonderful things. Surely I’m not the only one who checks that a crack is available before buying a game (or in the case of older games, that the crackers kept up with the latest patches)? Of course, I tend to not play games online, so maybe they cause problems for people who do (false-positives on cheat detection).

    TychoCelchuuu: maybe I’m confusing it with other demos, but if you tried the demo of Faces of War, doesn’t that mean you ended up getting infected with starforce anyway? Or the demo of Soldiers itself, come to think of it?

  12. Fat Zombie says:

    Ahhh, Soldiers is by far the best WW2-based RTS I’ve played in recent years; better, in my opinion, than Company of Heroes.

    I’m a lot like Sh333p; I like the thrill of shooters, and I’m not much cop at strategy. But even though I never managed to get anywhere in the campaign missions, I still enjoyed it to no end.

    Online was where it shone (despite some worrying lag problems at times); with no resourcing and all units purchased on a menu, the game was much more like a WW2-RTS version of Counter Strike (Source, with all the awesome PHYSICS). I think the funnest moment was playing a 1v1 map against some other dude, where all we did was buy lots of big tanks, drive them at each other and then shoot each other to sh(rapnel). Being able to control each individual unit was always awesome.

    In fact… the only reason I stopped playing S:HoWW2 (as its incredibly unwieldy acronym goes) is because my awful wireless connection tended to end online games rather quickly. But now I have a good wireless connection! Perhaps it is time I dug it out again!

    EDIT: There was, I remember, a very popular mod played online, that added lots of authentic-accurate russian/german vehicles. And a flamethrower, which you could then swap into the machine-gun port on any vehicle. Flamer-tank! Flamer-Kubelwagen! FLAMER-MOTORCYCLE! Mwuhahahahaha!

  13. Steve says:

    Since Company of Heroes quickly became my favourite RTS ever, I bought this (used and new from 50p on amazon!) based on your article, and I have only one thing to say.

    jesus christ you can drive a tank straight through a bloody house

  14. Andrew says:

    Malkav:

    And partly because it sounded like way too much to manage in real-time. Can you give orders while paused? I might do it then.

    You generally only control one or two soldiers at a time, and direct control is where the game is at. Press End and you’re suddenly controlling that fellow with the arrow keys and using the mouse to aim. Like some top-down 3D shooter.

  15. Optimaximal says:

    For the record, the Sold-Out/Codemasters Budget range versions come on a DVD rather than CD and I think they snipped out the copy protection for the Sold-Out version too…

    Should check really :)

  16. Cigol says:

    Soldiers was class, particularly playing it online in co-op mode. It was just sublime, really. It was Commando’s mixed with Cannon Fodder mixed with generic WW2 RTS (Sudden Strike?)

    I bought it despite the presence of starforce and loved it – definitely check it out if you haven’t already, the missions in singleplayer are extremely satisfying and can be played various ways.

  17. drunkymonkey says:

    Along with the original Ratchet and Clank, Soldiers takes its place as one of the two best demos that I never bought the game for.

    I have it installed on my PC. And yeah, it was more ambitious than CoH by a long shot. The physics were excellent, and it was wonderfully kinetic and explosive.

  18. OrionSmith says:

    Wow, I actually thought I was the only one who knew about SHOWWII. When it first came out I spent the whole summer working through the campaigns. It was a game ahead of its time.
    Everytime I have a few friends over for a lan I drag it out and force them to play some co-op.

    I think the vista fix gets rid of starforce, and it works on xp too.

  19. kuddles says:

    Awesome! I didn’t even know this game is on the horizon. Between this, World in Conflict, Company of Heroes and the next Codename Panzer game, times have been good for fans of real time tactical games that don’t have dirt farming.

  20. Steve says:

    Next Codename Panzers game? What what?!

  21. Fat Zombie says:

    I remember why I like this game more than Company of Heroes! You can buy fuel tankers, and then drive them into the back of enemy tanks!

    It’s like an RTS version of Battlefield 1942. But with more physics.

  22. Reiver says:

    re how easy FoW was: The game had two settings; Arcade and realistic. Arcade meant your guys could go toe to toe with a panzer and punch it to death. Realistic meant a malevolent look was enough to decimate your entire squad. The AI of your troops, that gave them a large amount of autonomy, meant playing on the realistic setting was pure masochism. The idea was to have troops that reacted believably. Running from nades, firing at enemies, retreating when overwhelmed etc. The reality was playing nursemaid to a bunch of obstinately suicidal morons that ignored your command to lie down and hold fire in favour of jumping onto the lip of the trench and facing down a machine gun.
    The AI improved after a series of patches and the game is now quite enjoyable but the lack of a middleground between arcade and realistic is still a big omission. Still it’s cheap and looks great. The satisfaction of finishing a mission and tracing your path across the battlefield by the scarred earth, corpses and crumbled buildings is worth experiencing.

  23. M_Wittmann says:

    Much more better than CoH, no doubt. Who had the brilliant idea to give tanks a healthbar? :/

  24. Popalu says:

    Soldiers was a class game in all respects and deserved to be wider known (Apart from SF protection). Fow expanded it with improved graphics and gameplay and yet never captured the true SHOWW2 audience

    Some of the comments on here are wrong about FOW

    The soldiers in FOW are not invincible, play it on Realistic and they die just like they do in SHOWW2, with tanks, etc running over them. Shame there is no middle option between easy(Arcade) and hard(Realistic)

    One shot sniper head shots are still possible in FOW

    The individual inventories are still there for each soldier, they are not missing, allowing you to collect anything from the battle field.

    You can pick up any weapon, ammo, piece of equipment from dead bodies or lying on the ground. Bazookas, rifles, pistols, grenades, flame throwers, etc

    You can drive any vehicle in the game, and in most cases, repair it if it is damaged, as long as you have a repair kit and the damage is not too great

    All buildings can be destroyed, you can drive through them or just grenade/bazooka them until they topple realistically, then use the ruins as cover.

    You can enter the buildings and use them as sniper lookouts, Direct controlling the sniper to pick off enemy soldiers

    The squad system they introduced in FOW was fiddly and spoiled the demo, so put a lot of people off, as it was hard to control all your men and achieve the objectives easily, but in the final game, you can turn it off and go back to the old SHOWW2 way of controlling groups of men, ala RTS drag and drop format, but still retain the DC over individual soldiers

    You can still take direct control over your men or tank/truck/jeep/howitzer/boat etc and do what you want, hwo you want.

    A great game, batter than COH in my opinion and hopefully MoW will improve on the advances made in FoW, but still keep the original flavour of SHOWW2

  25. ed says:

    GoG has a DRM/Starforce free fully patched version of Soldiers:HOWWII (including Vista compat. patch) for $9.99. Steam also released it recently for $9.99 but apparently the Steam version does not include the Vista compatibility patch yet.

  26. gayylalgli says:

    The past few years have seen no shortage of games based on World War II. Sometimes it seems as if every other product by a European developer is a WWII-based strategy game. Despite adding to an already saturated genre, Soldiers: Heroes of World War II distinguishes itself with attractive graphics and challenging gameplay, which is an interesting hybrid of strategy and action. The game’s level of challenge often borders on being punishing, but fans of tactical strategy games will find that the effort is worth it.

    Soldiers is in some ways reminiscent of the Commandos series, but the scale and nature of the battles you fight make it a little more comparable to a real-time version of this year’s Silent Storm. You can control your troops in standard real-time strategy fashion by selecting, pointing, and clicking. The context-sensitive controls do a good job of letting you position troops smartly behind cover and corners, jump fences, or take over vehicles and fixed-gun emplacements. Where Soldiers distinguishes itself is that it lets you take direct control of individual soldiers or vehicles, using the mouse to aim weapons and the arrow keys to move and steer. While this is presented as an option, it is, in fact, a necessity, because directly controlled troops are infinitely more efficient than the ones you order around more indirectly.

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