While the game itself shares many aspects from Company of Heroes it also has a lot in common with the Commandos titles.
The game focuses on the Eastern Front and the Russian Penal Battalions; hence Condemned Heroes. Historically speaking the game delivers some very interesting and in depth content, though much of this is there to be seen via the menus in game rather than told in any story-like manner. Missions have briefs as you start them if you are lucky but many levels see you thrown in, given an objective and that’s your introduction to the level.
First off this game is a standalone expansion; while you don’t need to have played or own any other Men of War games to play this, it will certainly help. There is absolutely no tutorial in the game; so if you are new to the series (like myself) expect to find the game almost impenetrable. The first mission does absolutely no hand holding and is merciless in its execution. The opening consists of you having two men and needing to invade an enemy trench. Even on easy one man is likely to die.
The game is very heavy on using each and every unit in your command to its full potential. Many of them will die, many of them will be sent to their deaths by you because making them die was the best option in that situation. Your men will often need to be a living smokescreen to save maybe one or two high value men or vehicles.
Each man, vehicle and weapon has its own inventory; whether it is almost any item on men or just ammo for weapons and vehicles. The inventory has a certain amount of space; about enough to hold three weapons and a little ammo, maybe more, maybe less depending on the specifics. It is a good idea for each man to have a few grenades and some bandages; since they are incredibly useful and don’t take much space.
The best way of completing a level is to take control of your units directly. At the touch of a button the game allows you to move the units with much more precision and even allows you to aim for them. It greatly helps to get things done in the order you want but it can be a little fiddly. The camera is also not too great for this sort of action; as the terrain can be difficult to get the lie of for lining up shots. For vehicles it does feel much better, it works better mainly because the movement and control is generally better with the gun being at the height it is.
The damage systems are quite good; allowing for some very good destruction on vehicles. Though vehicles can be taken out of action by destroying the main guns, tracks/wheels or engine; anything less than fatal will mean the vehicle is salvageable and usable. Certain vehicle parts can be repaired but the majority of times you can make use of a “wrecked” vehicle and just make use of the working parts.
Mission objectives range from raiding trenches to defending positions, to eradicating key targets. An early mission that involves taking out a train is quite good. You travel across a base that is being stormed by the Russians and must get to and take out a train before it leaves the station. Each mission lasts a surprisingly long time as the objectives lead to more of the map becoming open. It can be a little tiresome as some objectives lead you to believe you have won; only to find you have to survive a counterattack.
Presentation and Audio
Graphically it does cover a range of details when you zoom in close. It looks reasonable and it is quite clear to see the lie of the land for when you take direct control of units. Units in buildings are very difficult to see and tracking movement of your own units inside them is also very awkward. The audio is good and the music is quite atmospheric.
Frustratingly difficult without prior experience, its awkward interface and playstyle will put you off immensely. If you persevere however, you will find a game that while desperately difficult will give you immense satisfaction for even the smallest of victories. It is an uphill struggle the entire way and the bugs you encounter will make that even tougher.
If you’ve never played a game in the Men of War series before then you’re unlikely to want to get this first, due to its unrelenting difficulty, bugs and it being so unintuitive. If you’ve played and enjoyed Men of War before or even remotely liked any of the Commandos games or more strategic RTS games then it is a challenge worth buying; though it’s definitely best to start earlier in the series before committing to this.
I’ve yet to find another RTS game that is this difficult even on the lowest settings. It’s both refreshing and frustrating, if I’d started with an earlier edition from the series; particularly one with a tutorial I probably would have fared better to begin with. It’s something that will leave a lot of people who are new to the series, completely lost and will probably put them off the rest of the series.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.