Men of War 2 Review – War is Hellishly Complex

Men of War 2 Review

Over 80 years after the conflict ended, World War 2 remains — as it should — an important subject for telling stories about conflict and heroism. Games set during the war cover almost every genre, from gritty shooters to grand strategy games. That brings us to Men of War 2, a sequel to 2009’s Men of War. Like the first game, Men of War 2 is a real-time strategy and tactics game focusing on small squads and tense encounters. The Men of War franchise has generated a vast number of spinoffs, but this is the legitimate sequel.

Men of War 2 includes a staggering number of unit types, representing both real and prototype armored vehicles, artillery, aircraft, and more. For me, it really brought home just how vast the war machinery was, and how much manpower and resources were thrown at research, development, and production in a very short time.

Gear Up

Men of War 2 includes a vast amount of content, both for single players and with others. To start, there is a story-driven campaign for the American, Soviet, and German forces. There is a secondary Historical campaign, each with a 6-mission sequence set during a specific encounter, like the 1941 Blitzkrieg or the battle for Normandy. There is a mode called Conquest, which is a grand strategy mode played on an overworld map with large-scale forces. Finally, a skirmish mode called Raid ties together a series of 16 short battles.

What’s a bit startling is the realization that all the single-player content is essentially icing on the cake. The real focus of Men of War 2 is multiplayer. To this end, there are three modes. Battalions focus on larger scale matches up to 5×5. Combined Arms is a more intimate, 1×1 through 3×3 mode. Classic multiplayer returns with the widest range of modifiers and ways to set up match parameters. The original Men of War and its spinoffs have a devoted following. Players of the first game will feel right at home in the sequel and relish the new modes and updates to older favorites.

By default, the game starts with the multiplayer mission selector, and playing single-player matches earns multiplayer gear unlocks. There are a few too many steps to get into the single-player campaign, which again is clearly not the focus.

Battlefield Chess

Aside from the Conquest mode, battles in Men of War 2 aren’t about vast numbers of resources and unlimited soldiers. In fact, these are limited and the death or destruction of any unit makes a huge difference. It’s very difficult to summarize gameplay in Men of War 2 because there are so many variables and rulesets. A simplified description would note that during each mission, completing objectives and destroying enemy units earns command points. Command points are used to purchase additional personnel and equipment. In some of the match types, there are Echelons. They essentially function as upgrade levels, unlocking higher tiers of units.

There are over 400 different unit types, covering boots on the ground, aircraft, and all manner of offensive and support vehicles. It’s important to realize that each and every one has a purpose and nothing is there as a novelty. Every player will have a favorite tank or half-track, artillery piece, or aircraft but smart commanders will, by necessity, dive deep into what’s available. It’s also possible to craft multiplayer matches that restrict units to a specific type, like tank v tank.

While the campaigns are long and complex, individual mission objectives are relatively compact. Taking out snipers, a dug-in force, or a series of anti-aircraft guns are familiar RTS-type tasks. In Men of War 2, there’s never one way to complete an objective. Missions all require a talent for solving puzzle-like situations and using the equipment on hand as efficiently as possible. Men of War 2 isn’t the most photorealistic game ever made. However, there’s realism where it counts, in the way cover, different types of ammunition, line of sight, units, and the environment all work together, for or against the player. Unlike some RTS games like Company of Heroes, there is no base building or construction in Men of War 2. Thank goodness. It would be overload.

Story Mode

Although lengthy, the single-player, story-based campaign might be the weakest element of the generous package. It’s simply not terribly well written or acted, and falls prey to cliche-heavy dialogue and situations. Thanks to some frustrating difficulty spikes, it’s best to save the Soviet campaign for last.

At the middle distance, Men of War 2 looks and sounds convincing, with outstanding explosion and weapon effects and punchy audio. Zoomed in, things look somewhat less impressive, with pretty janky animations and low-detailed textures. It’s a reminder that Men of War 2 is first a chess game of tactics and equipment, not so much a depiction of war at a human scale.

Men of War 2 appears more approachable than it actually is. There’s a depth and complexity that’s rewarding to master, but getting there takes a lot of time. Fans of the original will find it to be a worthy sequel. Casual RPG players might feel a little overwhelmed at first. Although there’s plenty of content for single players, Men of War 2 really comes into its own with or against other humans on the battlefield. In that genre, it’s one of the best.

***PC code provided by the publisher for review***

The Good

  • Incredible depth and replay value
  • Lots of customization
  • Fantastic multiplayer
  • Authentic tactics

The Bad

  • Unimpressive writing and acting
  • Online connection required
  • Can be very difficult
  • Doesn’t look great up close