Being a Black Coat must have been very annoying. This is one of the lessons we’re taking away from Red Tide, a WWII RTS with an eye for historical accuracy and realism that focuses on the exploits of these little-known yet resourceful Russian marines. Here’s another lesson we’re taking away: the Black Coats had to quicksave all the time.
That Red Tide selects Easy mode by default is telling. While plenty of missions provide an enjoyable challenge (on Easy, once you know what you’re doing), some don’t. The astonishingly unfair second mission could put you off for life: you and eight guys are dropped in a forest outside a village with 60 or so enemy soldiers, who have two machinegun emplacements, an armoured APC, a tank and two armoured cars.
In a house is a Romanian POW. You wipe out the enemy troops, get the POW, and then a convoy rolls up and you have to obliterate it. Then you jump into some vehicles to escape, but your route is littered with obstacles. By the end of it, your eight men have slaughtered an army. Imagine an orange, and when you peel the skin off it there’s more skin underneath – and then when you get that skin off too, underneath it is a bomb. Our quicksave finger is calloused.
In what can only be a nod to the lack of professional training afforded to Russian officers, there’s no tutorial or tips of any kind. That lack of training is also re-created in your troops’ pathfinding and AI. It turns out that despite their fearsome reputation for night-time amphibious bayonet assaults, the Black Coats had great trouble getting in and out of their boats. Even on land, our marines would go for tactically unsound walkabouts.
But it feels like being a Black Coat could be a great time. The same realism and attention to detail that make Red Tide so hard also create a hugely engaging and satisfying experience that ticks over in your head long after you’ve stopped playing. Each time your plan comes together, it feels like finding a chink in the armour of some faceless khaki goliath, and the pop and slump of every felled enemy soldier becomes a balm to your soul. At these times you can relax a little and enjoy the mass of new vehicles that are Red Tide’s only concrete addition to Men of War, plus the simple pleasure of your little soldiers commandeering a big gun and blowing sizeable holes in a garrisoned building.
Shame you’ll be doing it alone. In a decision we’re not sure is historically accurate at all, Best Way have removed all multiplayer from Men of War. Gone are the host of competitive multiplayer modes and the fabled co-op, rendering Red Tide no more than a hastily put-together standalone mission pack for a better game. Twenty sprawling, multi-part missions that beg to be solved, true, but also ones that eschew a difficulty curve in favour of a difficulty mountain range.
Men of War A4, the other standalone expansion for Men of War, is currently in development. You might be best off waiting for that.
Dec 9, 2009