It's an inauspicious time to release a WWII strategy game, now that Company of Heroes has just lowered the limbo bar. Anything released now is going to seem like running up to Alexander Graham Bell saying you've just invented shouting out of the window.
But no game can kill a genre, and Best Way have their own proud heritage. Soldiers: Heroes Of WWII was a surprise classic from the Ukraine, mixing arcadey direct control with a hardcore strategy edge that would have you panic-saving with every kill.
Faces Of War hasn't fallen far from the tree. Soviet, German and Allied missions, a lack of resource management, the advantageous method of taking direct control of a unit with the cursor keys. Similarly, the picturesque and detailed engine will still punish a lesser processor in busier scenes. Best Way has introduced the fog of war in some missions, though - taking away the only break for those of us with all the strategic instincts of a bra.
The AI of all the units is still great, although the enemies seem smarter. At one stage, I once told a soldier to use an anti-tank grenade on a nearby vehicle, and the idiot blew himself by standing too close. That's basic Fireworks Code, man. But taking control yourself is more efficient and enjoyable, anyway.
JUMP THE FENCE
The control method is involved, and can feel overwhelming, so unless you're a Soldiers veteran, it's worth playing the tutorial levels. Refuelling a tank and detaching a cannon from a car is certainly no one-click process, but it does all add to the sense that you're in control. Until your men repeatedly ignore an order to jump over a fence and get gunned down by a tank, that is.
Best Way have been keen to emphasise that Faces of War isn't the prohibitively hardcore experience of Soldiers, and less seasoned tacticians will not feel alienated by the difficulty. So 'easy' has been rebranded Arcade mode, with a warning for those daring to click on Tactical mode that severe challenges lie ahead.
Frankly, it's all still hard, and it still suffers a little from a lack of intuition and dropping you in at the deep end. But the pleasure and satisfaction to be had from completing a mission is still there, and if you're all cocky from your achievements in Company of Heroes, let Faces of War serve you a barrage of humble pies.
In good company
- A solid challenge
- Pretty as a picture
- Rewarding, eventually
- Occasionally unresponsive
- Often baffling and overwhelming
- Can be misheard as faeces of whore