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Men of War II review

Tanks, planes and soldiers crossing a snowy field in Men of War II.
Image: Best Way/Fulqrum Publishing

Men at War II conclusively proves Edwin Starr wrong. There are some things war is good for, such as giving us one of the most engrossing, in-depth RTS games in ages. Even when we lost, which happened a lot, we never got tired of being informed our armour-piercing sniper had crippled a tank’s tracks and/or ventilated its gunner.

Does that make us terrible people? Possibly, but it’s Men of War II’s attention to detail that makes it such a WWII wargamer’s delight. Its twelve tutorials may be a little daunting, sure, but once you’re in the field, dragging a howitzer into position and raining hell down on the enemy, you’ll be glad you put the time in. You can summon in vehicles if you’ve got enough command points, but this isn’t Command and Conquer; you won’t be churning out unit after unit. It’s tactics, not resource harvesting, that wins the day here.

And if you don’t have a howitzer? Just steal someone else’s. That’s especially true in Men of War II’s Story Mode, which delights in stacking the odds against you. We wondered how the hell we were going to take on three tanks without any of the aforementioned snipers. Then, we spotted one of the Germans’ own emplacements. Commando-crawling towards it, we dispatched its pilots and turned its fire on those vehicles, easily one of the most satisfying moments in the game.

Men of War II, two planes crashing in a brown field.
Image: Best Way/Fulqrum Publishing

Men at War II lets you directly control most units, which can lead to some equally memorable moments. We’re not sure what the Geneva Convention says about vehicular homicide but, aware that things weren’t going well for us, we grabbed an enemy truck and just drove around trying to run down enemy soldiers. We still lost, but we did so with a big Joker-style grin on our faces. And when we won, when our strategies paid off? Victory was so very, very sweet.

Related: The best strategy games for beginners

The AI’s capable enough that you don’t have to assume direct control. For example, soldiers have the common sense to kneel and even crawl when in trouble. And the enemy will give you a run for your money. That can be anything from outflanking you to locating your long-range artillery. A neat touch is the way a lightbulb shows you how likely they are to figure that last one out. It also dials up the tension, in a game where manpower can be thin on the ground. Just to help dial things up to 11, there’s a line on-screen marking your shifting territory. No pressure.

There are 25+ pleasingly varied maps in Men of War II, and several have buildings that you or the enemy can occupy. But you don’t have to send the soldiers in, blast it with artillery or even just ram into it with a tank: if you can think of something, Men of War II will let you pull it off. At least, you can up until the point when you’re kicked out for being idle in a single-player game.

Men of War II, two tanks on a battlefield, with grass and trees around.
Image: Best Way/Fulqrum Publishing

Men of War II isn’t without its issues. We encountered the odd glitch, and the soldier voices can be grating. You can only hear “Give us the word, and we’ll spread freedom like wildfire” so many times before you want to stick knitting needles in your ears. And while the soldier animations are mostly excellent, there are a couple, such as sandbag-building, that seem to be missing.

But by far our biggest gripe is that Men of War II insists on you being always online. We didn’t test multiplayer but there are several single-player modes, including Conquest, Story Mode and quick-fire Raid Mode so you won’t get bored any time soon. However, if you’re not connected to the internet you can’t even get past Men of War II’s title screen. Developer Best Way is reportedly working on an offline mode, but for now, it’s a baffling and rather infuriating requirement.

If you can overlook that for now, Men of War II is a superb real-time strategy outing. You will have to put the work in to familiarise yourself with its mechanics and controls, more so than most others of the genre. But it’s a real treat for WWII enthusiasts and hardcore RTS fans alike, and despite how bloody it can get, we’re heading right back to the battlefield.

This review of Men of War II has been facilitated by a code provided by the publisher. It’s available on PC.

Men of War II review - GameSpew's Score

Men of War II
7 10 0 1
Men of War II takes a little work to get to grips with, and we're not fond of the always-online requirement. But this WWII RTS's realism, depth and freedom to explore your own strategies still make it a winner.
Men of War II takes a little work to get to grips with, and we're not fond of the always-online requirement. But this WWII RTS's realism, depth and freedom to explore your own strategies still make it a winner.
7/10
Total Score

We like...

  • Realistic, in-depth combat
  • Plenty of freedom
  • Feels fantastic when strategies pay off

We don't like...

  • Single player mode requires an internet connection
  • Learning curve is a little steep
Weekend Editor // Chris has been gaming since the days of the Acorn Electron, which was allegedly purchased to 'help him with his homework'. You can probably guess how well that went. He’ll tackle most genres – football titles aside – though he has a taste for games that that are post-apocalyptic, horror-oriented or thought provoking in nature.