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Men of War: Condemned Heroes

Score: 36%
ESRB: Not Yet Rated
Publisher: Steam
Developer: 1C Company
Media: Download/1
Players: 1; 2 - 8 (LAN / Online)
Genre: Real-Time Strategy/ Squad-Based

Graphics & Sound:

During World War II, the Russians instituted special penal battalions and squadrons, in which soldiers who had acted dishonorably, such as by retreating against orders or by defecting or surrendering, would be given a chance to redeem themselves, by taking on the more dangerous and difficult missions at the front. This was the basis on which Men of War: Condemned Heroes was built.

The visuals are pretty decent in Men of War: Condemned Heroes. I wasn't blown away, but everything looks pretty good. However, I found the camera controls to be unintuitive; You can't turn the camera to the left or right with the mouse at all, but scrolling the mouse to the edge of the screen will allow you to move the camera forward, backward, left and right across the square playable area of the battlefield and you can use the scroll-wheel to zoom in or out. You can rotate the camera, as I eventually found out, by using the "7" and "9" keys on the numeric key pad, but this seemed awkward to me. Mind you, if you have preferred mapping, you can remap the controls in the Options Menu.

The environments are primarily countryside battlefields, with a good number of trenches and the occasional farmhouse, but these, combined with trenches, rivers and other obstacles, foster a need for strategy when advancing.

There are several settings that can be tweaked, graphically, to tailor the game to your desired setup, from resolution to different levels of special effects and even in-game options (easily toggled in the U.I.) to highlight live soldiers, fallen soldiers and items on the battlefield. This can come in handy, especially since items are affected by the physics engine. When one tank exploded, I was treated to seeing a helmet come flying just to the left of the camera and highlighting the items revealed that they were littered around the site of the explosion, in the blast radius. Nice.

The music in Men of War: Condemned Heroes is enjoyable, but modern sounding. It doesn't seem to be dynamically dependent on the ongoing action, however; the menu screen sounds just as inspiring as the gameplay. It does change when you fail in your mission, but until then, it seems to be pretty much the same.


In Condemned Heroes, you start with control of only a few soldiers in a squadron. In fact, in the first part of the first mission in the Single Player Campaign, you control just two soldiers, while the enemies and the rest of your allies are A.I.-controlled. For that matter, you have to be careful in commanding your two guys to take cover and wait there, because, seemingly without instruction, my second soldier had run off and gotten himself killed while I was trying to command my first soldier into position. It's quite disheartening to watch one of your few controllable units die on the battlefield before doing anything worthwhile. As it turns out, you can combine soldiers into units and separate them and I was unwittingly controlling my only two soldiers as a unit before I realized that. At least once I realized I could hit "K" to separate the unit, I had some sort of "second chance" when my advance didn't work out.

If you survive long enough, you will gain additional units to control later in the mission, although it never seemed clear as to exactly what I had done to gain control over additional units; I can only assume it was related to achieving a certain goal, but it doesn't make sense that there would be several soldiers in the field and then at some point I would gain control over them, while if I died too soon, I wouldn't get control of those units. This seemed like an artificial limitation and - worse yet - completely arbitrary.

One cool aspect of Men of War: Condemned Heroes is using the battlefield around you to your advantage. That disabled tank on the battlefield may make for brilliant cover, but then again, with a repair kit and a bit of luck, it might provide much more support than that. It's a great feeling to patch up a tank and use it to turn the tide of a battle, destroying trench after trench of dug-in enemy units that, just previously, had you pinned down.

There are only four primary missions in the Single Player Campaign: "No Turning Back!", "From Court-Martialed to Heroes", "Air Thick with Death" and "Payment in Blood." There is also a section for Bonus Missions which, for me, contained only "Die-Hard Defense." From the start, "No Turning Back!" and "Die-Hard Defense" were the only two Single Player Campaign missions available, which seemed unreasonably limited, as I typically like to get a good bit of varied single player experience prior to playing online. However, when I tried to play online, there were no games to join, so I wasn't able to try out the multiplayer aspects.

The prisoner soldiers theme is what piqued my interest in Men of War: Condemned Heroes. This is actually based on historical penal squadrons used by the Germans and the Russians. Men of War: Condemned Heroes features some background information about the history of these units, including the "No Step Back" order that introduced them to the Russian Army.


This is my first introduction to the Men of War series. I jumped in feet first, but quickly found myself in over my head. It seems that the difficulty is pretty high in Condemned Heroes, above and beyond any difficulty caused by the control scheme and camera controls. I checked around for other reviews of the series and, while 1C is a Russian game company and Russian strategy games tend to have higher difficulty, in general, it seems that the Vietnam installment and the Condemned Heroes installment are both of above-average difficulty in the series. Translation: if you're not an absolute whiz at these types of games and you're not familiar with the Men of War series, this might not be the best game to use as your introduction.

One thing that helps is if you can stand to creep-and-save. Men of War: Condemned Heroes will let you pause the game and save or load at any time during the Single Player Campaign game and, by doing so, you can safeguard your progress when you think you've done well and reload it when things turn against you. However, the trick to this is realizing you've done well enough to save or bad enough to reload... and actually remembering to do so. Luckily, Men of War: Condemned Heroes has an Autosave feature and will save for you after each achieved objective. If you're accustomed to this type of gameplay, Men of War: Condemned Heroes may be less frustrating for you than it was for me.

Game Mechanics:

I found Men of War: Condemned Heroes to be a bit confusing; it may be the least player-centric game I've ever played to date. Several times while playing the Single Player Campaign mode, when I lost the game by either not meeting a primary objective or losing all of the units I had control over, even though I was alerted that I had failed, the game didn't end. German and Russian soldiers just kept on fighting - for hours. I didn't want to use the Pause Menu to quit the game, in case I would lose credit for any accomplishments I had achieved, but eventually that was the only way to exit the game.

On another occasion, I failed a mission objective and my last remaining soldier got too close to his own thrown grenade and died... only to stand back up as if I had been assigned a new soldier. (Well, and then shortly thereafter get shot and killed again.) This merely added to my frustration.

Another problem I had with Men of War: Condemned Heroes won't necessarily be an issue for everyone, but is worth mentioning for those with multiple monitors. The game does not confine your mouse pointer to the screen when playing on a single monitor. Due to this, when I am scrolling to the right to move the camera and venture onto my second monitor, the scrolling will sometimes act erratic until I can get my mouse pointer back into the first screen. And, should I click on the right screen, Condemned Heroes minimizes and the screen does the flicker-dance as it shifts back out of 3D graphics acceleration to normal display. Annoying if you want to check your email while playing, much more annoying if you weren't trying to click off of the game at all.

When I went searching on the official forums for answers, all I found were additional issues. If you're on the fence about purchasing Condemned Heroes, you may want to check the official forums and see if there have been any patches to address these problems; as of this writing there are a lot of issue yet to be addressed. For example, evidently some people claim that the best aspect of the game is the Multiplayer Mode... evidently, there is a bug that keeps players from seeing that there are online games to join. Perhaps that is why I don't see any online games.

With the limited amount of content available from the start, the high number of technical issues and the difficulty of the game, I could really only reluctantly suggest Men of War: Condemned Heroes to those who are already fans of the series and looking for a challenge, but would probably advise newcomers to the series to start at the beginning.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows XP(SP1) / Windows Vista / Win7, P4 2.6GHz or Athlon 3000+ processor, 1GB RAM, GeForce 6600 or Radeon 1950 with 128Mb Video Card, DirectX compatible Sound Card, 3 GB free Hard Disk space

Test System:

AMD Athlon(tm) II X2 220 Processor 2.80 GHz, 4 GB dual-channel DDR3, ASUS Mainboard, CoolerMaster 850watt power supply, Dual boot: Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit / Windows XP Home Edition (played in Windows 7), Graphics: ATI Radeon 3000 (on motherboard) / XFX ATI Radeon HD 5750 1GB graphics card, Dual Monitors (Gateway HD2201 21" HDMI / Sony SDM-HS73), 1.5 TB Western Digital Caviar Green SATA Hard Drive, 750 GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 SATA 3Gb/s Hard Drive, Logitech Gaming Mouse G700, Logitech Gaming Keyboard G105 for Modern Warfare 3, Logitech Z313 2.1-CH PC multimedia speaker system, A30 Gaming Headset, Cable Modem

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