I admit that when I gave Men of War that high score, my opinion on the multiplayer differed somewhat from that of the community, since I considered that strategy was downplayed in favor of reaction time, map knowledge and team spirit.
The genius of the game was found in the single-player, so when the stand-alone expansion Red Tide was announced, I was excited, to say the least. Quantity wise, I wasn’t disappointed by the 23 new missions, organized into six campaigns and which allow us to visit Sevastopol, Odessa or Constanta.
I was initially thrilled by the producer’s choice of less famous operations from World War II, being sick of so many Normandy Landings and Market Garden Operations, but carried a hint of regret at not being able to take part in epic armor encounters, such as Kharkov, or the Stalingrad skirmishes.
However, I cannot complain about the variety of enemies to defeat in Red Tide, such as Nazi Germany, Italy or (and this sounds incredibly good for us locals) the evil invading Romanian Army. The Romanian soldiers are well represented, including the battle gear and voices on the battlefield, which can only makes us proud, despite the fact that our job is to slaughter them in every mission.
Speaking of, we are now commanding the elite forces of the Russian Navy, the Black Coats, of which I hadn’t heard many things until Red Tide, probably because there are no Russian movies featuring Chuck Norris. Their appearance at times also suggests blue pajamas, which are not exactly perfect for terrorizing enemies on the battlefield.
The focus is obviously centered on naval encounters, or should I say beach skirmishes and coastal objectives, which also means some news units. We can now control landing crafts, destroyers and even cruisers capable of long-range bombardment, but nothing spectacular in this regard, considering that the control over these naval units is somewhat limited to the beach area. The arsenal has been updated with the same respect to the historical truth and attention to detail, most units being modeled and designed in the Men of War spirit.
The missions have the same structure as the ones in MoW, being divided into stages that are scripted according to mission advancement and completed objectives. The difficulty is again pretty high, considering you will only have a handful of soldiers in most engagements, while the objectives are bold to say the least, for the pride of Stalin and the Motherland.
The second mission for instance least is devilish in nature, as you have only 8 grunts with minimal weaponry with whom you must capture an enemy village, hold it against a counter-attack, then flee through a minefield. Yet the missions don’t become tedious or frustrating, because the gameplay still has its magic, and the fact that your platoon got slaughtered means the assault wasn’t too well thought out and you should try a different approach. Not poor game mechanics.
However, I also noticed that the artificial genius I praised in the original has become somewhat of a drunk and, to keep the local spirit going, I suspect vodka is to blame. In other words, the AI has lost a few brain cells, because otherwise I cannot explain why my well-camouflaged soldiers spring out of cover to bravely face the enemy and get promptly shot in the head.
It’s annoying to spend a few minutes carefully preparing an ambush, just to watch how at that critical moment your soldiers crawl out of cover to look for a better firing position, only to settle for a worse one. I appreciated in the first title the fact that you can lose entire squads if you leave them unattended and out of cover, but in Red Tide it’s useless to place them behind a wall because you will find them in the middle of the road when you get back.
Perhaps the producers wanted to give some personality to the units, and they succeeded in that respect, the problem is that nobody wants soldiers with personality. I had to reload the same mission over 15 times because I couldn’t convince sergeant Kuznetzov to keep his head in the ground, and finally sent him on a march to the other side of the map while finishing the objectives with a grunt under my direct control – a feature still very well implemented.
The briefings of the missions have been lengthened and now have a hint of novel in them, which represents an obvious stall, but for those who are passionate about their strategy, Red Tide still has quality time to offer, mostly thanks to the difficulty of the campaigns. Even on Easy the enemy, while still scripted, can offer you many surprises if you don’t plan your assault well or prepare your defenses smartly.
There are few novelties, graphics wise, and for the sound part professional actors have been hired to replace the amateurs of the first title. The results are a little better, but nothing to be thrilled about.
I was speaking earlier about stalling and unfortunately this feeling hits directly from the main menu, where you noticed there is no multiplayer component or the long-awaited skirmish option. It is hard to predict when this option will finally be made available, and if you are looking for online action, you must take a step back to the original.
Thus it seems that capitalism has finally conquered Russia, considering this expansion offers only single-player missions for a price that some may consider a little steep. Surely the strategists among you will be pleased with the new content, but those who expected more from this expansion have every reason to be unsatisfied.