Faces of War ReviewCain Dornan
There's no doubt about it: attempting to change or revolutionise a genre that has been in existance seemingly since the birth of PC gaming is no easy task. The real-time strategy genre has long been a popular choice for PC gamers over the decades, with the creation of such games as the classic Command & Conquer series quickly growing the popularity and attention that the genre receives. We've seen plenty of games hitting stores over the years, however, a growing problem is continuing to become all the more evident: lack of innovation and new features. Many new releases have become little more than clones of games released years beforehand, and while there has been the occasional notable title, these haven't managed to push the genre forward far enough.
Faces of War unfortunately fails to be one of the few new titles that offers something notably new to gamers. Much of the gameplay here has been done before, and while it does offer some nice gameplay touches, none of these are notable enough to change an otherwise aged and problematic experience.
Faces of War offers you the chance to play as the German, Russion or Allied forces, with missions appropriately varying depending on the team that you choose. The missions are presented in a point of view of a particular soldier, with several missions being assigned to different soldiers within each force. The game is largely set duing the final stages of World War II, after such attacks as D-Day and the Stalingrad battle. There's a nice mixture of missions here, incorporating a range of activities that see you involved in everything from fierce charges into gunfire to break enemy lines, becoming holed-up in trenches as enemy forces swarm your position, clearing out bombed buildings of camping enemies to make way for your artillery and so on.
There's some fairly unique ideas in place here, too, such as one particular mission that saw us seizing a stationary locomotive and then using it to cause destruction by ramming it into the enemy's fuel supplies, effectively destroying their entire fuel storage and removing any nearby hostile. However, doing so required more than simply jumping on a train and then driving it to a location, as you had to make full use of multi-tasking with your team by assigning soldiers to cover your back from invading forces while another drives the train and another switching the tracks so that you can reach the right destination.
Most of the missions are fairly lengthy, requiring at least 20 minutes of gameplay time to complete. To add to the mix, the majority of these missions are fairly challenging, too, partially due to the lack of supplies and forces for your team. The developers often expect you to whipe out an entire city full of bunkerd and well-equipped hostiles with only a small force - usually consisting of four soldiers - which is nothing short of difficult, even on the supposedly easy difficulty. As the genre title suggest, you'll need to make full use of strategy to overcome the hostiles, however, far too often you'll be forced into doing trial-and-error to determine the best path and actions to take. This results in the need to re-attempt most missions countless times, which can become quite frustrating.
There isn't a large number of different units that you'll take control of when compared to other games in the same genre. There's a few different soldier divisions, including snipers, rifleman, machine gunners, flamethrowers and explosives. There's also the ability to control tanks, armoured vehicles and jeeps. The main forces have been covered, offering a limited level of variety between missions.
But while there is some variation in the missions and the forces that you command, there isn't anything notably new or exciting on offer here. Sure, the intense overpowering battles can be a joy to play, and the saisfying building deformation and destrution engine that sees buildings and other objects being affected by explosions and bullets adds to the game's amosphere, the execution of the unclear game layout and execution sees a fairly deep learning curve to fully grasp what exactly is going on. While you are pitted through a fairly brief hands-on tutorial upon beginning a new game, it then throws you into the game without really informing you of how to actually play. You're taught to shoot, give basic movement orders and search boxes for new items, but it then throws you into a mission with little other explanation.
This is particularly the problem for the allied campaign, where the first mission requires you to protect an engineer as he investigates a Nazi satellite and power station. While you are told to attack and defend, which is simple enough to do, it gives no indication that you need to actual take control of the engineer and guide him through his tasks once you reach the power station. Considering that the engineer is controlled through AI to complete the satellite-related part of the mission, there's little reason to suddenly expect that you need to control the engineer through his tasks yourself. There are further examples such as this in several other missions, however, these are not quite as obscure as this one.
Another problem is the game's AI for the units that you controlled. Initially planned to offer some individual intelligence for your units so that they make smart decisions while you are not in direct control, such as taking cover when under fire, the system often interfers with the commands that you give. Far too often you'll find yourself battling with your own soldiers to get them to move to a position or attack an enemy as per your command, only to find that the unit has decided to instead stand in the open and fight, hide behind an object and refuse to move or become stuck in some difficult terrain and refuse to move.
Faces of War's visuals are fairly standard for the genre, offering some solid unit, object and environmental detail that looks pleasing at most times. The added full destructibility of objects and buildings is a nice touch, adding further immersive realism into the experience as buildings begin to tumble around you during fierce firefights. Animation is solid, albeit simple. Decent sound effects, coupled with a classic military-styled soundtrack, rounds up the game's audio offering.
On its surface, Faces of War has the potential be a an enjoyable and worthwhile real-time strategy. While it doesn't introduce any significantly new or unique gameplay ideas, the core gameplay offers some classic RTS action. Unfortunately, the game also suffers from countless problems that hinders the experience available. Obscure and frustratingly difficult missions combine with an annoying AI system to provide a game that could have been so much more if the developers shiften their attention to solving these problems. If you can look past these problems, theres fun to be had in Faces of War. Just don't forget that there are plenty of other better war-based RTS games available.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.