The Men of War real-time strategy franchise has been around for 15 years and has mostly found success when set in World War II. Although the series did branch out to the Vietnam war back in 2011, it returned to its roots and continued to establish itself as a profoundly strategic (and realistic) WWII experience. Men of War: Assault Squad 2 - Cold War, builds upon years of experience, bringing with it "what if" sceneries/engagements between the United States (NATO) and the Soviet Union (Warsaw Pact).
History teaches us that the Cold War didn't feature any large-scale engagements directly between the two superpowers, and instead regional conflicts were fought, known as proxy wars. These "wars" include the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Space Race, the Vietnam War, and many others over approximately 45 years. There is no indicated timeline in the game, and if you happen to be a bit of a history buff, you'll notice various weapons across different eras. The M1 Garand, a semi-automatic U.S. rifle was mostly phased out after the Korean Conflict (minimal usage in Vietnam) but is still the primary weapon of the U.S. Infantry units. You'll also notice squad leaders holding M16 rifles, which didn't replace the M14 until roughly 1969. Considering there is no exact time frame given for the game, you an expect things to fit within the four decades of technology used by both factions. With that said, one of the three U.S.starting tanks is modeled after the M4A4, which was not used by the U.S. overseas, ever. The first patch for the game, renamed it to the M4A3, which is the correct variant of the period that did see heavy usage, although the model remains incorrect.
The game's main menu is sorely lacking necessary information about the game, leaving a poor first impression for newcomers. In fact, there isn't any type of tutorial or training, with the bare minimum amount of details tucked away in the "extras" section of the menu. For a game emphasizing having a dynamic campaign, it chooses to have game lobby chat and party system taking up most of the main screen. The campaign, if you can call it that, doesn't feature any narrative, instead, letting you choose your side, difficulty, the number of resources, and duration. Each battle takes place over the course of a day. The outcome is reflected in the progression map, as both factions compete tug-of-war style for complete domination. Regardless of the difficulty, and length of the campaign, your side is always up against the ropes. There are only five maps currently in the game that are shared across all of the game modes. However, the maps themselves are unique in terms of the terrain/locale and the number of structures scattered throughout. When playing the campaign, you are only given a small, linear strip and a couple of command points to capture. The AI is relentless, with seemingly a never-ending supply of reinforcements that appear in waves. The only way to compete in the campaign is by rushing the objectives instantly. As you maintain control over a control point, you'll gain points, with the first side getting to 100 points, wins.
The key to victory in the campaign takes place beforehand, as you must recruit and manage your units, based on the given resource restrictions put in place. Each type of reinforcement costs a specific amount of currency and population. Recruited units can be set in each unlocked stage, with each one (which costs AP to deploy) having a higher maximum population limit. You use units by selecting a stage, giving you all of the groups you placed in the respectful stage. You may opt to have a large group of infantry in one, and tanks/vehicles in another, but since the AI is continuously pumping out units, its best to have a mixture that can handle both infantry and vehicles. Unlike the AI, you must rely on the slow drip of AP to deploy more units. Most likely, you'll lose the first few (or more) battles, and slowly you'll get a better understanding of each squad type and how they operate on the battlefield. More advanced types of reinforcements become unlocked the longer the campaign lasts, given you access to flamethrowers, snipers, and even helicopters.
Online or local skirmishes against other players of AI-controlled enemies features a second game type called annihilation, focusing on resource management and total destruction of your opponent's forward operating base (FOB). Skirmishes, both online and offline, supports up to eight players (4v4) in the larger game mode, and only four players (2v2) in the smaller annihilation game mode. Besides selecting groups of units, you can choose each one individually, giving them their own set of orders. The game employs excellent use of cover, allowing you to stick single soldiers or entire squads along walls, barricades, and even hiding behind tanks. Taking it a step further, the series is known for letting players take full control over a unit, using the keyboard for direct movement and mouse for shooting. Unlike the recent spin-off title Call to Arms, which added a first-person view, you are stuck with the standard RTS third-person camera. While it works, I found it very awkward to use correctly, mostly due to how the camera doesn't follow the unit you are controlling directly.
Men of War: Assault Squad 2 - Cold War feels like a regression instead of an evolution for the franchise. Instead, it sloppy reuses elements from different games and mashing them together without fixing the parts that remained broken. Outside of pumping out sheer numbers against you, the AI isn't overly smart, making a beeline towards objectives regardless of where your units are positioned. The game will support Steam Workshop in the future. Hopefully, the community embraces the game as it severely lacks content at the moment.Note: Men of War: Assault Squad 2 - Cold War was reviewed on PC. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.