Gates of Hell: Ostfront is the next game in the Men of War -series, and this time it’s made by Barbedwire Studios out of… everywhere? Apparently, they are an international bunch of devs. Anyway, I have been playing this for the last couple of days, both in single-player and multiplayer – only coop in multi, though. Well, so far at least. And what can I say? It’s Men of War, alright, it’s basically the exact same game, but made prettier with a few engine/AI improvements here and there.
So the question remains, is it worth it? For the same old, I mean. It’s hard to say, the game is filled with different modes to play, but the franchise is starting to feel a bit old and stale. There is nothing really new here. The single-player campaign (which can be played in coop) is constructed the same way as always – you are given a handful of units to either defend, or assault an area, and sometimes (but don’t count on it) you get some reinforcements to call in. It’s also all very linear.
There are a ton of stealth missions in the campaign, which puts you against horrible odds in manpower alone, and those missions are just a major pain. For some reason, this has become a staple of Men of War games, and they were never fun, to begin with. Sure, it can be cool to set up a cool ambush from time to time, scavenging weapons, and such, but more often than not, you accidentally sneak into the range of a mortar, and suddenly you are down four crucial men. Which means you will have to hit the reload button. The campaigns are relatively short as well, with only six missions per nation. The same goes for the Finns, which were added in a DLC.
The classic skirmish missions are also in, which got popularized by Assault Squad. They work almost exactly as they did in that title with the main difference being that it’s not the focus of this game, so we only get a few. One to three skirmish maps for each nation.
A big addition, or well, at least I thought it would be, was the inclusion of the dynamic campaign. Where you get to plan when and how to attack, unlock units through research, have persistent units, etc. While these things are actually in, this mode is very flawed. There is nothing special to it, you start almost crippled, and slowly have to build your research and forces through a semi-linear conquest of the map. The enemy is always one or two tiers above you in manpower and tech, but that can be overcome – if it wasn’t for being so boring to play. You see, there are only two kinds of mission maps, either you attack, or the enemy does. And when the enemy attacks, he sends the whole Mongolian horde. It gets a bit tedious having to defend for hours on end, just to capture a tiny sector with a minuscule reward. Man, it makes us wish we could get this engine combined with something grander – like Hearts of Iron.
Another mode I tried out was domination against the computer. This mode isn’t too bad, you get a sector to defend, and so does the AI with the ultimate goal to take over these areas. It plays out like an escalating skirmish, which can be fun, the only problem is that the AI is suicidal and doesn’t mass or care about his units. So, if you get a good defensive setup, you will mostly be picking off lonesome tanks and squads of infantry until the AI runs out of points, which is not very challenging.
All this sounds like a major disappointment, but somehow it’s still enjoyable – but it comes with a big but – it’s only fun in multiplayer, in coop specifically. Trying to play this single-player is not doing it for me, and as the saying goes – everything is more fun with someone, so it even goes for the stealth missions. As it is, though, playing alone feels like suffering. Not sure if I have ever felt this divided by a game before when it comes to this aspect. Usually, when a game is fun, it’s fun regardless, but man, playing this game with someone enhances the experience with at least three hundred percent while playing solo just frustrates and bores me to tears. It’s weird.
It would be hard for me to recommend this game, considering my impressions, but if you can find someone to suffer through it with, I guess it can be fun. Just make sure to play with someone that doesn’t take it too seriously, because otherwise, that single-player frustration will manifest itself during coop too.
Thanks for reading.