If you’ve played Company of Heroes, then you have already (in an indirect fashion) experienced much of what makes Faces of War a great game to play. In fact, the predecessor to Faces of War – a game known as Soldiers: Heroes of World War II – seems to have been the muse and inspiration of many of the elements that made Company of Heroes such a runaway success. Faces of War is the RTS and RTT follow-up to Soldiers, and it is a game of many weaknesses to go along with its innovations and strengths. The review below takes a look at both sides of this brilliant coin.
Tradition would have it that RTS games invariably involve some sort of building-erection process for the purpose of resource harvesting. Faces of War has a different approach, with the objective of the RTS gameplay to lay waste to buildings rather than construct them. Each of the soldiers and vehicles in the game possess a full-blown inventory; you also have direct control over the manoeuvring and firing of each vehicle/soldier’s weapons via the keyboard and mouse. This sort of hands-on control is far from the norm in your average RTS, and makes each action you take a much more personal and thought-filled affair.
Also surprising in terms of gameplay elements is the juxtaposition of the realistic and the ridiculous. On the one hand, you’ve got superbly realistic bullet physics and ballistics behaviour and AI which rivals, if not exceeds the realism of fellow games like Brothers in Arms (a series that’s about to get a new iteration according to IGN). Tanks smash through walls with the expected devastating effect, explosions devastate anyone within close to medium proximity, and bullets act like one would imagine they would when considering the restrictions of terrain, range, and gravity that are at play here.
However, this isn’t the game for you if you’re looking for hyper-realistic war simulation. The fact that soldiers can carry ridiculous quantities of weapons and equipment will niggle away at anyone who’s a stickler for detail, as will other anomalies such as the sheer speed at which vehicles can be fixed and the fact that heavy artillery units afre able to fire accurately at troops mere meters away from them.
You’ll find around twenty epic campaigns in Faces of War. Not all of them are smash-hits unfortunately, with the more gruelling ones being far less enjoyably than those that would be considered the cream of the crop. The less enjoyable missions are this way because they can become long and drawn out, with almost a sense of relief being felt upon their completion.
The best missions, however, make enduring the worse ones worthwhile. You’ll encounter some heavily orchestrated, even rigidly-planned battle situations along the way, but organic scenarios also present themselves. Some of the most enjoyable missions include a perfect mix of down-time where you can reload, rest, and scope out the area whilst not being under fire, allowing you to regroup and be ready for the next charge. Note that the pathfinding element of the gameplay can be somewhat unpredictable at times, but when you’re orchestrating a charge whilst under fire from snipers and realise just how fun it can be to roll up to your enemies with tanks and covering fire, you can forgive the little niggles here and there.
Graphics and Audio
Here’s another example of Best Way’s seemingly conflicting results in Faces of War. The graphics are something to behold: environments are interesting, full of tactical potential, and everything looks smooth and realistic. However, the camera angles (particularly when you’re rolling with tanks) are questionable and oftentimes awkward.
The audio is also crisp when it comes to sound effects, but the poor English translations often leave you feeling you’re playing a comedy-war-RTS hybrid rather than a serious, all-out recreation of the terrible and deadly conditions faced by those fighting in World War II. The timing of the audio is also spot-on when it comes to explosions and gunfire, but these contrast with moments where audio cues are missed, resulting in surprise grenade appearances and delayed response to enemy presence.
A Solid Effort
Faces of War is a commendable title. It’s a solid RTS and RTT game with some unique approaches to the genre; its gameplay is hands-on, unlike many of the ten-a-penny RTS WWII games in existence. However, clunky camera angles, missed audio cues, and the all-too-often rigid feel of your path through each mission as well as limitations on troop movement can leave you feeling a bit short-changed at times, particularly when compared to modern titles like Men of War: Assault Squad 2. However, Faces of War is still a great title with a few niggly flaws, a majority of which are forgivable due to the quality of the game overall.