Let’s get one thing straight right at the beginning. Assault Squad 2 is NOT Men Of War 2 and you should not expect it to be. The developers have made it clear that this game does more of the same, with some additions and improvements added to the formula. That being said, it’s easy to see why this type of gameplay was deemed worthy of an update.
As is the tradition of the franchise, Assault Squad 2 plunges you into a vast variety of interesting missions, ranging from pure armored assaults all the way to causing slow, deliberate chaos with the aid of a lone sniper unit. It’s really the same thing that fascinated me about the original Assault Squad – it covers just about every possible combat scenario and gives you a chance to play it out as you see fit. It’s easy to compare the game with an actual sandbox and a bunch of toy soldiers left for you to play with them. And with this game, we’re able to do all of these things again, with the only difference being the tech used to bring it to life.
Suffice to say, I was overjoyed to see one of my favourite strategy games getting a substantial face-lifting. The very first mission had me defending a checkpoint from Nazi forces, only to mount an all-out assault mere minutes later. After the adrenaline-fueled blitz tactic failed miserably, I decided to use only a couple of squads, each supplemented with an armoured vehicle. Using the most robust unit in conjunction with rough terrain, I managed to outflank the enemy chokepoint and take it over. It could have played out entirely different, too. Perhaps next time I’ll go for a pure tank rush, while taking direct control over the Tiger one of my squads will steal from the enemies. It’s this unscripted madness that makes Assault Squad 2 as brilliant as it is, as far as combat goes. And in case you’ve got a pal playing the game too, you can engage in cooperative operations that are really as great as the idea might sound, as far as both players know what they’re doing. If you’re more into the whole competitive gaming side, the game’s multiplayer component supports up to 16 player versus mode.
Assault Squad 2 is a game of micromanagement on a massive scale, as weird as that might sound. Every single unit, from a mere grunt to the biggest tank, has limited ammunition. Resupplying it is a real nightmare, because you’ll have to click every single unit and drag ammo to their inventory for them to be able to use it. Oh, why, yes. Everything in this game has inventory for you to keep track of. On a smaller scale, this is an awesome addition that gives a human element to a game of numbers, but when thirty soldiers run dry at the same time, be ready for a maniacally boring click-fest. Okay, it’s not that mind numbing, but compared to the usual dynamic of this game, it’s really sluggish. I feel that a one-click-fix-it-all solution is required here.
Disregarding that, everything about the way game plays out fits in rather nicely into the whole package. Soldiers are usually quick to react and can easily take care of themselves, when facing a force they can realistically take on. Usually. There’s an abnudance of tools to use, too. And don’t forget that every soldier can pick up and use any equipment he may find on the battlefield. Once you get the hang of all the gameplay systems you will learn to appreciate the spectre of available actions that the game allows. As the veterans of the series will know, every available unit can also be controlled directly, using WASD and mouse. I don’t need to tell you how awesome it is to attack the enemy from the back with a lone flamethrower-wielding soldier. The damage model is also fairly realistic, with high calibre shots passing right through the infantry, damaging even the soldiers who aren’t in the front lines. The same goes for light tanks, which are often pierced by high-powered shells, allowing the shell to deal damage to whatever might be behind the vehicle. I don’t believe I’ve heard about any other modern RTS that does that. And even if there is one, it would be hard pressed to match the attention to detail Assault Squad 2 was given.
That’s not to say the game doesn’t have any technical problems, though. The most prominent has to be the one when units simply stop targeting their enemies, bringing the dim-witted side to an early end. This can be dealt with by manually issuing the target order again, but doing so is not an easy task when you’re dealing with a couple of dozens of soldiers spread across the battlefield. Aside from this and a couple of visual backfires mostly concerning the shading tech the game uses, there are also some less important problems that will surely be dealt with in the upcoming updates.
Regarding the graphical side of things, there has been a massive upgrade over the original game. Tanks eject shells after firing, soldiers reload their rifles and blood particles spread as action plays out in the field. The unit animations are fairly realistic, too. It’s also very nice to see cloth (flags, etc.) waving in the wind and houses tumbling as shells tear through them. The battlefield feels real, and it makes for a fun play through every single time. The only downside I could find is that the terrain textures could be of higher resolution.
In the end, Assault Squad 2 is one of those games every fan of the genre simply has to try out. There are bugs, design issues and things that simply could have been done better, but the game is amazingly fun. As far as I’m concerned, it blows CoH 2 out of the water. We’ve got Steam Workshop integration, free content updates in the pipeline, and a brilliant multiplayer experience. So what are you waiting for?