Faces of War Review

Faces of War sends strategy gamers back to World War II to try their hand at commanding American, Russian, or German forces through a series of battles. So far it sounds like a hundred similar such games that have come before it, right? Not exactly. Rather than putting you in charge of all of the forces on your side, Faces of War puts you in command of a squad of soldiers. You can even take direct control of an individual soldier if you want. This gives you a good deal of tactical control over the action on your corner of the battlefield. For example, do you try to flank a machine gun nest to lob a grenade over the sandbags or do you move a sniper to some high ground and pick off the gunner? So does this twist on the traditional World War II RTS model make for a compelling and exciting game? Not exactlyÖ

To its credit Faces of War features some very detailed maps and fills them with hordes of enemies. The maps are veritable killing fields and will chew your men up if youíre not careful. The action can be pretty intense at times, especially when youíre facing large scale attacks from multiple directions. The bedlam is actually a lot more controlled than it appears to be, though. The maps are designed to carefully force you from one staged encounter to the next, making Faces of War more of an action game than a strategy game. Part of the enjoyment of RTS games is the freedom they give you in choosing your approach to each battle, but in Faces of War it all feels too constrained and forced. In Faces of War it wonít even be always clear as to what youíre supposed to be doing as the levels can feel more like one wave of enemies after another that just eventually ends on its own than a mission with clearly-defined objectives. Not that you canít have fun being led by the nose around the map, but you should be aware of what youíre getting yourself into.

Faces of Warís big selling point is that it lets you take control of individual soldiers. Unfortunately this aspect of the game doesnít work very well. First of all you can only take control of one of your squad members and not any of the majority of soldiers under the computerís full control. This is not as much of a problem as the gameís poor control scheme though. The key layout itself is awkward even before you take over a soldier Ė you need to hit the End key and then use the arrow keys to move. What kind of diabolical game designer would make you use the keys on the right side of the keyboard in a mouse-driven game? Even after you get the keyboard adjusted and your hands in an awkward position things donít really improve. The arrow keys move the soldier in relation to his facing and not the map rotation, which can lead to a lot of confusion if you do not have the camera at the right angle. Speaking of the camera, the game refuses to cut away trees, buildings, and other obstacles as you move, so youíre constantly losing your soldier in groves of trees or behind buildings. And on top of all that the keys just arenít that responsive. Sometimes it takes a couple of presses to get your soldier to move or to target an enemy. Itís all enough of a mess that you really wonít want to take control of an individual soldier.

When youíre commanding the entire squad youíre faced with a new set of issues. Pathfinding is problematic as your troops will often come to a complete stop when encountering an obstruction and have trouble figuring out how to make their way past buildings or rubble. Youíll have to guide them with baby steps to get them anywhere. They also have trouble with some basic things like staying crouched while moving or shooting, remaining close to cover while firing at the enemy, and resisting the urge to run right up to an enemy position before finally opening fire. Itís not just your troops insistence on standing up every time they are shot at thatís irritating Ė itís that they constantly forget your orders before fully carrying them out and need to be reminded what they are supposed to be doing over and over again.

Faces of War certainly has its moments. Holding your ground against a wave of angry Germans attacking you with everything from King Tigers to kitchen sinks can get your adrenaline pumping. Itís just too bad that the joys of the game are short-lived due to the frustrating controls and AI.

In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 60%.  Faces of War has its moments Ö some good ones and plenty of frustrating ones.


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