To get back on topic though with Penals, I have always been against Penals being a main part of the Soviet unit as it doesn't make much sense thematically. I would swap Penals and Guards, even if they are functionally the same with same stats and what not just for the thematic point of view it would make make way more sense for Penals to be doctrinal. One of the biggest immersion breakers in COH2 for sure is having an army entirely of "criminals" instead of honorable soldiers.
Imagine if Relic took Grenadiers and swapped them out with Ostruppen. It would be equally as stupid having doctrinal Grenadiers.
One thing that Soviets do need for its Infantry is to smooth out the veterancy. Like they are complete shit and then once Vet 3 hits they get all the godly buffs for example conscripts gain roughly 30% -received accuracy at vet 3. Instead of such a large improvement it should be split across each vet level. So in this example 10% for each veterancy level to smooth it out. They would end up being the same vet 3 as they were before but you wouldn't see such dramatic shifts in performance due to losing a squad making wipes less punishing. Wipes on Soviet units especially Penals are extremely brutal due to lack of upgrades to carry them.
Like for Grenadiers or Obersoldaten for example, you wipe a squad which sucks but its not as big a deal due to most of the power of these units coming from Mg-34/Mg-42. They can still kick ass without Vet.
Soviet units without Vet suck complete balls due to all of their power being in Vet 3.
With the Veterancy smoothed out Penals would be in a much better spot.
I disagree with the notion of Penals not being "honorable", from what I have gathered there were two types of "Penal" units; well-armed and professional NCOs that are given a second chance to serve and earn their freedom through blood, and "tramplers"-poorly armed and trained infantry meant to clear minefields and other suicidal duties.
Penals in COH2 seem to be the former since they are better armed and professional soldiers, willing to lay down their lives so that their debts to the USSR are paid back in blood.That seems honorable to me.
Regarding veterancy, the most important veterancy bonuses for Grens/Obers arrive at Vet2 instead of them being spread out you get a flat 40% accuracy bonus that completely turn most engagements on their head.This is partially why SOV struggles midgame due to no weapon upgrades available at that time (except DP28 for guards).
Either the effect of To The Last Man should be strengthened by 2% for each bonus, or Penals should receive better moving accuracy with vet, seeing as how they aren't winning long range vs axis inf