Before you start thinking, “Not another World War II game…” let me tell you this isn’t just another WWII game, this is “THE” WWII game.
Company of Heroes is an amazingly fun RTS game that doesn’t sacrifice depth for entertainment. It’s fast-paced, rivaling some action adventure games. It gets more difficult as you go but the learning curve is gradual. It’s learning the controls, mostly the keyboard commands and shortcuts that will take some time. This is necessary to play your best in the Multi-player and Skirmish modes. The single-player campaign mode is a great training ground but it’s not intended to be a tutorial. It’s a full-fledged, stand alone game that will test your strategic mettle in new ways.
There are many things to appreciate in Company of Heroes but the main thing that impressed me was that there are virtually no flaws in the game at all. The gameplay mechanics and production values are virtually perfect. But the most important aspect of the game is that it’s fun to play. Looking back, there definitely is a lot to learn but you don’t have to learn everything all at once. The process is cumulative, you don’t even realize that you’re learning all of these new moves, controls and commands because it’s only offered to you once you get used to using the old stuff. Many things are added on, in the form of upgrades. You’ll acquire more weapons, more troops, more tanks, more ammo and skills for your soldiers. Everything is well-paced and follows a realistic historical timeline.
In Company of Heroes you will play as various allied forces such as the Americans, Canadians and Polish in the European theater fighting against the Nazis. You will begin with the Invasion of Normandy and end with the Defeat of the 7th Army. You will follow the exploits of the Able Company and the Fox Company Paratroopers as they attempt to capture territory from the enemy through a variety of means and missions. There’s a lot more strategy involved in this process than in most RTS games. There are three resources that you will continually strive to capture. They include capturing points to increase the number of soldiers, collecting weapons and ammo, and increasing the fuel supply. You will need a blend of all three resources to outfit your army for optimum performance. At first you will have to settle for smaller amounts of resources but through continuous and careful cultivation you will be able to upgrade your entire army and all of its attributes including weapon systems, vehicles and population. This will allow you to eventually capture larger resources and eventually win the war.
Every captured point must be located in friendly territory. You may be bold and attempt to capture more resource-rich points behind enemy lines but you must secure a supply line to that point otherwise it will revert back to enemy control. To do this you have to capture the territory, which can be done through battles or the deployment of strategic initiative such as cutting off the enemy from their supply line causing them to retreat, leaving the territory for you to claim.
Your missions will include holding and securing roads, blocking chokepoints, capturing bases, cutting off the enemy’s supply chain and of course combat. The sheer diversity of the 14 missions is worth the price of admission alone. They are structured in such a way that you actually feel part of a larger war effort and not as an isolated group of Rambo clones. Cutscenes further define each mission and the overall goals. At the end of each mission you will see the effect that your mission had on the development of the war. These historic cutscenes will really draw you further into the game while at the same time educate you about the largest war the world has ever know.
Everything that you see in the game can be destroyed. You can level fences, walls, houses, buildings and other structures. Because of this, the map will continually change. This ever-changing environment will force you to adapt to your surroundings every few minutes or seconds as cover is taken away and a new sheltered area opens up in the distance. You have to be careful where and what you’re shooting at since you can easily destroy your best cover and leave yourself exposed to enemy fire. The enemy AI can be very aggressive when you leave a hole, but in general they behave like a real army, taking chances only when necessary or at the most opportune time. They aren’t superhuman or display any unfair advantages. For the most part the only way that you will lose is if you are the one making the mistakes. Each mission is long and there are many opportunities to make some errors but it’s always possible to regain your ground and turn the tide later in the mission if you make some good decisions and get your hands on a large resource payout.
The multi-player and Skirmish modes are not for the timid. These games force you into action. Much like huge blinds will eventually erode a conservative poker player’s chips, so too is Company of Heroes designed to thrust players into the heat of battle. The only way that you’re going to win a game is to get out and collect resources. You can’t just sit around and take pot shots at the enemy when you have them in your sights. Risks must be taken. Your opponent(s) will continue to grow in strength and size as resources are gathered. If you don’t keep up there is no way that you will be able to fend off their attacks when they become too powerful. This is a great way to keep things moving. There’s never a dull moment in any of the game’s modes.
Company of Heroes is a busy looking and sounding game. The environments are filled with details, down to the thousands of individual, and ultimately destructible, bricks that comprise a small apartment block. You will also see great vistas of the European mountains, hills, forests and farmlands where the actual battles took place. The character animation is realistic and the particle effects of the fire and explosions will send shivers. To add fuel to the fire, so to speak, the sound effects really reinforce the visuals. They are powerful and lifelike. You will hear a cacophony of effects spread throughout the stereo spectrum as bullets whiz by, grenades explode, tanks discharge and aircraft divebomb. It’s a virtual symphony of death and destruction.
Company of Heroes is a must-have for any RTS fan. I would even recommend that fans of shooters and action adventure genres check it out. A great game is a great game and you won’t necessarily think of it in terms of a RTS.
Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
|Rating out of 5
Fantastic looking game. The environments are so beautiful you feel bad destroying them – but you’ll soon get over it.
There are lots of commands and hotkey buttons to memorize but the process of acquiring new moves and commands is gradual.
| Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
It’s a veritable symphony of death and destruction.
| Play Value
The eight-player online modes might make this game last longer than the actual war.