Company of Heroes is an RTS game developed by Relic (of Homeworld 1 and 2 fame) based around the Second World War. You command either Allied Forces (US in standard game, UK in Opposing Fronts) or German forces (Wehrmacht in standard game, Panzer Elite in Opposing Fronts) which sees large armies of combined forces clash on deformable and destructible battlefields, set in various parts of Northern France, Belgium and the Rhine.
Company of Heroes follows a US Battalion as it makes its way from capturing Omaha Beach, Normandy, and onto the towns and cities, along with narrow hedgerows and dangerous fields of Northern France. As the missions progress, you get more units at your disposal, and those that survive become battle hardened and more deadly (at least until they meet an MG42 head on) as they go about killing their enemies. There is also a prologue mission that sees you playing as Airborne troops during the hours before D-Day, which is fun. Truth be told, I did not play much of the campaign, and have not experienced the campaign of the expansion packs, as the skirmish mode was more of my interest. But from what I have experienced, I can say the story is good, the game gives you chances, but screw up and you get penalised in later missions.
This game sounds INCREDIBLE. And I do not say that lightly. The gun sounds, they might as well have been recorded from the war itself, you KNOW when an MG-42 is firing, and when the retort of an M1 Garand or Thompson Sub Machine Gun is firing back at them, and the “Oh sh*t” moment of a mortar round incoming on your troops… it is all incredibly rich, realistic, and enables you to lose yourself in it all. Every sound from the tracked movement of a tank, to the explosions of Howitzer shells, it is all fantastic.
Another area where this game shines, particularly since it is an RTS. It came out several years ago, and back then, it was almost on par with many shooters, boasting a fully deformable environment, destructible buildings and with cover changing as the battlefield changes. The models of the soldiers and vehicles were fantastic, as were the static weapon emplacements. On highest graphics, this game shines way above even new RTS games, Relic knows what they are doing, and how to get the most out of any game they make. Along with the sound, the graphics give this game an incredible edge over most other strategy games, particle effects are amazing, explosions are gloriously detailed and buildings blow apart in the areas they are hit, fragments becoming their own physical objects that can be shoved around by vehicles or used as cover by troops.
Having not played much of multiplayer, I cannot give this a reasonable judgement. However, from what I have seen of it, the multiplayer is a solid experience, worthy of a high score. Unfortunately, with the GameSpy servers going down, until a workaround is developed, this has to be given an N/A
Even the old THQ account servers are down, so you cannot track progress. I am not sure about the Steam re-release, as I have not played much CoH on it, and have not thought to click it.
Whack the AI onto hardest difficulty, see what happens
Seriously though, even on lower difficulties, the AI is pretty good. It learns from your tactics, and it has all the tactical knowledge real life commanders would have had back in those dark days of WW2. Your allied AI will respond to what you are doing also.
The game is a pretty good challenge… if you want it to be…
Righto… the bit where I get even more loving of this game. Where do I start? The game is incredibly well balanced, no unit has an absolute advantage, the cost of each unit to the strength of them is well tuned, there is a real sense of rock-paper-scissors style gameplay… a unit of troops may be able to kill your rocket squad, which could kill a tank, but tanks can beat troops. Conversely, those rocket troops might be good if they can hide and flank a tank, but they will be instantly negated if they themselves round a corner into an MG nest. Overall, the gameplay is rock solid, with only a minor issue of your own vehicles running through sandbags and barbed wire that you have built with your own resources. Apart from that, I cannot really fault the game much. It is as near to a perfect RTS as you can get.
With multiple modes, 2 expansions, a shed load of customisation, several campaigns, and many different mods, ranging from the typical rebalancing mods, to full conversions such as Modern Warfare which turns the game into a modern fast paced RTS with Bradley’s and Stryker’s racing around, with the US and China facing off, adding several new maps (some inspired by other games) and bringing a fresh feel, and high quality models that could have come from the original developers themselves.
This is a well thought out and designed game, and a shining example of what happens when a developer gets pretty much everything right on an RTS. But then given Relic’s history with RTS genre games, it comes as no surprise really. Ultimately, this game is one of the best strategy games ever developed, its engine, graphics, sound, gameplay, AI, and all other features combined seamlessly into one great big Godwin’s law invoking WW2 action fest.
If you like RTS games, or like WW2, BUY IT.
Replay Value: 9.5/10
Review by Steve
Damn you Godwin’s law!