I don’t think I need to go into the back-story of CoH (Company of Heroes) too much as It’s based solely around World War II. If you don’t know about WWII then your head must have been under a rock your entire life. If that is the case then you may struggle to play the game with a squashed head 😀 .
In Company of Heroes, you will be playing as the commander of the US Able Company, and you will lead your troops to full victory starting at the D-Day Invasion of Normandy. You’ll have full battlefield control and a selection of infantry, tanks and special abilities. After you finish with your “world saving” duties, you’ll be able to fight with your friends and other people online.
I can’t possibly score the story badly with it staying pretty close to the realism of the time.
I’ve played many, many games in my life and I have to admit that Company of Heroes has some of the best sounds I have ever heard. Even my Subwoofer had to work — unlike in many other games. High quality sound with full 5.1 surround sound support definitely helps with your immersion into the game. Commentary, battlefield sounds, explosions and everything else sounds great. Just make sure you have a proper sound card, and a decent surround speaker set.
I think that CoH’s sound quality is some of the best made to date. The music and environment sounds effects were superb as well, but most of the time I’m so focused on playing the game I don’t notice the background music that much. Relic did a splendid job on the sound as everything simply sounded real. Unlike many games, CoH has real subwoofer channel support that when I have the volume turned up, has almost knocked me on my ass when an explosion goes off.
I’m sure I’ve said in other reviews that sound is the best route for aiding immersion, but in Company of Heroes that is most definitely true.
Company of Heroes uses Microsoft’s DirectX 9 and includes a very advanced graphical engine. Relic has created an engine they call “Essence Engine” which provides the game with a high quality graphics system. I was really impressed with the graphics engine when the game first released. Usually, developers don’t spend a lot of resources and time on graphics when it comes to RTS games. However, Relic did work very hard on the graphics and made some fantastic graphics and textures. The graphics/engine are obviously getting a little older now, but I reckon it still holds up to most other RTS games that are out right now.
Due to the high quality graphics with the top settings in the game, you’ll need a decent graphics card if you want to experience them. CoH supports resolutions up to 2048×1536, including wide screen resolutions. They also included a nice performance-benchmarking feature inside the graphics menu to help you find the best config for your system. As I said, CoH’s graphical engine is advanced and uses rich models, textures, lighting, reflections, shadows and details. The Havok engine powers the physics in the game and it offers some really good effects. When it comes to graphics, CoH is one of the best and comes equipped with a lot of firepower for the fighter in you.
This next bit is long winded so be ready!
When loading Company of Heroes, you are given the option of playing through the games tutorial. CoH’s Tutorial is pretty good. It teaches you how to play the game in a few stages and missions. The user interface is easy to learn and to use. CoH has a unique battlefield view rotation system that allows you to view the game in every possible angle, but the default view is definitely the most comfortable as it allows you the best control over all your units (infantry, tanks etc). Like most other RTS games, you can assign groups by numeric macros as well.
In almost every RTS game you need resources. In CoH, the resources are manpower, munitions, and fuel. The collecting process is very straightforward as the resources are assigned to territories, and you have to capture these territories in order to obtain resources and complete objectives. The whole battlefield is marked by a varying number of territories, and you can capture them by sending your troops to the territory flags. You can’t capture and use some resource territories if they are not linked to another territory under your control. When a territory with resources is captured, it will give you that specific resource creation rate. You can improve the resource rate by building an observation post in that territory.
Your basic unit is the engineer squad. With the engineers you can construct buildings, wires, make repairs — all these kinds of duties. Like other RTS games, you need barrack type buildings to create infantry troops such as: basic soldiers, engineers, snipers, anti-tank squads, mortar squads and heavy MG squads. You can also build factories for tanks, armoured vehicles and other motorized units.
In Company of Heroes, you need to fight against the enemy on many fronts — all at the same time, which is not an easy task. This really makes the battlefield feel pretty realistic. One of the main features of the game is the ability to choose an army division/doctrine type. Depending on the side you’re playing these can boost your armour/infantry/artillery units and increase your map coverage in turn. All of these abilities are unlocked by gaining experience via fighting/building etc.
CoH has a lot of other features as well: your troops can throw grenades by your command; some units can be upgraded; and almost all abilities require resources just like on a real battlefield. The more resources you have, the more tools and firepower you can use. The fighting scenes may take a while because you need to attack from the right direction, with the right units to take down your enemy. If you just spam the enemy with soldiers you are doomed to failure (Especially if you are Sannas and his airborne 🙂 ).
CoH also has a population cap which forces you to think carefully about what to build before you build it. Almost everything on a battlefield is possible. You can deploy mines, build sandbags to improve your cover, crush trees with tanks, and pretty much everything else you can think of (Except an army of robots that is…) just like in a real war.
The AI in game is great at giving the player a proper challenge when fighting. They’ll attack your weak spots and retreat if they have to. All in all CoH’s gameplay is straight forward enough for a new player to handle, but sufficiently complicated enough that veteran players don’t get bored.
The singleplayer campaign can really only be seen as preparation for the real challenge of CoH, Multiplayer. In CoH’s multiplayer you can play against up to 7 others, AI or other people. Skirmish mode is used to practice and gain experience while playing against AI opponents, which goes a small way to preparing you for play against real players.
There are 2 multiplayer mode that you can try. There’s Elimination which is basically total destruction of your enemy and their buildings. The second is Conquest which involves capturing key map points and holding them until your enemies tickets have reached zero. When the game originally released, skirmish mode was the only way to learn about the German army’s units and abilities. Since then, Relic has added some German campaigns which can now be used to learn in a more friendly setting.
The multiplayer is one of the most enjoyable I’ve ever played. It’s very well developed, entertaining and easily accessible by even the most noobish (technical term…) players. The only annoying thing about the multiplayer is Relics almost constant changes/unit balancing which does sometimes force people to relearn the use of certain units. Like any other game, it’s good and bad when they do this. Sometimes it benefits and other times it doesn’t. This is still not enough to change my overall opinion of the multiplayer, so it still gets a good mark from me.
You can tell Relic really worked hard on the game and refined it to the best of their ability. Most other WWII RTS’ that are released turn out really bad and leave people feeling like their time’s been wasted. Relic have created a fantastic game that deserves all of the awards and positive feedback that they’ve received so far.
I’m not a fanboy of any kind, but I can only thank Relic and THQ for giving us this game and hope that any sequel that they happen release doesn’t ruin its memory.
(Reading that last sentence back, it seems like a might actually be a little bit of a fanboy… who knew… 🙂