Company of Heroes Introduction:
When I got told I would be doing my first review for DHG on Company of Heroes I was ecstatic. I get to write a review on one of the greatest RTS game’s available on PC. So I dove right in, fired up my copy on Steam and start blasting the Germans back to Berlin. I soon remembered why I had such fond memories of this game and hopefully after reading this review you’ll give it a shot and see that this game is truly a classic, must own title.
Company of Heroes Story:
Set during the latter years of World War 2′s Western Front, as the Normandy invasion begins, Company of Heroes take’s the player through the landings of Able Company on the beaches of Omaha and on to the liberation of German held towns. Whilst the story has been plucked right from the history book’s, its the attention to the story detail and horror of the war itself that Relic has brought to, what is a typical story for a World War 2 era game. They bring a sense of despair to those that are fighting, tying in the 12 Campaign missions with assorted cut-scenes and voice overs. Unfortunately though, the story is one-sided with it only covering the Americans and no attention giving to the Germans struggle to hold against the Ally War-machine. Majority of the story is tied around fact with very little fiction, which is generally kept to the cut-scenes, just to tie everything together.
Company of Heroes Sound:
Relic’s attention of detail carries over to the sound effects, with the cracking of gunfire bringing about excitement after the steady quiet of the battlefield at the start of a game. Then once Machine Gun teams and Mortar’s hit the fields, explosions are followed by a satisfyingly loud bang. Tank’s and Heavy Artillery unit’s really bring the noise though and anyone with a decent sound card and speaker set up is going to enjoy the thunderous and frantic sound of the battlefield around them. Cut-scenes and briefings carry high quality audio, with straight to the point dialogue. The use of ‘offensive’ language doesn’t shy away from the game and it doesn’t feel used simply for shock value but for the building of the troops and characters involved. Very little music actually appears in the game but it does suit the menu’s and background of the actual warfare on screen without ever intruding and ruining the atmosphere of the moment.
Company of Heroes Graphics:
Considering the game is 4 and half years old, it’s still visually stunning. From infantry teams detailed movement from cover to cover to the various hatches, cogs and machinery on armored vehicles. Scorched earth, freshly made craters from artillery fire and rubble scatter the various ruins of towns and grasslands. Smoke and fire effects billow from destroyed armored vehicles and buildings with fantastic realism. Various ‘debris’ such as telephone lines, burned out cars, sandbags and more can all be used by infantry and tanks as cover and are more then just eye candy. Nothing is truly cosmetic. The game can still put some strain on newer machines with multiplayer games of 8 or more players but a semi-decent computer from the last 3-4 years can easily handle the campaign, skirmishes and even a 2v2 multiplayer game on medium settings. The game also has a Benchmark utility which is still used by a lot of hardware test websites for grading performance of new Graphics cards and the like.
Company of Heroes Gameplay:
Front-line combat is the key to this game. Being able to push and lock-down positions is vital to your war-machine’s economy and as such can bring about a vital victory at key locations or a horrendous loss of units. Map’s are divided into sections with each controlled by a ‘flag’. Each section controls the building of defenses in that location as well as gives vital manpower, munitions and fuel towards your economy. You spend said resource’s on your units, buildings and upgrades as well as using unit’s ‘abilities’ which range from Grenades and Suppressive Fire to Panzerfausts and Sticky Bombs. With sectors also containing buildings that can hide snipers and infantry as well as bunkers, trenches and even choke points, they become the most important focus of the battle. The front line sectors must connect all the way back through to your headquarters for them to generate economy, should that line get broken by a sneaky unit behind your front lines, you could quickly see your economy halt. So defensive as well as offensive styles are needed to successfully hold a map.
Unit tactics are vital to survive and as such charging a infantry squad straight in to the front of an MG42 German Heavy Weapons Team quickly results in your infantry dropping prone, and being pinned down and needing a rescue before they are slaughtered under the hail of fire from the MG42. Flanking is a vital tactic in such situation’s and the map’s are designed with such a tactic in mind. Snipers can be used to pick off weapon teams, leaving the discarded weapon behind for your own troops to turn against the enemy. Mortars, Anti-Tank Cannons and even a MG42 can all be re-used over and over unless destroyed by explosives. Tank’s require careful usage to minimize the exposure of the rear armor which is far weaker then the front or side armors and easily penetrated by Anti Tank weapons which turns that lonely infantry squad into a formidable force in the narrow, maze like streets of a French town. Both side’s have options to lay mines to cripple infantry squads or disable enemy armor and the Americans can also rig bridges to delay an enemy force from using them or booby trap a building so that the sniper that later enters it, finds the building coming down upon his head. Weapons have a bigger range then their visual range and so scouting is a valuable tool, not only in finding enemy locations and weak spots but in allowing those units with a longer range to fire on targets it normally can’t see.
There are also Commander Abilities, special Doctrines that can be used to call in Artillery fire, special Tanks, units and grant bonuses to existing units. These abilities must be purchased by spending Command Points earned by killing units, building structures and defences and capturing map sectors. When used right, they can really turn the tide of a battle in to your favour.
Where the game really shines however is in its multiplayer. Using the Relic Online system player’s can track their stats such as wins, losses by army type, store and watch replays of past matches, and add and chat to friends. The game allows up to 8 player matches with a strict Allies v Axis structure. With 1v1, 2v2, 3v3 and finally 4v4 matches on offer, player’s have plenty of choices in the scale of the combat especially with the massive choice of maps available offering all types of gameplay. There is wide open farmlands and forests designed for armor conflicts or tight-knit, war torn french towns that offer infantry a chance to shine, with those in-between offering a good balance of both. Players take the roles of the Americans or the Wehrmacht (Germans) in the field and fight out over two game modes, Annihilation, which is the typical everything must die RTS mode, and Victory Points, which is another common RTS mode where up to 5 Victory Points are spread across the map and whoever can control the most points, forces a counter to tick down to zero. Whoever has the most points at the end of the game wins. Both armies are different enough to present different play styles and are balanced pretty well although I suspect Sannas may say otherwise Many times the various members of DHG have stayed up 4-5 hours playing a single match with a few memorable matches even lasting 9 hours with various tactics and strategies being deployed, offenses and counter-offenses falling against well thought out defenses. With a decent opponent an average match should last up to an hour or so but 30 minute matches can occur especially in the Ranked MP games where the game will match you against a so-called equally skilled opponent. At various time’s it won’t match you with an equal opponent, however it will match you against a 4 year veteran with 2 losses and 500+ wins to his name, yet that’s just the nature of automatic matchmaking. No game has ever got it just right but Relic give’s it a pretty good attempt and it does work the majority of the time.
For those that don’t like to play multiplayer but will still like to experience that style of gameplay then there’s the RTS staple, the Skirmish mode. Everything in multiplayer is available in Skirmish mode, only your opponents are Computer controlled and range from the down right Easy mode to the incredibly difficult Hard mode. Every map is there along with the supported amount of players, or in this case bots, in a match.
Now I’ve pretty much said this game is perfect in gameplay, but its not. No game is, and this game is not an exception. There can be some very dodgy path finding on tanks at times, such as ordering a tank to reverse causes it to turn around and drive away with its rear armor exposed to that enemy Panther’s main cannon rather shielded by the front armour. Infantry at times can be rather aggravating when stopping tanks from going through tight, choke-hold spots, causing your rapidly advancing armor column to crawl to a stop rather then move out the way. Having to micromanage certain infantry units and tanks to really maximize their potential at times can distract from the bigger conflict and ruin the experience especially if you’re distracted turning that MG42 ever so slightly to the left to just bring an enemy in to view as an American Ranger squad breaks your defensive line elsewhere and causes hell. Granted this could be due to bad placement but when the squad is just on the line of field of fire, you’d hope it would have the common sense to shoot that target.
Company of Heroes Content:
With 12 Campaign missions available and various ‘optional’ objectives to complete for medal rewards the campaign is engaging enough and is a perfect setup for launching players into the multiplayer. From your standard 1v1′s to the 4v4′s the multiplayer can keep you playing for weeks let alone hours. Then there is the skirmishes, the player vs computer matches, for those that just want to try out a new tactic, learn the game or map or just fancy a break from blowing up some poor player’s Barracks. There’s easily a 60+ hours of content if multiplayer is your thing otherwise 5-6 hours for the single player not including multiple play throughs for medals and harder difficulty settings. I do wish they had included a German perspective though.
Company of Heroes Overall:
A fantastic take on the World War 2 RTS and Relic has proven yet again they can produce quality gameplay as well as graphics and addictive multiplayer. Following in the footsteps of their Warhammer 40k Dawn of War series, this ranks as one of the most popular RTS games to date and is still a fantastic game 4 and half years on.
Has some of the most addictive multiplayer matches to date, costing me countless hours of sleep and a few telling off’s from the girlfriend. Something to throw yourself into if you love MP.
It does feel although it’s lacking in not having a German campaign and there’s not really a good amount of information in the tutorials about flank bonuses, flamethrower usage and command queuing, all of which are vital in playing the game.
Ry’s CoH Review: 80%