“Company of Heroes 2” review


Yeesh, I’m shivering just looking at this picture.

There’s a reason Napoleon and Hitler never won in Russia. The steadfast determination of the native inhabitants would stop any invading army in a heartbeat. But that’s not why two of the greatest conquerors in history turned tail.


It was the weather.


Good ol’ General Winter.


In “Company of Heroes 2,” General Winter is against both sides duking it out over Russia’s harsh landscapes during World War 2. This added atmospheric antagonist is an unflinching and unforgiving opponent that makes the player think twice even before moving down the field of battle.

Nevermind being outgunned or outmaneuvered by the German forces dug in like ticks on a dog, or the relentless shelling and air strafing done by their artillery and airborne forces. If you can’t find cover, a fire or at least some trees to block the wind, your soldiers will freeze to death even before they make it to the front lines.


That exact reason is what makes “Company of Heroes 2” so great.


The latest installment to the critically acclaimed World-War-2 real-time-strategy game lives up to the hype and gets even more praise, and deservedly so. The clever AI of the opposing forces coupled with their more well-equipped troops creates a more challenging gaming experience this time around for fans of the franchise.


But this is a good thing, really.

Historically, the Russian military may have been out-gunned, but they out-manned the Germans through sheer numbers. With that in mind, be prepared to sacrifice wave after wave of soldiers in your effort to protect the Motherland from invaders.


While this might make a seasoned RTS player cringe at the thought of losing so many units, the game itself sets a precedent in the first level and beyond in the Campaign which makes you realize that sacrificing men like that was actually how it was in the war.


Speaking of the campaign, it is much more streamlined this time around. There is hardly any resource gathering, or at least there is enough of it to supply you with troops but not enough to make you worry about not having enough munitions for upgrades. Regardless, the campaign is done well enough that you don’t even realize you’re collecting things until you spend so many points that you have to wait for more.


The missions are more varied, or as varied as can be in a WWII setting. One level has you tracking down a sneaky German tank through a snow-bound town, and after disabling it, trying to repair it and bring it back to your lines while the Germans push to recover it.


These flavor missions are actually what we were all missing in the first game, and Relic realizing this makes us love them that much more.

The graphical updates, while not overly impressive by the standards of many games these days, are welcomed and great improvements upon the previous visuals. Suffice it to say that if you zoom close enough and look over the shoulders of your soldiers, you’ll feel as if you’re watching a first-person-shooter play out.




Well, the fires are certainly helping keep the soldiers warm.

 

Returning to General Winter for a moment, the environments aside from the weather are incredibly well thought out and designed. Lighting fire to abandoned buildings will burn out any Nazis that are hiding within to escape the cold. Tired of that tank shelling your troops? Send a mortar crew to shatter the ice of the river and send that armored jerk to the depths.


Creating such a realistic and dangerous world really lends itself to the games tactical sensitivity and intelligence.


Many of the game’s issue can easily be worked around or used as learning experiences for new attempts. At times, the player will indeed feel helpless against the overwhelming (and at times ridiculously large) waves of enemies, and that is honest-to-goodness historic realism. But there is plenty of frustration abound when it comes to getting your troops warmed up or into cover to escape the cold.


Is “Company of Heroes 2” an improvement on the first game? Absolutely. Is it the best RTS out there right now? That’s debatable. While the “Company of Heroes” franchise is an RTS series, it’s a Relic RTS series. The company has definitely made it’s mark creating non-conventional RTS games and it has carved out a niche for itself doing so.


If buying “Company of Heroes 2” sounds appealing, better strap on some boots and pack some blankets because it’s cold out there, soldier.