Company Of Heroes 2 Review
War – as Ron ‘Hellboy’ Perlman so succinctly said in another notable computer game many moons ago – never changes. Although it’s doubtful he’s seen Starship Troopers, there probably hasn’t been a war like that before.
Alas, Company Of Heroes 2 the sequel to (you guessed it) Company of Heroes and its myriad expansions sees you once again going after those dastardly Nazis in the most media friendly war of all, World War 2, a war that everyone has a passing familiarity with at least. Or should do. Shame on you if not.
Company Of Heroes 2 was mercifully saved in the great THQ auction of 2013 by Sega of all people, who were doubtlessly trying to expand their repertoire beyond that bloody hedgehog and his countless anthropomorphic idiot friends.
Perhaps if it does well it’ll go towards the Shenmue 3 fund that they’ve been building up for the last few years, eh chaps? Chaps? Or another Binary Domain actually, that was good.
Whatever. Back on topic, how does Company of Heroes 2 stack up then? Well, right off the bat, it’s easy to see that your computer GPU is working pretty hard here.
Initial Impressions Of Company Of Heroes 2
Everything looks as gloriously dingy, uncomfortable and harrowing as you’d expect from a game that’s attempting to give you an isometric view of the hardships troops went through.
Fields are muddied, dying and trampled, and snowstorms rage around your poor Red Army soldiers, as they whittle away and freeze to death.
It looks great basically, the physics adding an extra layer of drama and bluster to the proceedings. It moves quickly too.
Your troops meanwhile bitch and moan in gloriously thick Russian accents as you order them about, employing all kinds of fruity language.
Although given they’re in an awful warzone, with shrapnel and the elements flying at them from all angles, it’s hard to begrudge them the odd f-word.
It’s a strong first impression. The game eases you in, but it does so explosively, and you’re immediately ensconced in the games atmosphere.
There’s something about Company Of Heroes 2 that’s more immediate than most RTS games.
Maybe it’s because of how volatile and full on it is, the impressive physics, or the relatively quicker pace here in comparison with say, Wargame: European Escalation (which for all its strengths, really was a Sisyphean slog of an RTS at times), but its far more exciting than a lot of strategy games.
Company Of Heroes 2; For Newcomers And Vets Alike
It’s forgiving to those unaffiliated to the genre too, given that it’s relatively light on things like resource management and long term planning and more about thinking on your feet, in your chair. At your computer.
Pretty soon, you’ll be merging conscripts, manning heavy artillery and rushing the fascist swines like it’s second nature. It autosaves at points too, so even when you do invariably make a balls of it by being more of a general pissant than a General Patton, at least you don’t have to start an entire mission again. Which is nice.
Missions are well structured, fun and never feel insurmountable, even after you feel you’ve cocked things up beyond repair.
The game gradually introduces new elements and unit types as you play on, and it’s all easy enough to get acquainted with. Soon you’ll be dealing with multiple objectives, protecting bases on all fronts and sending out a group of crack snipers to scout out enemy positions ahead.
Although as alluded to previously, it’s not just enemies you have to worry about. Fire moves wonderfully in this game, as it decimates fields and soldiers alike in a kinetic, orange haze.
On the other end of the elemental spectrum, an early mission has you ordering a small battalion through heavy snowfall in the midst of a perishing Russian Winter.
Snow, Soldiers & Story In Company Of Heroes 2
Get caught out in the cold too long and your characters will start dying of cold, and only warming up at fires through the area can sort your squad out.
It’s a good idea and one that’s been seen in games like Crysis and Battlefield: Bad Company 2, but never in an RTS.
Actually one Soldier during this bit actually dies of cold when he’s mere yards away from a fire because he wants to stop to warm himself up, which is a bit like deliberately piddling yourself when you’re a few centimetres away from a urinal.
It’s probably meant to be tragic, and a harrowing example of what these poor souls went through during the time, but it’s kind of hard to have sympathy for someone that stupid, pixelated or not. Games, eh?
That’s where things don’t work so well, actually. During the game itself everything is wonderfully hectic, dramatic and fraught, your troops valiantly cursing Nazis and proclaiming their love for Mother Russia with their dying, heavily accented breaths, but the cutscenes and story elements are pretty iffy.
There’s a heavier emphasis on narrative in Company Of Heroes 2 than in most RTS games, as it tells the story of a veteran, Lev Abramovich Isakovich, while he’s being interrogated in a Russian gulag a few years after the war.
He’s telling his tale through various flashbacks, which is fairly convenient if you’re a level designer.
Emotion In An RTS Game?
That’s absolutely fine, and you get a good look at how rotten things really were (Russian troops being forced to shoot comrades caught retreating), and sure, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with trying to add a more personal element to a game as epic in scope and breadth as this, but does it add anything to the game? Not really.
You never really feel invested in the man’s personal demons or misery. Yes Abramovich, you sent loads of good men to their graves and had a ruddy awful time in the war, it’s very sad.
Now hurry up so you can get all glum about your next memory and we can experience it in all its incendiary glory and play armchair Napoleon again.
Of course you don’t have to go through any of that in the skirmish or multiplayer modes, it’s nothing but pure carnage there. There’s twitch.tv implementation here too, meaning you can get friends and family to watch on proudly over the internet as you prove what a badass military despot you’d be.
There’s versus mode obviously, but you can also team up with chums in order to take on an AI opponent too. Again, thanks to the fact Company Of Heroes 2 is a lot faster paced than most RTS’, multiplayer is great fun, and often more fraught with carnage than the main game.
Company Of Heroes 2’s main strength lies in the fact you could sit someone who doesn’t like real time strategy games down in front of it and they’d find themselves enjoying it.
It’s faster, more fun and much more spectacular than a good number of its peers, dispensing with much of the finicky micro-management that may or may not put a few off.
Okay, it won’t win an Oscar for storytelling, but the game absolutely has it where it counts. In spades.
It’s an enthralling example of the genre, and one that deserves a good following. There’s plenty here too, between a lengthy (though not too horribly padded out) campaign and the various multiplayer modes.
Company Of Heroes 2, then. It’s bawdy, loud and a hell of a lot of fun. It brings to mind a quote from an oft-referenced cinematic masterpiece. No, not Citizen Kane, silly. Hot Shots Part Deux.
‘War… it’s fantastic.’