Reviewed by Jonathan Bester
World War 2 was a time in history which was filled with hardship and pain. It was made up of the individual stories of men and women who fought for that which they believed in. For the Nazis, the fought for dominion. They fought for what they believed was a better future for their people. For the Soviets, they fought to reclaim that which was taken from them. Company of Heroes 2 is the story of one man who fought to make a difference for his homeland, Russia.
From Relic Entertainment and Sega comes Company of Heroes 2, the sequel to the blockbuster Company of Heroes that was released in 2006. It is a top-down Real-time Strategy (RTS) title which puts emphasis on real life historical battles. Relic Entertainment, thus far, has been purely an RTS development studio, and their track record speaks for itself. With games like Dawn of War, Warhammer 40 000 and Homeworld under their belt, you can be sure to expect a quality title. But will this latest entry into the Company of Heroes franchise leave the same sort of mark, or will it be left in the dust of the treads of a World War II Panzer Tank? Let’s find out.
As with it’s predecessor, COH2 has a top-notch team behind it who has put countless hours into researching the historical facts depicted in the levels. Aside from the excellent intro video which introduces us to Soviet Lieutenant Lev Abramovich Isakovich, who has been locked up in a gulag (war prison) situated in Sibera in 1952. The story is progressed by means of his old Army Colonel, who interrogates him about his experience in the numerous battles he partook in. The depiction of the missions is where COH2 really shines. In the hey-day of RTS titles, things were simplified due to limitations in the technology. Mission progression was achieved by means of destruction of buildings, killing specific targets, or extracting others. In Company of Heroes 2, it takes RTS missions to a whole new level. The AI of the computer controlled enemies is further enhanced by usage of a new technology called ‘True Sight’. True Sight which only allows you to see what your units are seeing. This makes things all the more challenging as in some cases your enemy may see your units, but you cannot see your enemy.
Certain strategic elements need to be taken into account when engaging the enemy. When faced with a machine gun nest, you are given the option to flank the machine gunner either via a direct path, or by means of your equipment. In certain situations you are given smoke bombs, which will limit the field of visions of the enemy and allow you safe passage into a flanking position where you can safely eliminate a machine gunner and his cohorts. As you can see careful planning has gone into the design of each and every level. Another example of this dynamic mission element is in another mission where you need to use your units to hold an area while your allies evacuates an area. In order to hinder the progress of the enemy, engineers can be used to plant landmines to destroy incoming vehicles, and flamethrowers to torch the surrounding corn fields, thus making flanking positions impassable.
Throughout the entirety of the game you will notice an experience meter and a ranking system that will provide the player with certain unlockable content which is attainable through performing certain tasks. These tasks include killing one type of unit using another, using certain weapons to kill enemies and many more. As per any Steam title, Company of Heroes 2 also includes an array of achievements, which can be unlocked by completing missions, and performing certain tasks. There are literally hundreds of these, so I won’t go into any detail on them.
Visually, COH2 is beautifully rendered and depicts the landscapes of World War 2 with minute detail. You are even able to zoom right into the action to see your soldiers/units taking on the enemy in gratuitous detail. Vehicles can explode into many pieces of shrapnel which when touched by other units, will move as they would in real life. Buildings are destructible as well via many means, including by explosives or fire. As mentioned before, engineers are capable of equipping powerful flamethrowers which aids them in the destruction of the environment. Fire is one of the visual elements in COH2 that is truly something to behold. It is alive and moving and will destroy anything in it’s path; however, destruction is not the only visually appealing part of COH2. The weather is another thing of beauty in this title, as is evident in the levels containing snow. Soldiers will also feel the effects of cold weather and leaving them exposed for too long will cause them to die.
In the sound department, COH2 is a cavalcade of destruction. The sound effects are some of the elements that truly brings this title to life. Voice acting is superb and really carries the narrative to full effect. From a soundtrack perspective however, I must say that it wasn’t really anything out of the ordinary and it didn’t really stand out.
One of the strongest points of COH2 is the online multiplayer. Not only are you able to engage your friends (and various other COH2 players) in deathmatch-esque showdowns, but you are also able to tackle the game’s well put together Skirmish mode, which is your standard build a base, gather resources and take on the AI- or human controlled player. However, the standard multiplayer is not the only multiplayer mode available to the player. Team up with a mate to tackle up to 18 co-operate missions specifically designed for 2 players. This and many other modes, really rounds Company of Heroes 2 off to be a must have RTS for the strategy aficionado, especially if you are a history fanatic like myself.
Whether you’re a new or an experienced RTS player, COH2 has been designed to be welcoming to any player. The single-player, multiplayer and co-op modes really rounds Company of Heroes 2 off to be a must have RTS for the strategy aficionado, especially if you are a history fanatic like myself. With a strong (and well researched) story, solid gameplay, beautiful graphics and excellent soundboard, COH2 really sets itself apart from the rest.
Lasting Appeal: 9/10
Predominantly reviewed on PC.