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Company of Heroes

That game, ladies and gents, is called Company of Heroes. When it comes to strategy, Relic knows what it’s doing … Relic’s new strategy title is indeed the best RTS for 2006 in so many aspects. If you consider yourselves RTS gamers, you must battle your way to the nearest store and purchase your copy ASAP! This game’s atmosphere, beauty and realism is quite hard to describe in text … But you know what? I am going to try anyway!

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INTRODUCTION

The best RTS for 2006

Somewhere in the first quarter of 2006, when I examined the upcoming games, one RTS game really caught my eye…   By looking deeper, I was convinced this game will bring wonderful news to RTS gamers and set a new threshold for this genre. Well, looks like I was right! That game, ladies and gents, is called Company of Heroes. When it comes to strategy, Relic knows what it’s doing … Relic’s new strategy title is indeed the best RTS for 2006 in so many aspects. If you consider yourselves RTS gamers, you must battle your way to the nearest store and purchase your copy ASAP! This game’s atmosphere, beauty and realism is quite hard to describe in text … But you know what? I am going to try anyway

What is it about?

The game takes place in WWII. Please don’t let that get in your way, because it is not another WWII game, it is THE WWII game, the way a WWII game is meant to be.  It has a wonderful, thrilling single player campaign, starting with the famous allies’ invasion to Normandy, you get to fight axis forces throughout 15 wisely built and pretty challenging missions, disrupting and eliminating German convoys, conquer key areas on the map and eventually defeat the German forces and complete the game.

Missions are accompanied with great cut scenes and informative briefings with great voice acting making the game even more authentic. Each mission has primary objectives and secondary ones. You will learn a lot about the game’s features and what it takes to eliminate your enemy once you complete the single player campaign. The game offers you two sides to choose from Allies and Axis. As I remember, there were some more countries involved in WWII and it is too bad we don’t see them in the game.

Also, the single player offers the Allies campaign only, Axis are available only online or in Skirmish mode. If you still feel you’re not ready for the real thing – the multiplayer, the game presents you with an option to play some more single player skirmish matches with up to 8 players on 15 great designed maps, each presenting different settings and environment to challenge your abilities and help you develop different tactics and skills.

You may also learn a lot from recorded games. Save a replay of your game and watch it, learning what you did wrong and what you did right…Too bad you can’t control speed, rewind or watch resource status while watching a replay, although I understood the upcoming patch should add this functionality. The multiplayer, although still has some connection and lag problems, extends the playability of the game greatly. The same maps and abilities of the skirmish mode apply here as well, but the experience is different.

The online interface, chat rooms and so forth are pretty convenient. You can play a ranked game with a random opponent that matches your skill level or choose to host or join a game with your personal preferences, victory terms, resources and map selection. You can make friends and manage a friends list, allowing you to know who’s online in any given time.

SPECIFICATIONS

Source Information

Published By:   THQ
Developed By:   Relic
Genre:   Real Time Strategy
Release Date:   September 13th, 2006

System Specs

Minimum:

  • Windows XP or Vista
  • Processor: 2.0GHz
  • RAM: 512 MB
  • Video Card: 64 MB video card with Pixel Shader 1.1
  • 6.5GB available disk space
  • DirectX(R) 9.0c compatible 16-bit sound card

As Tested:

  • AMD 3000+ @ 1.8Ghz
  • 2GB RAM
  • 7800GT 256mb
  • 80GB HD
  • Windows XP

  
  

GAMEPLAY

Resource Gathering

Company of Heroes leaves the traditional resource gathering mechanism out of the picture.

Each battlefield is divided into strategic points. When controlling a strategic point, the player controls a certain portion of the map (sector) and gets supplied with man power, the main resource in the game. Other resource points are Fuel and Munitions points.

It’s not enough to control a resource / strategic point, it also must be connected to your headquarters, which makes your enemy target your supply lines trying to cut them by capturing a connecting strategic point – crippling your economy.

The battle, as you may understand, takes place around these points in order to gain control of them and get the resources flowing…

Feels like the real thing!

The player actually feels he is in a war zone while playing and the feeling is amazing. The greatest thing about this game is the dynamic environment it has. Anything you do will effect the environment, causing the buildings, trees, walls, rocks, vehicles or anything else to be used tactically. Everything, and I mean everything is destructible.

I can’t describe the feeling I get when I bomb an area with artillery strike and hear the bombs’ whistles all around the place, soldiers run around in panic and fly in the air once hit, trees collapse, vehicles catch fire and blow up into pieces and buildings go down to the ground. Bombing an area with artillery of any kind turns the place into a crater field. You can then use the craters as cover for your soldiers, which creates even a deeper tactics game. You lost a tank during battle? Use the burned up wreck you just lost as metal wall for best cover. You think a certain building may jeopardize your base or a key area? Burn it down and prevent your enemy from using it against you. Think about the endless tactical options presented to you when the environment is so dynamic and can be used in so many ways to help your troops advance and defend / push the enemy.

Company of Heroes takes the cover aspect very seriously, which adds a lot to the game, tactically, and allows you to micro-manage your squads to get the best cover around in a given situation. Your soldiers’ cover is effected by every command you give them, and when they get to the place you ordered, they will be in: a) No Cover b) Light Cover c) Heavy Cover. That means that if you want your infantry to survive and return to their families safely, you need to take advantage of the surroundings wisely…You can also garrison your infantry inside buildings, which makes them pretty hard to access. But don’t feel too comfortable… you are still vulnerable to grenades, mortar squads, flame throwers, snipers, artillery strikes and, of course, tanks!

Besides taking cover behind the given dynamic objects, you may build – for free (well, takes time, which is a resource as well…) sand bags in strategic points, barbed wire in a key area and use all of these for your advantage. Also, you can mine an area you know your enemy will try to cross or block the road with tank traps, making it inaccessible for tanks without clearing the road first or making the tanks go on specific paths where you ambush them … Another great thing is the tactical map you can view in any point during the game.

GAMEPLAY cont.

Command Points and experience

In Company of Heroes you command squads and not individuals. Meaning you will not be able to micro manage them, for the good and bad in it. Relic adds to the gameplay a lot by rewarding you, as a commander, and your units with experience points.

Units will get more and more experienced in the art of war as long as you keep them alive long enough, making them more accurate and lethal. If you lose soldiers within a veteran squad, you may want to reinforce them and restore the whole squad while keeping their experience as a squad intact. During the game, when building structures or eliminating enemy troops, you’ll gain experience in the form of Command Points, allowing you to choose one of three special abilities and upgrades tree. Each side, Allies and Axis, has his own special abilities to choose from and the abilities can make the difference between losing or winning a battle or even the whole war! Allied Company Commander offers the following special abilities:

Infantry Commander

This tree is meant for those who love to mass infantry squads and micro manage them to strike down enemy armored vehicles and troops. Your job consists of:

  • Call in ranger squads who specialize in handling tanks
  • Reduce deployment time of your infantry
  • Call off map reinforcements
  • Use the dreadful 105mm Howitzers to destroy enemy base and forces
  • Call off map artillery support is available to use during battle to soften some hard to break targets.

Airborne Commander

Arguably, the best upgrade tree available to the allies to choose from. A good Airborne Commander is something an Axis player should fear. Your job consists of:

  • Call in a powerful paratroopers squads , supplies or AT gun teams in every visible spot on the map, giving you a huge advantage over enemy’s forces within seconds.
  • Use recon flights to reveal portions of enemy base and hidden territory.
  • Call strafe or bomb attacks from a P47 Thunderbolt to attack enemy’s infantry, buildings and tanks.

Armor Company

Like armored heavy tanks? This is what you should go for … This tree’s advancement is much slower, demanding more Command Points, but is very powerful for those who choose it. Your responsibilities are:

  1. Use Raid ability to flip points using light armored vehicles.
  2. Call Calliope Rocket Launcher and M26 Pershing Heavy Tank to join your forces in battle.
  3. Reduce deployment time for armored vehicles and repair your tanks everywhere on the map during battle.
  4. Replace any lost tank with a new one (for a short period of time) using Allied War Machine.

On the other hand, the Axis Commander Doctrines are:

Defensive Doctrine

The name of this Doctrine pretty much reveals what you can expect from it…

  • Give all units within your territory a defensive bonus
  • Add machine guns to all your base buildings
  • Use the powerful Flak 36 to destroy allied tanks and buildings
  • Increase your units’ visibility range
  • Call defensive artillery on any of your own buildings, if being attacked
  • Use the 280mm Rockets launcher to turn a target into dust.

Blitzkrieg Doctrine

If you’re not exactly the defensive kind of player, you should go with this abilities tree.

  • Unleash powerful attacks within seconds to eliminate the allies forces.
  • Call in Stormtroopers squads and Tiger tanks to aid you in your battles.
  • Enable your infantry squads to assault a target with a barrage of grenades,
  • Halt your economy for a while and get an enormous amount of manpower to use instantly.
  • Make your units, vehicles and even tanks attack in blazing speed…

Terror Doctrine

This tree of abilities is so cool for my opinion. In global, it allows you to make your opponent’s army run away in fear and clear your path to victory.

  • Make your soldiers fight even stronger when losing squad members in a battle.
  • Bomb a target with the Firestorm ability.
  • Call in the most powerful unit in the game to aid your army, the Tiger Ace tank.
  • Force enemy troops to retreat by in fear.
  • Use the awesome V1 Rocket, which will literally destroy any unit or building it hits…

GAMEPLAY cont.

Victory Points

Company of heroes brings us, the RTS gamers, many new things to the arena. One of those things is the victory points. On ranked games (and non ranked if you select the option), the map will have a few Victory points for you to control. Once you control the majority of them, your enemy will start losing his “tickets”. Your goal is to kick your enemy out by holding as many victory points as you can. This brings a new approach to the game and makes annihilation of your enemy’s base a second priority (you better keep that in mind). Many players find themselves losing the game because of leaving VPs out while trying to destroy enemy’s base. A common mistake I learned to avoid – the hard way!

Looks and sounds stunning!

Company of heroes is the first game from Relic that is using the new “Essence” graphics engine. This engine brings all the new features of next-generation graphics cards into the game and makes it a genuine eye candy. When a tank’s shell will hit the ground, a huge visual explosion accompanied with pieces of dirt, mud and thick smoke will rock your screen, making your speakers roar.

You will understand what I am talking about right within the first minute you’ll play. Each soldier has about 2000 different animations and you’ll be able to see their mood and feeling according to these animations. Zoom into the battlefield to see how your jeep driver turns the wheel towards the direction you pointed. Watch how soldiers exchange shells and magazines while shooting at enemy’s forces.

You can watch the battle from any angle you want, using a very intuitive interface and dynamic camera. But the default camera angle is a great one and probably the best for you. Believe me, with so much detail in the units and environments, you will feel you are in the battle fighting rather commanding the battle from above … Just take a look at the screen shots to get a feeling of how good this game looks.

It shows that Relic really invested in the sound department … Although the reactions of the squads for most of your commands are pretty repetitive, the game’s audio is something other games should learn from. Gunfire affects and explosions sounds are just remarkable. When a battle is taking place off screen, you hear the explosion far away from you and soldiers shout over the radio when they are hit. Sound is very detailed, you even hear your soldiers steps while marching and their equipment trembling against their bodies.

CONCLUSION

The game does have a few cons and problems as I mentioned above but those are really dwarfed when looking at the big picture. Company of Heroes truly takes the RTS genre one step forward and brings us many refreshing ideas.

It has a very innovative approach to the genre, a very wide range of units, abilities and upgrades and an amazing tactical and strategic depth making every game different. As for the bottom line: Go and buy it, this game is a must for your RTS collection.

How CoH Scores

Graphics – 10
Sound – 9
GamePlay – 10
Pleasure – 9

Final Score: 9.5 out of 10 and the Bjorn3D Golden Bear Award.

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