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Company of Heroes 2 Review

publisher: THQ
developer: Relic Entertainment
genre: Strategy

ESRB rating: M

release date: Jun 25, 13
» All About Company of Heroes 2 on ActionTrip

When depicting World War II -- one of the biggest and bloodiest conflicts in the history of mankind -- Relic certainly proved they know their stuff with an invigorating real-time strategy called Company of Heroes. In an age when we were practically swamped with WW II themed games, Relic stepped onto the scene with a true gem. We were pleased to see that unlike in most RTSs, Company of Heroes featured really cool unit behavior. If you looked really carefully you could actually see individual soldiers from your squads as they hid behind buildings and sandbags to avoid enemy fire. Such a thing was almost unheard of at the time. The game also opened some amazing tactical opportunities for players. Seven years and two expansion packs later, Relic releases the long-awaited sequel.

Company of Heroes 2 focuses its single-player campaign on events that occurred on the Eastern Front during World War II. The narrative is being told through the perspective of a Soviet Red Army veteran, who explains in detail what went on during the Battle of Stalingrad, Operation Barbarossa and, the Battle of Berlin and more. You are lieutenant Lev Abramovich Isakovich, imprisoned in gulag in Siberia. The whole thing begins as Isakovich recollects his missions and describes them to his former commanding officer.

Marching into battle requires some finesse in this game. It is highly recommended that you go through the single-player because it serves as a tutorial. And yet even when you do, it’ll still require a lot of time before your game becomes fluid shall we say. When I say ‘fluid’ I really mean commanding various types of units around the battlefield and using their specific abilities of your units against specific enemy units. Also, this game doesn’t denote typical resource collecting or standard base building. You increase the amount of resources you get by expanding your territory across the map. During battles you can recruit new soldiers if you have the appropriate structures. If not, you will be able to call in for reinforcements, but again that depends on the population cap and how much resources you gathered.

Company of Heroes 2 appears to neglect its biggest potential. Units improve during combat in each mission and they receive stars for their efforts. Squads can accumulate up to three stars and thus improve their odds in combat. This feels exceptionally rewarding during missions. The problem is that you can’t transfer this experience to the next mission. Why the hell not? Sure, this would clash with the game’s premise which centers on massive armies and the tremendous manpower Russia had during the war. So, the idea is to not care for your troops and utilize Red Army tactics and the ruthlessness of Stalinist politics. Only, you won’t feel like that. Gameplay wise, it would be a big deal if you could reuse the same experienced units in multiple missions during the story mode.

Perhaps its biggest flaw here is unbalanced units. There’s a great amount of units in the game, both on the German side and of the Russian side. In order to achieve victory you have to understand each unit’s weakness and strengths. Some units, like heavy machine gun squads are perfect for setting up ambushes and providing suppressing fire, although they are vulnerable to grenades. Also, if flanked by infantry they are quite exposed. Likewise, when fighting against tanks you have no chance if your infantry doesn’t pack AT (anti-tank) weaponry. Panzerschrecks are a great way to take out enemy tanks, but even so, your squad has to be positioned well on the battlefield otherwise the tank could take them out quickly. We did notice though, that there are some serious balancing issues here. In one of the single-player missions we had a large cluster of armor and infantry units defending one outpost from a German onslaught. So, basically I had heavy artillery in there, anti-tank units, light infantry, shock troops, light tanks and engineers, all strategically placed to fend off attackers. When the German units arrived it was hard to keep them at bay even though they were severely outnumbered by my units. Did the Germans use exceptional tactics? Not really, no. Not only that, but my units were all experienced, where as Germans didn’t have a single star (i.e. experience). In the end, my regiment was almost decimated by a clearly weaker foe.

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7.0   Good

Packed with content, some great battle scenarios and challenges for veteran strategy players, great WW II atmosphere;

The story feels a bit rushed, unit balancing issues, clumsy friendly AI, for a sequel that's been in development this long you kind of expect more.


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