Company of Heroes 2 (PC) Review
- Looks gorgeous at times when you have a machine capable of getting the best from it
- Immediate RTS action that made the original a landmark title
- Superb underlying micromanagement sub-systems really make the game shine
Not so much?
- Not a huge move forward from the first title
- AI can get a little sloppy at times
- Terrible cut scenes and voice work
- UI a little messy at times especially when you have a lot of units
Company of Heroes 2 hopes to replicate the genre-boosting levels of notoriety that Company of Heroes: Tales of Valor managed to obtain upon its release way back in September 2006. What can developer Relic give us from 7 years of hard graft and a side-order of publisher woes? Company of Heroes 2 kicks off during [...]
Company of Heroes 2 hopes to replicate the genre-boosting levels of notoriety that Company of Heroes: Tales of Valor managed to obtain upon its release way back in September 2006. What can developer Relic give us from 7 years of hard graft and a side-order of publisher woes?
Company of Heroes 2 kicks off during with Lev Abramovich Isakovich, a Soviet Army lieutenant, and our vessel for telling this story, locked up at a gulag in Siberia in 1952. His old commanding officer interrogates him about his experiences during the war and thus each of the 12 missions play out via flashbacks. The cut scenes are pretty terrible, with animations and general looks almost directly out of a 2007 mid-range PC title.
So the setting for the game is the Eastern Front during the harsh Russian winters of the Second World War – At the lowest point temperatures hit around -30°C. It all starts in October 1942 with the German 6th Army trapped between Red Army divisions stationed in Kalach and Stalingrad on the banks of the Volga River.
Many real time strategy titles deal with level design by limiting the number of units at your disposal – a finite resource level. Company of Heroes 2 handles things in a slightly different fashion. Yes you still have limited supplies – on some levels a handful of soldiers with little to no equipment must hunt and destroy an enemy tank. Yes you still have designated unit types like Engineers, Infantry, Snipers etc. What you have in addition are Conscripts. You see the Russians were under real pressure, Stalingrad was on the brink of falling and the mother land was being overrun with German soldiers. So Stalin orders some pretty extreme measures. His Scorched Earth campaign during Operation Barbarossa, the implementation of firing squads by the infamous Order 227 that meant all retreating soldier would be gunned down as they tried to retreat. And the overarching battle plan of throwing more numbers at the problem – we have more people to throw at you that you have to defend yourself so simple maths should mean we will win eventually… after a horrendous loss of human life that is!
Relic have, so some extent, trivialised this with their Conscript units. These are untrained civilians forced in to serve for Mother Russia and pushed into battle. What this means is you get fresh generic soldiers that you can then attach to a specialised unit to make more of a certain soldier type. Want more engineers? Rustle up some Conscripts and attach them to an existing unit to bolster their numbers. I know this is just a game after all and games need mechanics to work, yet this feels a little “icky” if you stop and dwell on it.
Company of Heroes 2 plays almost exactly like its predecessor. Gone are the resource heavy creation, base building and unit creating stop and start of titles like Star Craft 2, Total Annihilation etc. Company of Heroes 2, just like the first, relies on getting stuck into the thick of the battles, relying on heavy amounts of micro-management. So much so that transitioning from some of the earlier levels to the mid levels comes as a real shocker. Suddenly things go from manageable to totally stressful chaos. This sounds terrible, yet it’s exactly the opposite. The immediacy and versatility of the underlying system is what made the first Company of Heroes such a success – so why mess with it?
New gameplay mechanics have been worked in of course. The new line of sight implementation is good, forcing you to make sure heavy gunner or launchers units are facing the optimal way in battles etc. The introduction of snow adds an interesting element too forcing you to balance keeping your troops warm enough between area and trying to fight through enemy lines. Snow also affects things like troop/vehicle movement as it take longer to push through deeper snow than it would to take a well walked path.
In general the story does just enough to keep your interest despite terrible voice action, poor accents and a lacklustre script. It fails to capture a lot of the atrocities that took places during that time, or indeed broach some of the armies indiscretions but it tries its best to string a narrative together to weave these 12 maps into a cohesive whole. Also, where all the tanks at? Famously there were some of the most epic tank / armoured vehicle based battles of the war during this theatre but these seem to have been missed entirely leaving you with limited vehicle combat.
Online you are well catered for with the standard skirmish mode offering a good challenge online. The real star is the co-op based mode where you and a friend take on small scale challenges.
Graphically the game is a mixed bag. It managed to cripple my gaming laptop to a lower resolution of 1366×768 at “mid” settings. Switching to my main gaming rig with ATI 6870 2GB DDR5 card and 3.2 Ghz processor only managed to beef the settings up to High as 1080p. The game is a serious beast and requires a machine with a lot of grunt if you want the most from it. Units look good and are animated well. Theatres of war are also well made with plenty of variety and some great animation throughout. The cut scenes let the whole look of the game down though as previously eluded too. Frame rate can be horrible too but when everything is running well and absolute mayhem is being unleashed the game looks wonderful.
Sound wise, as mentioned, the voice work is bad. Supposedly Russian accents wander from Russian to English to American to French and then back to Russian again. Line delivery is stilted and it all fails to hang together in any real cohesive way. Sound design in-game though is a different matter. Explosions, cries of war, artillery fire, tanks – it all hits you like a horrific wall of sound that deadens the sense and draws you in deeply. Just listening to the battle alone could leave you feeling positively drained from the experience.
Company of Heroes 2 is a great game. It apes and betters it’s predecessor – and that’s really no bad thing at all!
There are some technical issues here an there (units randomly appear then vanish for example – of dead soldiers will still be standing with their hands outstretched like they’re holding their gun, yet no gun is there) a handful of crashes and several others too
Some of the AI and pathfinding of your units is a little off on occasion also – units will refuse to move or take the shortest but most lethal route to a destination
Despite these small niggles and the slightly yucky nature of human tragedy=easy units generation you can’t help but really enjoy Company of Heroes 2. It offers a reasonable challenge in single player handing out around 12 – 13 hours in the single player mode. The real fun starts when you take the game online though.
Some may question why Company of Heroes 2 took 7 years to arrive – I just say be grateful that it made it to our sweaty hands at all after publisher issues. Fans are going to eat this up and newcomers are going to see what all that fuss was about back in 2006!