By Steve Wright
First of all, Trent did a tremendous job of explaining a lot of Company of Heroes 2's base mechanics, so you should check out that initial preview first.
Back with me? Excellent.
Now, I'm not really one for strategy games, but Company of Heroes 2 sure captured my attention, and quickly. It might have had something to do with the way the developer giving us our hands-off demonstration first described the game's "ColdTech" functionality.
ColdTech is CoH 2's extreme cold mechanic, pretty much affecting all aspects of the game. Right off the bat, our experience with ColdTech…well, made everything look cold and miserable. Just how cold? "If you've ever been to the Canadian prairies, you'd know what I'm talking about," said the developer.
I do know what he's talking about. And ColdTech was spot on. Through ColdTech, you won't just be fighting your traditional enemies, but the villain known as "General Winter."
(Just for the record, General Winter isn't real person. We're referring to the game's harsh climate. We're good? Continuing on, then...)
As we watched the developer take his troops and tanks through the wintery battlefield, a horrible blizzard washed over the landscape. Soldiers were forced to walk around deep snow to avoid being submerged in a cocoon of the cold stuff, and if that wasn't possible, waded through thick patches at the cost of a steadily declining personal body temperature.
The developer paused to explain how body temperature is crucial to the strategy inside the game; trek through the tundra for too long, and your units will start to drop off, one by one, as they become too cold to continue on. Finding shelter, building fires, or even finding cover to act as a windbreak is essential for your survival.
As the developer explained this to us, a poor soul literally keeled over and died as his personal thermometer (shown on-screen, one for each unit) dropped to fatal levels. To rub it in, the developer then took one single unit and purposely moved him off on his own to a patch of frozen river. The ill-fated soldier hunched over shortly thereafter and went into foetal position on the ice, shivering until he left the mortal coil.
I almost shed a tear for that soldier.
The developer stressed that ColdTech is in Company of Heroes 2 not to look pretty, but to provide an gritty, realistic experience as well as give extra tactical options to players. Saying that, it does make the game look damn pretty.
"The new ColdTech system…dynamically paint[s] on and remove[s] snow, meaning that not only does it accumulate on buildings and vehicles, but it can also be melted or removed from objects by the player. Snow also has realistic depth which actually impacts troop movement and will retain persistent infantry and vehicle tracks throughout the match unless covered by fresh snow fall," confirmed the developer.
On top of that, the frozen river that became that single soldier's tomb turned into the location that won the developer the battle against his AI-opponent. As the enemy's tanks maneuvered through the map (laying down tracks that will remain in the snow for all to see and plan accordingly with, I might add) and onto the ice, the developer unleashed missile fury onto it; it easily broke under the tanks' treads. They sank to an icy-cold, watery grave with little fuss.
Best yet, if you're patient enough, that ice will re-freeze and allow you to proceed scot-free to your enemy's stronghold.
In short, Company of Heroes 2 was a game I found myself to be quite (pleasantly!) surprised by. It arrives on PC 14 September…just in time for one of those rugged Canadian winters.