By Andrew Harrison
Company of Heroes 2 is the sequel to the 2006 RTS of the year Company of Heroes, and let me tell you, Relic have pulled no punches in delivering a fantastic RTS. I’d even go as far as to call it my pick for RTS of the year, and if it wasn't for the game’s horrible cutscenes, I’d maybe even go as far as game of the year. Now that I’ve got your attention, allow me to rewind and sum this up.
CoH2 is truly gorgeous, with great smoke, lighting and general detail provided by its new Essence 3.0 engine. The engine also includes new line of sight functionality called TrueSight, and dynamic weather systems influenced ColdTech systems that we’ve highlighted in an earlier preview.
As I jumped straight into CoH2’s story, I was rudely shocked by the quality of its cutscenes. They seemed unfinished and not quite polished. At any rate, the game’s story follows a Lieutenant in the Russian army who's being persecuted after the World War II for not following orders. The Lieutenant disagrees with the unethical ways of motivation -- mainly so Order number 227, where if you retreated without an order to, you got shot down on the spot. One of the game’s early campaign levels focuses around Order 2007, and it provided a damn good challenge, forcing you to constantly push forward, regardless of how many troops you lose to enemy fire.
Another level focuses on the harsh Russian climate, and utilising the aforementioned Coldtech weather engine, slowly kills your soldiers unless you can get them into buildings or next to a heat source. This made me declare the cold as my greatest enemy and mutter curses at my PC... but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
The game needs you to manage three distinct systems: manpower, which is used to recruit soldiers; munitions, which are used to pay for upgrades; and finally fuel, which is used to purchase vehicles. Resource points are scattered around the map and obtainable by all soldiers and some tanks, so there is ample room to level up, as it were.
The game’s army customiser has plenty of options as you play and level up. Success means command points that you can spend on additional skills. You’ll earn command points every time you kill, or upon completing challenges like “get 2000 kills with infantry.” There is also the ability to re-skin your armies with unlockable pre-designed paint schemes; while nice, I would have enjoyed the ability to create my own designs for use with my army.
Company of Heroes 2’s Theatre of War game mode is nothing short of incredible. It allows you to play solo or co-op challenges on varying difficulties, and delivers hair-tearing, hand-sweating, edge-of-your-seat action. The Theatre of War was amazingly immersive, and if all that wasn’t enough, you can play against different styles of computer opponents. My favourite additional mode was the “Tow” game mode, which is set out like a campaign with its own timeline, allowing you to play as the Russians or the Germans.
I didn’t spend a lot of time online, but when I did, it was great fun. I spent most of my time I custom games, losing hours to matches filled with AI players that my friends and I crushed and conquered.
You can also livestream your matches to Twitch TV if you’re the exhibitionist type.
All up, there’s plenty to do in Company of Heroes 2, and thankfully, it’s all appealing. We’ve had to wait a while for this RTS game in the wake of THQ’s collapse, but it looks like Relic’s standing victorious through all of this adversity… just like those brave WWII soldiers who we now get to control.