Company of Heroes 2 Review

Those that played the original Company of Heroes back in 2006 regarded it as being one of the best strategy games of all time with Relic Entertainment being praised for delivering such a high quality RTS set during World War 2. It has taken almost 7 years but Company of Heroes 2 has finally arrived and along with it, it brings high expectations as to how the series can evolve after the impact the original game made on the RTS genre.

Gameplay
Recognised as the biggest addition to Company of Heroes 2’s gameplay are the cold weather conditions. Snow and ice are utilised better than anyone could have imagined, coming into play in a number of different ways including soldiers trudging through deep snow, dying from frostbite when not near a bonfire and icy surfaces that can be weakened underneath unlucky troops and vehicles. These are all situations that come off looking brilliant whilst adding a layer of unpredictability to the scenarios you will find yourself in, especially when playing against other players.

Having a sinking feeling...?
Unfortunately you won’t find yourself being able to enjoy this feature in campaign as much as you would like to, with cold conditions only occurring in a couple of missions. One gripe I have with the campaign that cannot go unmentioned is the near unlimited supply of conscript soldiers available for the majority of the missions. I understand that it’s meant to assist you but in actuality it just feels cheap and rather unrealistic to use, resulting in players just having to bring forth an army of conscripts to act as a meat shield until tanks are accessible.

Making things even easier is the questionable enemy A.I, who at times will attack your infantry yet leave your strongest artillery alone, allowing you to destroy them with ease. It’s not a constant problem but when it does occur, you can’t help scratching your head and sniggering at the lack of thought by your enemies to not attack those in your army that can deal some real damage to them.

These problems are only noticeable when playing through campaign, leaving online play and Theater of War consistently enjoyable experiences. However there is one area of the game that remains very similar to the original and could have used some tweaking, and that’s the user interface. Those that didn't play the original could quite easily look at the UI and feel overwhelmed as to what to do and that’s something that Relic should have looked to avoided this time around.

Multiplayer
Despite the commonly seen ‘who can out tank who’ gameplay, the online portion of the game remains as intense and enjoyable as the game’s predecessor, with online skirmishes available in 1v1, 2v2, 3v3 and 4v4. Customisable victory points, win conditions and resources add to the replay value and will have you staring at your monitor for hours upon hours, as you put your strategic skills to the test against others around the world.

Matchmaking was the only real problem I came across whilst playing online, with matches sometimes taking 5+ minutes to find, which could surely dampen the interest in playing online for those that don’t have the patience to wait, however stick with it as the Multiplayer is too enjoyable to let a small problem like this get in the way of you having many entertaining battles with others.

Graphics/Sound
There is no denying that visually COH2 impresses big time for an RTS, with the effects made by explosions, fire, snow and ice looking particularly superb and keeping you glued to the battlefield. It all suits the scale of battle perfectly and seriously…nothing beats the sight of seeing a building collapse to the ground at the hands of your heavy artillery before sending your tanks across the map, watching them destroy everything in their wake. The little touches like seeing dust and sand fly into the air from the force of an explosion, or witnessing an injured soldier trying to crawl away from battle made more of an impact than they had any right to.

War shouldn't look this good.
On the other hand, the cutscenes prior to the campaign missions look so rough that it looks more like you are playing an early PS2 game, with inconsistent voice syncing and weak animations and textures. The scenes in which Isakovich goes over his past don’t come off looking as bad, possibly due to the scenes taking place in just one environment (with much better lighting) and with a lot less movement needed however they are still rather mundane to look at overall.

The sound team at Relic should be commended for the work they have done with the sound pulling you in and placing you right on the battlefield. Explosions and gunfire boom over the shouts of soldiers, planes fly overheard to alert you to an incoming attack and the terrific score helps combine it all together into a real experience. Now having music during the gameplay itself could have easily overshadowed the sound on the battlefield, yet amazingly it not only doesn’t but it helps to add drama to the intense scenarios going on.

Design
You certainly won’t be short of things to do during your time with Company of Heroes 2, as the game offers a quality array of modes to play through with the 14 mission campaign being the best place to start for newcomers to the COH series.

The campaign follows Abramovich Isakovich as he encounters a face from his past and has to look back at the battles he was a part of from the Russian war of 1941 to the fall of Berlin in 1945. With a similar formula for the majority of the missions, campaign as a whole feels more like an extended tutorial then anything, especially considering you won’t be able to access a full map until the latter missions so those that love capturing points around a map right from the get-go are going to be sorely disappointed.

You want us... to distract the tank!?
Despite being very cliché, the story told by Isakovich does a decent job at depicting just what a dark and depressive place the world was during this time; however the campaign comes off as an afterthought next to the other available modes.

‘Theater of War’ tasks you with completing an impressive assortment of challenges, split into 3 categories: large scale co-op missions, solo challenges with set conditions and A.I battles against opponents with specific styles. While the campaign missions feel rather similar, the same can’t be said here as the variety of missions is simply fantastic and stands out big time next to the campaign. Without Theater of War, the single player side of the game would have felt shockingly weak so hats off to Relic for such a brilliant addition.

Final Verdict
Company of Heroes 2 isn’t the phenomenon that its predecessor was but it’s a very enjoyable follow-up that manages to build upon the first game in a manner that’s sure to please fans. Beginners are likely to feel intimidated but give the game a go; it’s an experience worth embarking upon.

Gameplay = 7/10
Graphics/Sound = 8.7/10
Design = 7.7/10

Final We Know Gamers Score = 7.8/10

Had a chance to play the game? Have a different opinion to mine? Let us know in the comments section below or tweet me - @KingKicks

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