a brief review of the WWII RTS game
The ‘Real-Time Strategy’
Genre have come a long way since Westwood Studio’s Command and Conquer first
made it’s way into any self-respecting wargamer’s computer in 1995. Company
of Heroes by Relic (The makers of ‘Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War’) have given
new life to the new generation of RTS games with a
title that is more than just eye-candy.
And there is plenty of
eye-candy! With beautifully rendered and fully destructible and interactive
environments. And it is the destructible environment of
that brings more complex and
inventive gameplay than your average RTS fare.
Houses, hedgerows and low
walls provide strongpoints for your advancing/ defending infantry, but will
delay any advancing armour that would be useful against the MG pit that is
pinning down your infantry platoon. Decisions made can cause problems later,
bulldozing through that village for the sake of Blitzkrieg leaves your
infantry dangerously exposed for the counterattack.
while it is
amazing to think that in the 11 years since Command and Conquer, we have not
been treated to any WW2 themed RTS games, it is even more amazing to think,
we have not seen any RTS games
that provide a strong balance between Infantry, Armour and Artillery to
force the player into using combined-arms tactics.
The game follows two
fictional American Companies from D-Day to the capture of
Cherbourg, a side-story involving paratroopers of the
101st Airborne division dropped on D minus 1 and the main story
around Able Company. The typical match in Company of Heroes isn't all about
simply blowing up the enemy's base, though "annihilation" victory
conditions; instead the game’s resource system comes from the capture of
certain victory and resource points, marked by flags and zones of control
and supply on your map. Zones captured must find a line of supply to bring
resources back to HQ if you are to collect the resources needed to win the
game. As with the destructible environment and flexible victory conditions,
the limited amount of resources on each level and an experience system that
increases the effectiveness of your troops as they fight in more battles,
makes the decision of what to build a little more difficult, players will on
most occasions find they will win and fight the battle with the available
forces they had begun with, with resources used for reinforcing exhausted
veteran platoons or building much needed support units to clear up obstacles
such as MG nests.
Players will find
themselves in small bouts of tug-of-war over contested resource and victory
points as both sides will push each other back to capture and hold sets of
victory points or resource points to replenish their exhausted units.
The single player levels
offer a rich variety of levels, the game is a great cinematic experience,
with players following through the company’s advance into
Europe. From the expected landing on the beaches to the
paratroopers attacking Carentan and defence from the German counterattack.
On top of the single-player experience, Company of Heroes offers a lot on
multiplayer to keep us all ticking over until the inevitable release of an
expansion pack. Third-party sites are also offering some fantastically
designed maps which can be played online or offline against bots, the most
recently released depicting the last moments of
before the fall of the Reich.
All of this comes at a
price, you will have to run the game on a top of the line machine for just
average performance, and even the best machines will bog down on certain
points if too much happens on the screen at the same time. Map and mission
loading takes just a little too long, although you will probably get an
hour’s worth of gameplay once each level is loaded.
The game ships with
certain bugs and a rather large (200-300 MB) set of patches will need to be
downloaded by the user.
Also, as I had pointed
out earlier, the single player game offers a rich cinematic experience,
unfortunately we are also treated to a Hollywood
scripted version of World War Two history as part of this cinematic
experience, but with the quality of the gameplay, it can be forgiven.
But all in all, the game
is technically remarkable and features some very novel ideas that make it
unique from other real-time strategy games. It's an easy to dive straight
into, but, forgive the cliché, difficult to master. The game does such a
good job of depicting the chaos of WW2, but at a cost of requiring quite
serious computing power to run. In spite of these technical requirements and
the liberties taken with history, Company of Heroes still offers a great
experience over the other WW2 and Real-time strategy games available.
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