Relic’s Company of Heroes series appears on the majority of top strategy-game lists for a reason. The series offers wartime strategy executed with impressive precision yet with a broad scope. Company of Heroes 2 shifts focus to the eastern front of WWII, placing directly in your hands the multiple responsibilities of controlling (for the most part) the Soviet Red Army. Great graphics are a given considering the game runs on Relic Entertainment’s Essence 3.0 engine, so what did we think of the experience as a whole?
Though Company of Heroes 2 truly shines when it comes to multiplayer, it’s worth giving the gameplay of the campaign a look over too. That is, if you have time of course. After all, the 14-mission (~15 hours of gameplay, give or take) single-player campaign is gruelling in its early days, but increasingly becomes more interesting as the later battles become more tactical and also explosive in nature.
You’ve still got the resource production system of the original Company of Heroes, involving the production/collection of munitions and fuel, all of which hinges on the situation on the ground (capturing or conceding certain areas, for example). Units can also occupy buildings, and the building damage mechanics have been enhanced somewhat from the original Company of Heroes.
New and unique mechanics rear their head in the game’s Truesight system. This system’s purpose is to mimic the real-life visibility of troops on the ground based on the type of unit in question as well as environmental factors, and we found it to work spectacularly well. As a result of this system, the use of weapons like smoke grenades can become pivotal in a battle if used tactically, obscuring visibility of the enemy in order to cover your movements.
Company of Heroes 2 has the aforementioned (and admittedly epic) 15-hour single-player campaign to get you started. However, it also has multiplayer, and this where the mechanics of the game truly start to shine. The weather mechanics are instrumental in accurately portraying the crushingly low temperatures experience by the troops on both sides; frostbite is a major concern here and will push you to think carefully about how your troops are deployed and how quickly you are able to react to the changing weather conditions.
Players will also appreciate a new mode known as Theatre of War. This allows you to tackle a number of smaller mission-based scenarios either alone or in a co-op fashion, effectively fusing multiplayer and single-player to create a mode that’s greater than the sum of its parts. If you’ve played Call of Duty, this mode is akin to Spec Ops mode in MW3.
There’s not much left to point out here aside from the game’s outstanding sound effects and graphics. Though other strategy games may involve similar, explosive scenarios, the sound effects in Company of Heroes 2 truly set it apart from the rest. These sound effects make for impactful battle scenarios, particularly if you’ve got some top-quality headphones in or a decent subwoofer. These audio and visual elements combine with the game’s wonderful attention to detail where it counts. The weather and TrueSight systems effectively reflect the conditions experienced on the eastern front, and the virtually limitless number of troops you can call upon reminds us of the Soviet population advantage. Overall, a fantastic strategy game from Relic Entertainment whose multiplayer supersedes its campaign.