Company of Heroes 2

Retake Stalingrad, comrade. No matter the cost!

By AlexM, Posted 07 Nov 2013

It was assumed that the fall of Stalingrad would mark the end of all hope. “One carries the rifle while another carries the bullets. When the one with rifle dies, the one with bullets picks it up and continues fighting” – you could hear the commissar shout athis troops while they charged the heavily destroyed city.

Company of Heroes 2 is a real-time strategy game developed by Relic and published by Sega. Building upon the success of the first entry in the franchise, we are presented with a new and grim episode of the Second World War – the fight for Russia.

Company of Heroes 2, Game Review, Real Time Strategy, PC, Warfare

Step back into the boots of a commanding officer on the front lines and brush up on your tactics, because while veterans of the last game will find the formula familiar, Company of Heroes 2 reloads a fresh clip of improved features. The artificial intelligence now thinks like a true front-line adversary, as it won’t try the same foolish tactic twice. All units now spawn from a single fixed position on the map or off, a major change from the original Company of Heroes. This means you no longer have the ability to convert regular buildings into production facilities, which heavily hinders the unprepared officer who throws away valuable troops into enemy fire.

Missions play out in the same manner. In the sixth mission, entitled “Stalingrad Aftermath,” for example, you’re tasked with taking three essential tactical points as a primary objective and silencing two artillery pieces as a secondary objective. The mission starts out deep in a factory area that is suited for snipers and agile infantry. When reaching the first heavily defended German position, Katyusha Rocket Launchers are assigned to your unit to pound the defenses to nothing but settling dust. As I advanced closer to the German line, I attempted to coordinate two objectives at once: overwhelming the enemy defense and silencing the artillery. One split-second of poor coordination resulted in both my death launching trucks to be melted down by an MG42 spitting 1,200 rounds per minute.

Company of Heroes 2, Game Review, Real Time Strategy, PC, Warfare

The single-player campaign follows the story of Lt. Lev AbramovichIsakovich, a survivor of Stalingrad and up-and-coming commander. We find the Lieutenant in a Soviet labor camp, some five years after the war has ended. Each mission is presented as a memory recollection, in conjunction with his former officer and presently, his interrogator. Heavy scarred memories awake as the campaign continues and tell the tale of one man disillusioned with the Soviet doctrine. Dialogue and voice acting are highly entertaining and raise interesting moral dilemmas. Was the sacrifice of millions worth the cause? Was there no other way? Each time the protagonist slips into a painful recollection, he is prompted back to reality by the interrogator, assuring him that it was absolutely necessary. Was it?

Graphically, Company of Heroes 2 respects and honors its predecessor. Cranked up to maximum, it offers a tremendous display of firepower and richly detailed battlefields. Infantry and armored elements are heavily detailed and superbly animated. Units dynamically move around and cover their comrades while approaching objectives you have set out for them. It is an absolute delight to watch infantrymen push up against a wall, take a quick peak around the corner, as the rest of the unit moves up.

To help invoke the feeling of being caught in the middle of a firefight, the sound kicks in with authentic recorded weapon rounds that sing to the ear of a WW2 enthusiast. The loud roar of a 500 HP tank engine accompanied by the sharp slap-like sound of Mossing-Nagant sniper rifle firing assault the ears in a pleasing manner.

Company of Heroes 2, Game Review, Real Time Strategy, PC, Warfare

Ambient chatter can be heard as the units debate important subjects in such grim times, such as “some miss the women, some miss the drink, I miss the food, what’s wrong with that?”

Notably, while starting the game and browsing the front end, the player is greeted by a heavy violin, strong war drums and an ensemble of strong male vocals, sending a strong chill up the spine while  putting the mind into a battle-ready state.

To further create an authentic experience, the engine powering Company of Heroes 2, Essence Engine 3.0, has brought a new weapon to the fight. True Sight technology is a dynamic line-of-sight system that allows for real-time shifts of what your units can and can’t see. When a unit passes a small opening,  for instance, the fog of war shifts in the form of a cone, portraying what the unit’s eyes can see. Smoke acts as an obscuring element, units being unable to fire through it since they have no direct line of sight on enemies. Urban settings pose a higher threat than open fields due to this dynamic line-of-sight system.

Multiplayer brings a familiar yet fresh approach on competitive matches. Familiarity springs from the meta-game point of view as correctly timed configurations of units are required, similar to Starcraft2 fast-paced plays. The Army Customizer, similar to Company of Heroes Online, allows players to configure their doctrines and units as they see fit. Bulletins, the progression system, unlock further tactical advantages in the form of unit health upgrades, endurance, and firepower.

What is fresh to a RTS veteran is the dynamic evolution of a match. Due to a different approach on territory management and dynamic battles, Company of Heroes 2 creates a unique perspective on strategy and rules of engagement. Each hard-fought battle is a delight to be reviewed using the replay system. It’s as if you are watching history unfold in a parallel universe as two to eight simultaneous players brawl in an array of eight unique maps, almost all of them presenting a unique twist – winter conditions.

Winter was a decisive factor in this chapter of the Second World War. During some campaign missions and multiplayer maps, you will be facing temperatures that induce frostbite and pick off units under your command. Careful and quick micro-management of your troops is required. As the fighting goes on, a timer will announce a blizzard is approaching. It is highly recommended that regular infantry are moved to a nearby bon-fire or shelter to be shielded from the deadly freezing temperatures. Visibility drops so much that it almost blinds the troops caught out and vehicles slow down due to extremely strong winds. The weather condition brings an almost nerve-racking experience to the unprepared commander as he witnesses his army decimated by the cruel cold.

To honor the best WW2 RTS game ever made, Relic has created a heart-chilling masterpiece. They have gone above the call of duty to bring the immersive power and emotional energy of a dark episode in our history. Company of Heroes 2 will fight with courage and honor to win a place as one of the greatest RTS of this year and will succeed.

Alexandru-Valentin Mirea, NoobFeed
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General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): SEGA
Developer(s): Relic
Genres: Real-Time Strategy
Themes: Strategy
Release Date: 2013-06-25

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