Relic has delivered the latest installment in the Company of Heroes franchise. With Company of Heroes 2 you are taking on the role of the Russian army against the Germans in World War II.
You find yourself in the heat of major battles trying to stop Fascist scum. Coordinating soldiers and vehicles to win fights with tactics and force. Engineers, snipers, machine gunners, mortar launchers, light/heavy/medium tanks, and convoy vehicles are all at your disposal.
You are brought into the game with a scene at an interrogation table. This is the place where you will learn about the story of the game and through flashbacks you will be thrown into the battles.
I was actually very impressed with the story in the game and it made me keep going to beat the tougher battles just so I could reach the next part of it. You weren’t given long cinematics in-between each battles, but what they did give helped bridge the story very nicely, something I think is lacking in this genre. It managed to tie some great emotional moments into the story, there was one about halfway through the game that really sticks out to me, but I don’t want to spoil it.
I avoid “World War” era games ever since they spammed the store shelves for First Person Shooters. So when I say that I was getting pulled into the story, realize that I am not some history buff dying to relive to the Invasion of Normandy, and instead I found it engaging because of the quality of the actual game.
There are 14 missions in the main campaign. Relic said they expect it to take 12-15 hours to beat depending on player skill, it took me 9-10 hours after the first 8 missions initially, so it’s either I was really sucking or they are lowballing on that number slightly.
The missions aren’t really repetitive and places you both as an attacker and defender. I felt that I assaulted more than defended, but you tend to flip-flop during missions. There were even instances where you would do some unique story missions, like using two groups of snipers to sneak attack and effectively use their abilities to take out full encampments.
One of my favorite moments from the campaign had to be when they gave me a few infantry units and forced me to take down a bad ass german tank. I was ill-equipped and had to keep running around a small village trying to scavenge supplies and find weapons I could use. It had to take me at least 30 minutes and at the end of it I had 1 soldier left. I had three anti-tank turrets that had all the soldiers die, but they managed to take out a lot of his health. I then took my lone desperado and whipped a grenade at him and blew up the treads on the tank, immobilizing the angry Nazi. I then hid behind a watchtower until I prepped another grenade and finally finished him off.
I don’t know if I made that sound as intense as it was for me, but rest assured I was relieved and furious that it was only part one of the mission.
The game played around the same speed of StarCraft II, maybe a little slower and a lot easier to recruit new units, but both of these things made it more enjoyable for me. I did have an issue with placing troops when I gave orders though. Every time I would select more than one unit and tried to place them on spots with cover, I had no choice on how they stacked on it or if they even used it. I would get a little symbol with a shield saying they are covered, but they would still be uncovered at least visually.
On top of that when I would try to move these multiple forces the only real tactical decision I got to make was which direction they were facing. Granted I am used to the Total War series allowing me to right-click/drag and having the choice on how my soldiers stack up, but in this it would just place them in the same rectangle formation, and if I was unlucky the spacing would cause some of them to either go out in the middle of gunfire or make them take a route all the way around a building when they only had to move 10 feet to the right.
It isn’t a major issue, but I am very OCD about troop placement and when my men were practically disobeying orders I wanted to start pistol-whipping them for compromising the mission. Most missions did take me two or three times to beat on the medium difficulty, not because of this, because of me. You could save throughout if you were smart enough to do so as they all lasted at least 45 minutes…so I recommend a save or two throughout.
In addition to the campaign there is a service record tied to your account. This keeps track of medals and ribbons you have earned in campaign, multiplayer, and the Theater of War modes. There are hundreds of medals/ribbons to achieve and you even have an experience level tied to your name that unlocks customization options, perks, and commanders. All of this is universal, so no matter what you decide to dabble in, you will always earn towards your profile.
The other part of this is the army customization. By completing certain challenges and leveling up you can earn options to create different loadouts for your multiplayer experience. You can choose three commanders of whom will have certain advantages, you can choose the skins of your vehicles, and you can choose three “intelligence bulletins” that will give you minor perks like increased accuracy for mortar forces. This allows you to put together the perfect personnel to complement your play style. All of this is unlocked in different ways and beating missions on the hardest difficulty reaps some major rewards as well.
The Theater of War is the last thing I want to touch on. This game mode offers at least another 15 hours of gameplay and is a great way to gain your sea legs for multiplayer versus. You can take part in AI battles that will put you in a variety of situations to prepare for PvP, you can do Solo Challenges that pit you in unique scenarios that are fun and difficult, and you can also do cooperative missions. You are even able to use your custom army in this section, which should be good practice.
I am a little disappointed that co-op only offers 4 missions (2 Russians/2 German), I have a friend right now who is currently helping me take over Japan in Shogun Total War in a fully co-operative campaign. So seeing another SEGA company with a RTS game, made us think we could bring our skills into WWII. I understand that RTS gamers are mostly competitive multiplayer oriented, but playing through the campaign it didn’t seem like too much of a lift to give us both control of the forces. I mean Relic made the Dawn of War series that offered this exact thing. I am a huge fan of co-op though so if you aren’t take this paragraph with a grain of salt.
My only other issue was with some weird technical issues I would experience in the menus. The game ran fine and I ran it in high quality and experienced a solid 8/10 in the graphics department. I did get several instances of menus not loading, static black screens, or pieces of the HUD not showing up. All of this after missions or if I failed a mission mostly, my progress would always save but I would have to ALT+F4 out of it. Weirdly enough when I did this it would flash to a screen that said “Please Wait” and disconnect me without issue. I was playing on a build of the game for media, so it could just be that.
Overall I really enjoyed this game and if it had a full-fledged cooperative mode it would probably be one of my favorite RTS games. It is strategic and offers a lot of depth for multiplayer, plus it is also fun and offers an engaging story. This seems like the perfect purchase for any fan of the genre and with free and paid DLC already planned for the game, you will obviously have more to keep you playing.
P.S. I also may have an exclusive Steam code from E3 that gives you a Russian commander. If you don’t read this and threaten to kill my family I might be generous and give it to someone who comments on this beautiful written symphony. Also it’s my birthday so be nice.
A copy for Company of Heroes 2 (PC) was provided to us for review by SEGA