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SummaryTrick or Treat?
- The graphics and all those effects
- A full destructible scenery
- Somewhat realistic action in limited extend
- Strong language when the situation becomes dire
- The multiplayer
- The AI of your units
- Several details that affect realism
The Bottom LineI like strategic games a lot, but I am not a fan of RTS. Company of Heroes achieved over-night notoriety because it was offered as a gift in purchase of a GeForce 8400, a good option by the time the game was launched, and like such games, it offers good graphics and really nice effects. Company of heroes itself is very pleasant to look at, even in the lower settings.
In the campaign mode, you must lead a company size (hence the name) unit through 15 missions in the Normandy offensive of the WWII, from the D-day (06/06/44) to the closure of the Falaise Pocket (19/08/44). Although the game describes the armies as allies and axis, they are really Americans (except in the last mission) and Germans. While leading the Americans (only option in the campaign mode), you will have to accomplish a number of objectives, which are all well explained in the briefing before each mission and are close to what someone would expect from WWII action. According to which unit do you lead, you will have a different ability path to follow, there are three "doctrines" in the game, so, if you are in charge of paratroopers, expect the possibility to ask supplies and air support from the skies. If you are in charge of an infantry company, artillery support and rangers are the call, and if you lead an armored platoon, heavy tanks and special logistics will do the trick.
The fact you take control of different companies should explain why the odd limit of your units (you are allowed up to 75 soldiers at time, but some troops, like the sniper and the howitzer, counts like more towards that limit than the actual number of soldiers deployed in that squad). Most of the time you will be with an amount of troops close to two platoons or so, therefore only by adding the numbers of soldiers in all companies you lead, it's really a company size unit at the start of an offensive.
Talking about numbers, in the game you don't control soldiers, but squads. Any order will be carried by the entire squad, however the squad size is not the same of the adopted in the WWII, but the size of the fire teams of the time, something necessary, given the numbers limitation I already talked about. As the "squads" take losses, they become less effective, but the casualties can be replaced when close to the HQ or a half-track. Healing wounded soldiers is a little bit trickier, since it is a different process to each army.
And talking about differences, there are plenty of them. The Germans are available in the skirmish mode, with different infantry (there is no German standard rifleman squad like the Americans), different vehicles (which are also very good in theirs roles) and different tanks (some like the Stug and Stuh are somewhat tricky), the Germans also evolve in a different way, as they have to "buy" experience instead acquiring through combat (the game explain it is a call for veterans from the east front) and phases, which are required for constructing more advanced constructions, units, and unlocking several of the abilities of Germans units. Like the Americans, the Germans have "doctrines" too: defense, blitzkrieg and terror doctrines for the balance in skirmish matches.
The graphics, as I said, are marvelous, and the camera allows the player a full vision of the battlefield, with the 360º rotation, zoom-in and zoom-out, explosions are great, and affect the gameplay as they form crates that can be used for cover. Everything can be destroyed, as tanks crush walls and barbed wire, and anti-tank guns bring houses down to the floor you will be sure that this game was developed with a lot of attention to the details.
The sound is great too. Each unit has a list of sentences to give confirmation of your orders or to tell you about combat, and even tough you will hear the most commons over and over (like the "trick or treat?" in the title, from the sniper), and some of them are inaccurate (like the wrong pronunciation of volksgranadiers, by the homonymous German unit), they are still very nice, and add a felling about what is happening and specially how dire the situation is.
The AI is great sometimes and bad in others. The computer can prove itself a real challenge from time to time, and react accordingly to your moves, but the troops often require some micro-management, as they don't think twice before wasting their lives in the worst way possible (imagine a sniper charging an armored car or soldiers rushing toward the flames of an enemy flamethrower. The computer usually don't pick up captured weapons (something you can also do as soon you kill all enemies operating that weapon), but create new troops with a brand new weapon of the same kind, the only exception to this, is the panzerfaust, that I found the computer is always interested in capturing or recovering.
One thing I feel the game could have is a grasp of logistics. Of course managing to supply fuel, spare parts and ammo for your man in the heat of the battle would make the game consistently harder and less appealing for the majority of the players out there that are used to the old fashion of "gather resources and buy units". However, on the other hand, the decision to follow the mechanic of conquering strategic points to earn resources was a bad one, making the game much more similar with most of the repetitive RTS in that point. A different path would give a new life to the single player campaign that only manages to escape from being weak due the good presentation of objectives and missions and the early outbreak of interesting skirmishes in the first three levels of the game.
The only really bad part comes now: the multiplayer. At time it was good, even with some cheap strategies that exploited some of the game's mechanics. But now, multiplayer is a no-go. As following the release of opposing fronts, Relic decided for full compatibility between this and the original company of heroes, so even after heavy download of patches and such, the player of this game will still have to compete against different armies with overpowered units (comparing to the units available in this edition) which is a hard cut-off. Aside from this and some small problems and quirks, the game is still great and highly recommended.