Company of Heroes
Critic Reviews add missing review
Average score: 93% (based on 78 ratings)
Average score: 4.0 out of 5 (based on 64 ratings with 4 reviews)
In case you haven't heard, Company of Heroes (here on out referred to as CoH), is a real-time strategy game of the WW2 flavor. Having played every major release RTS game from Warcraft to Rise of Nations and beyond, and also having experience with WW2 games like Call of Duty, Metal of Honor, and countless others, I figured I had seen it all. Wow was I mistaken!
Starting off with the tutorial because I refuse to even look at a manual, I was very well pleased with how straightforward the game controls are. Moving units around, having them take cover, perform special attacks, garrison buildings, and do everything else they are capable of is surprisingly easy and simple. Units confirm when they are selected, and confirm the orders you give them. Learning the game controls is as easy as RTS gaming gets, but using your units effectively and efficiently is another matter.
I noticed that the graphics even at middle of the road settings looks beautiful, and the game runs very nice for a modest system. Zooming in on your units reveals an unprecedented level of detail. Before I knew anything about the game and just looked at some random screenshots, I thought that this was a first person shooter (if that's any indication to the level of detail present).
Realism seems spot on. Physics are amazingly genuine, and the environment is almost entirely destructible. Blow up a big building with some artillery and watch as the structure falls apart like a real building would, all the while garrisoned troops go tumbling out of the windows. This level of realism puts you right into the battle. I even found myself feeling bad for a rifleman squad that got cut off and fell to German tanks because I couldn't back them up.
The sound is amazing and if you have a good speaker system, crank up the noise and make the neighborhood think that WW3 is upon us.
Your units have real personality and tell you what's going on when they're fighting. Infantry units can get pinned down and when they are, they'll usually say so and then be unable to fight. The option here is to have your men retreat back to base. I especially like some of the sayings your men voice, such as, "let them f** krauts eat a god grenade", or "eat s* you 'mf'" You get the idea. Quite profane at times but it only adds to the realism. I'm surprised that there was no language warning on the box, but not in any way disappointed at its presence. It is rated M+ if that's of any clue.
While there is not a gigantic variety of units to the game, there is a wide range of unit uses. Most units can be upgraded and may perform several functions. For example, engineers can be used to build structures, use flamethrowers on infantry, destroy buildings and bridges, salvage wrecked vehicles, deploy antitank guns, cut through barbed wire, the list goes on. For every type of unit there are several functions the unit may be capable of. Infantry can use grenades, sticky bombs, satchel charges, machine guns, upgraded weapons, the works. Furthermore, if a mortar or machine gun team is killed, the opponent can pick up and use the weapons left behind. VERY detailed.
When fighting, there are many factors that can determine whether or not an assault is successful. Outnumbering an enemy with superior weapons doesn't guarantee victory as is the case with almost every other RTS game out there. Let's say you attacked with 2 squads of infantry against 1 squad (you control squads, not individual soldiers) and lost. You must then examine contributing factors such as types of weapons used, veteran status (surviving many fights has units promoted making them more effective), cover (with there being 3 types, no cover, semi-cover, and cover), position, the works. It's not enough to just throw troops or tanks against an enemy with the odds in your favor and expect to win by brute strength, rather you must micromanage all of these things mentioned in order to provide for the most effective attack. In other words, you don't just order units, you control the very minute details of HOW they fight. Truly remarkable design.
Improving and acquiring new units is based upon resource acquisition. There are three types which are manpower, munitions, and fuel. Manpower is the most basic and abundance resource which is needed to make a new unit. You start with a good supply of manpower. Munitions are used to create some units but also to upgrade others or perform special actions. Want your infantry unit to grenade a building? It costs munitions. No munitions no special attacks, grenades, satchel charges and the like. Finally, fuel is used mostly for armored vehicles and tends to be the least available. This is balanced by the fact that armored vehicles can be very difficult to dispose of.
Vehicles are very detailed and interesting. Shooting a tank in the back is much more effective than in the front. Furthermore, certain parts of a tank can be damaged or destroyed. If the engine is damaged the tank moves slowly, if it's destroyed it's a sitting duck. Of course engineers can repair it over time, but this is provided that the tank survives the attack that damaged it to begin with. The vehicle's gun can be damaged, or if moving at high speed and running over a mine the tank can be out of control for a few seconds.
Early in the campaign I was directed to set up an ambush for an incoming German convoy. I set up some mines in the road, strategically positioned some machine gunners on the side of the road in bunkers, and then watched as the convoy came through, running into mines, spinning out of control, while the drivers and passengers bailed out only to be subject to unforgiving machine gun fire. Awesome!
The AI is excellent. The computer opponents do not mindlessly attack you, and instead makes what seem to be coordinated and intelligent moves against you. I deployed some engineers to repair a building that was being attacked by two tanks, and the computer responded by diverting one tank's fire to the engineers while the other continued to attack the building. The game responds intelligently to what you do, and is good at making common sense decisions along with attacking you in your weak spots. Countless other RTS games seem to just build massive armies and then try to overrun you. CoH expects you to play a smart game, and it's nice that in return it provides you with one.
Multiplayer is a load of fun, and the games can go on for a very long period of time. It takes awhile to be able to mount a strong enough attack to overrun your enemy, but usually the road to victory is traveled by those that mount multiple, simultaneous attacks at various areas. Players vie for control of various strategic and resource points to gather more munitions and fuel. Much of the game is spent fighting at various hot spots around the map, not laying siege to your opponents HQ. The game requires a high level of attentiveness over a long period of time during multiplayer. My first multiplayer game ever was against a guy that had played over 50 games and even though he destroyed me it took him a good two hours to do so. Time well spent though.
Multiplayer is done via an in game program that will allow you to connect and play without much effort at all. Ranked games exist and a record of your victories and losses are present for others to see. Good stuff.
I wasn't looking to find the bad in this game, but I didn't need to. Although I have not read another review of this game, I did notice that many game sites gave it a perfect score. I find it hard to believe that there are those that found this game to be perfect.
If I had to rate on how exciting and good the gameplay is alone, of course I would give it the maximum rating possible, however in reviewing the whole package, there are a few things that strike a nerve with me.
For one there is no way to remap controls. Not a big deal until you find that the default (and mandatory) control setup is totally backwards. The game is best experienced with multiple camera angles, but to change the camera angle you must hold down Alt while you move the mouse around. To make matters worse, resetting the camera involves hitting backspace twice. While you're doing all of this it is near impossible to control your troops or progress the gameplay, so I've found that many have resigned trying to use the various camera angles because of the awkward, unalterable controls.
There are not enough options, of any kind. There is an awful lot of horizontal tearing, but no option in the game to sync the frames. Reviewing the readme file explains that you must use third party software to force a vsync, but the problem with doing that in such a manner is that it tends to be cpu intensive, thereby reducing the speed of gameplay. Either bog down or deal with the tearing, it's up to you.
There aren't enough game options. You can win by annihilation (destroying all of your enemy) or points acquired by holding strategic positions. That's it. Furthermore, the skirmish mode is lacking in that you cannot have woefully uneven teams. Not a big deal, but there are also only two teams. A four man free for all? Forget it. You are either Axis or Allies and there is only ever one side fighting the other. This was a disappointment for me.
The system requirements are very high, which means that the majority of gamers will not be able to experience the very high detail graphics at speed which is playable. Even still the requirements are high enough that other groups of gamers may not be able to play the game at all, while others will be so bogged down that they may choose not to play.
Press any key? After a scenario is loaded you get this message. You can't just hit the mouse, you must actually press a key on the keyboard or click directly on the message. Is this DOS or something?
Upgrades and special actions require too many resources. On smaller maps and especially in single player mode, even controlling half or better of the map has you starving for resources. I had to back off of a building and wait almost a full two minutes until I had enough munitions to throw in a grenade, all the while not making any new units. You do get upgrades to your command giving you further special abilities as we've seen in C&C Generals, but often times they require so many resources that you can find yourself earning rank only to gain special abilities that you can't afford to use.
In very long multiplayer games, this is not as big of an issue. But in skirmish games with small or medium maps it is a constant pain in the ass.
It's rarely possible to come back from a heavy defeat. Once you've had a decisive battle mid-game and lost a resource point or two, it's extremely difficult to recover. You are starved for resources while your opponent gets wealthy. The alternative you have is to generate more units rather than spending on unit upgrades or special moves, but the problem this generates is that your opponent will gain more and more veteran units while you're throwing fresh meat at him. There is too much of a snowball effect once you've taken a big lump. As a result, it is often clearly visible who the winner is going to be, even hours before the game can be ended. That's a real drag.
UPDATE! There has been some patching going on and the dynamics of the game have seriously changed. Most notably, online game matching is more buggy than ever. It often takes a very long time to have a ranked game begin, even with several people in queue, all waiting. Furthermore, the statistics system is not working properly. Some people aren't having any of their wins counted, others aren't having their losses counted. This results in the rank which is displayed being completely inaccurate. You might go up against a rank 1 player that is a professional CoH player, or you might go against a rank 6 player that can't play worth squat. Furthermore, most of the match making is based on rank, which means that if your losses aren't being counted, you will consistently be paired with high ranking players (which may, or may not have earned it).
I personally have 63 wins that haven't been counted, so my official record is 21-20 for 2v2 games, when it should be 84-20. Huge difference. This was brought up on the official forums, and the response from the public relations people was, "the ranking system is far from flawless, don't expect there to be a fix anytime soon."
For others, the ranking system means nothing. However, in the latest patch they made the allies so strong that the game is horribly unbalanced. It takes an exceptional axis player to beat a humble, casual allied player now. Whereas the axis had their strength in armor previously, with allies having powerful infantry squadrons, the allied tanks are now superior, leaving axis players at a disadvantage on all fronts. Couple this with the ranking issues and poor speed with game match making, and CoH's multiplayer online option has become an almost complete disaster. I must change the rating for the game in light of this.
The Bottom Line
Despite some minor flaws this is simultaneously the best RTS and WW2 game ever made in my opinion. It's truly amazing that the developers could take two of the most tired genres in the industry and make a game that will impress even the most jaded gamers. I look forward to more games like this!
Windows · by D Michael (221) · 2007
The graphics in Company of Heroes are cutting edge for the Real-Time Strategy genre and it's so good that Relic use it for their in-game cutscenes with even up-close-and-personal shots of the game's protagonists. Along with fitting era music by acclaimed game composer Jeremy Soule and the yells and cursing of the troops while in firefights, the game is a truly immersive WWII experience and is heavily reminiscent of Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers.
The gameplay in Company of Heroes is similar to most RTSes except for a few key differences. Firstly you do not harvest resources, instead you gain them by capturing and controlling resource sectors across the map. An open supply route back to your HQ is crucial in this since if any of your sectors get cut off then it will no longer contribute any resources. Secondly the game is more tactical and takes into account line of fire. Sometimes units will miss due to terrain. Sometimes a tank shell will just deflect off armour (and you are rewarded in this game for targeting the rear or sides of tanks where just like in real-life, the armour is generally weakest). Taking advantage of terrain and also learning how to use your troops and tanks effectively will be decisive in your ability to secure a victory.
You are also given the ability to follow down three skill trees which will offer you special abilities like artillery strikes and bombing runs, quite similar to the system employed in Command and Conquer Generals. You gain these abilities by earning experience points on the battlefield, either through killing enemies or building new structures.
Multiplayer is good fun too and gives you an opportunity to play with your friends as an allied company or against them. I was unable to test on Relic Online however, but that's discussed in "The Bad" section.
Even though the graphics are great in Company of Heroes this means lower end systems may suffer in performance (so a mid to high-end system is recommended!). Framerates were passable on my machine except whenever a Tiger tank was on the screen, the framerate would plummet to single digits (have no idea why that is the case, but there you go).
As mentioned, multiplayer is a blast but unfortunately I was unable to play online and had to resort to playing over a LAN with friends. This is because it seems the pings Australians get on Relic Online's servers are so high that they don't allow players to connect if they exceed a certain threshold. This problem may be rectified in the future but at the time of this review this is a major hindrance to Australians as there'd only those with fast connections could possibly play (and I have a 1.5Mb connection).
The Bottom Line
Company of Heroes shows the world that even though there are speculations that the RTS genre is dying, it's not, it's just evolving into something new and the proof lies in this game. With an immersive 16-mission single player campaign (that rewards you for getting bonus objectives) and lots of fun to be had on multiplayer, this game offers good replayability and is a must have for WWII fans. It's a bit like Day of Defeat: The RTS.
Windows · by Rambutaan (2767) · 2007
It's not every day that we come across a good real time strategy game nowadays. That being because the game concepts and scenarios are well explored and implemented into games that have been already released. And WWII is a setting which has been well explored in most of it's many theaters. The last good releases which I can think of are the Blitzkrieg series and the superb Panzers: Phase One. Looking at Company of Heroes Screenshots prior to buying the game, it wasn't promising anything but good graphics. I kinda like the odd strategy game from time to time, especially when large tanks and other humongous destruction machinery is involved, so I decided to give this title a try. Being stuck on it for most of my weekend I can say that I haven't played such a good WWII real time strategy game since the days of Panzers: Phase One.
Company of Heroes really takes over where the first Panzers left in terms of gameplay, since you are now able to build a base camp (and as many small operation fronts as you wish / are able), seek and conquer resources for building your army, buildings and vehicles. Much like most other strategy games the same concept applies here as well: build a base with what you have, explore the surrounding areas for resources and then build your assault force to clear the area. In comparison to the scenario of the game which is based on true historical facts this is highly unrealistic but nevertheless it offers an enjoying strategy gaming experience.
Talking of the scenario on which Company Of Heroes was based upon, it is about the D-Day invasion of Normandy in northern France. The game will have you fighting to conquer real cities (at least their names are real) based on authentic historical events. The player commands a number of different squads in order to complete missions, not only personnel squads but armored divisions as well. Basically you have 3 types of war dogs: Infantry squads, Airborne units and Armored units. Each of these have their own special abilities and upgrades, for example the airborne units can be equipped with bazookas, the tanks can have mine destroying chains etc. Also all units begin as a base rank unit and progress in ranks according to their battling experience, a task which is not that difficult since the enemy comes in plenty. Finally when a squad has lost some of it's members in action, you can reinforce the squad back to full strength instead of waiting for them to perish. Of course there's a limit of personnel and vehicles the player can deploy, so tactical thinking is needed.
The game field is divided into sectors, so victory comes when the player has conquered all the sectors of the field. Usually one resource point takes up a sector. In order to conquer the sector you have to raise your flag on the resource point's pole, which basically means that you will have to fight for it first. Even after securing a resource point, the Germans can come and invade it again for their benefit. There are three types of resources: Manpower which is constantly generated by your HQ and barracks, Fuel and Munitions. Fuel is the most scarce and the most needed if you're into tank building. So good things come hard in this game and if you want some armor you better get fighting smart. Mind you there are a lot of sectors to conquer on each mission field and the Germans are not known to be easy going chaps! Especially when they wear the iron cross emblem on their suit :)
One of the highlights of the game are the field combat tactics; In order not to send your squad to suicide, you have to use cover from enemy fire by hiding behind walls, rocks, trees, car wrecks etc. That way you stand a fair chance of surviving even when being slightly outgunned. Also the option to retreat is vital, as when retreating the squad sprints back to the HQ, where you can reinforce the lost members and send them back to battle. This is also good for armored units as they can race back to the HQ for repairs, although this is not necessary as engineer teams can be deployed and repair vehicles anywhere on the field, this will prove useful if you are just one step from exploding to metal parts. Also, heavy machine guns come in two flavors, either as a manned mobile squad or as stationary and more robust bunker.
The graphics are superb! If you found Panzers: Phase one to be a graphical masterpiece, then wait to see this one. The buildings, soldiers, vehicles and surroundings all modeled masterfully giving wonderful visuals. The special effects and explosions are simply unbelievable! You should watch the mayhem from artillery cannons strike which combined with the excellent sounds will have you stunned at first and then when the smoke clears leaving only rampaged debris, it only makes you think of the devastation of a true war. Shocking really, but I guess some lessons are best to be learned from games rather than reality. The view camera can be adjusted to any angle that you desire; you can even lower it and have your squad in about 4 meters in front of you. However that is largely impractical in combat, but it is a rather nice gimmick when you have cleared the enemy and only a few routine tasks are left for you to complete the mission. You can actually watch the action very closely. Finally the cut scenes are a real beauty! Not all of them very detailed, as they are being rendered in real time using the game's 3D engine, but they fit very well within the graphic pace of the game.
Talking about the superb graphics and detailed modeling of this game reminds me of the old saying "you can't have everything without a cost". And that cost is going to be paid by your graphics card, as this game drains a hell of a lot resources from your system. I'm playing Company Of Heroes on a Core Duo 6600 at 2.4, with 2GB RAM and a Geforce 7950 GX2 and it still gives me average frame rates, which is especially annoying when you try to scroll your view field from one hotspot to another in order to have things under control. There are a lot of options for cycling through your squads, but in the heat of the battle it's really confusing to seek the right button to reach the right squad and you're going the old way 'click on the map to get there', or by scrolling which proves a hard task for your machine with all this 3D detailed population in the game's terrain.
Maybe it is my idea, but I really think that the developers are trying to take the mickey out of the (then) Germans. First of all, the word Germans is never heard in the game, nor the word Americans. Instead of Germans, they are being called "Axxis Forces" on the formal cut scenes (as they were mostly called in WWI) and in game they are being called 'Jerrys' or 'Krauts'. Is this some kind of a joke or another American propaganda? Most serious strategists know a basic rule in war and that is never underestimate your enemy. And hell, Germans were definitely not to be underestimated back then, as they gave the world a real hard time, whether you like it or not. So what is this Kraut and Jerry rubbish for?
Talking about the game's Germans, I'd rather be playing on their side, as they have the coolest looking panzers and base buildings. But the game offers no option to play the campaign on the German side of things. At least so far it doesn't, I haven't completed the game yet.
The Bottom Line
Overall this is a superb real time strategy game. Although it offers an authentic sequence of historical facts, the game mechanics core is like any other 'build your army and conquer' game you've played, with some more neatly thought about combat tactics, which can work at your benefit after all.
Graphically exceptional you should invest on this game only if you've got enough firepower on your machine, otherwise I suspect that it would be a rather annoying gaming experience.
Judging from the length of the first 4 missions which I have completed during the weekend, taking me about 3-4 hours on average to complete each mission, and considering the skirmish scenarios, it surely promises to be a long lasting venture on my HDD.
Windows · by SifouNaS (1309) · 2007
- 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 Line**
I 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.
Windows · by Open_Sights (466) · 2010
Contributors to this Entry
Critic reviews added by Big John WV, Jeanne, nyccrg, Wizo, firefang9212, Bet, Samuel Smith, Jacob Gens, Sciere, Cavalary, CalaisianMindthief, Zeikman, Indra was here, Alsy, Emmanuel de Chezelles, Bjorn Holine, Kabushi, Xoleras, Tim Janssen, eradix, Patrick Bregger, Jack Torrance, Cantillon.