Company Of Heroes Tactical Brilliance On The Virtual Battlefield

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Company of Heroes is a game that I have marked as “special” since I was able to play the preview code at the end of July. So it’s fair to say that I was quite looking forward to it. Which, given the fact that I’m hardly the biggest RTS fan in the world, really says something. One of the signs that you are playing a really good game is that even the most persistent critics of the genre can put aside their prejudices and just sit back and enjoy it. It was a surprise how well I found Company of Heroes, and also a sign that it was a title that would not only be a premiere among its peers, but would also redefine people’s expectations of what an RTS should be.

I’m going to assume at this point that you have read our overview, since it covers most of what you need to know and saves us from wasting time trying to enter the terrain already covered. Instead, I’m going to explain why Company of Heroes can even make a self-proclaimed rts hater feel like a drooling fanboy when he’s playing it.What makes this game so good? Firstly, it’s because of the tightness of the game design, which is firmer than the handful of a Scot in his last five when he’s at the pub on Friday night (and I should know that – I’m a Glaswegian). Maps are always great: the ability to use or finish cover allows you to adjust your tactics during a level; frontal strike, accompanying maneuvers and ambushes are viable options, and the game gives you the freedom to approach the action with a defensive or rude mindset. The traditional gathering of resources (probably my biggest problem with the genre) was completely leaved in favor of a system that veterans of Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War should be familiar with. Command, ammunition and fuel checkpoints are located at strategic points on the map. The control of the command points strengthens their ability to call for reinforcements. Ammunition points build up your ammunition reserves so that you can use explosives more often (e.g. sticky explosives or schoolbags) or upgrade your squads with heavier weapons such as machine guns or recoilless rifles. After all, fuel points determine their ability to call Armored reinforcements and improve their engineering units with flamethrowers. The key to this resource model is that you need to take risks and measures to access it if you miss a certain resource. This adds an extra dimension to the game, as hitting your enemy’s supply lines can be more effective than hitting your forces directly (as it will affect their ability to strengthen). It’s a tactic that can have a devastating impact, especially in multiplayer games, and encourages players to be more innovative than traditional Panzer Rush and meat grinder approaches to playing an RTS.
The other big thing that sets Company of Heroes apart is consistency in the game world. Due to physics and damage modeling, everything behaves as expected. Tanks can drive through buildings to demolish them, forming spontaneous highways where their infantry can flank the garrison troops. Mortar shells gracefully tilt through the air in precisely calculated parabolas. Wooden cover is less protective than brick or stone. Infantrymen are carried away by grenades. All these little details help to make the game feel more real and immersive, and by immediately immersing the game in the action at the beginning of each campaign mission, it has a sense of concentration that is not achieved by any of its peers – almost as if not a second was wasted on the game.

Best of all, though, Company of Heroes isn’t talking about the tech rush for the most powerful unit in the tech tree. The balance of power between vehicles and infantry depends a lot on the map you are playing. In highly urbanized areas, such as Cherbourg, the mobility of tanks is limited, so they are vulnerable to infantry strikes with sticky explosions and flashlights: having only the strongest units is not a guarantee of victory. Instead, you need to be able to use the right units at the right time and in the right place. Being able to rethink the opponent instead of just outwitting him is an infinitely more satisfying way to play the game, and the use of combined weapon tactics (with infantry, vehicles, snipers and artillery together) is the most rewarding of all.Once the campaign is completed and dusted, you will undoubtedly spend a lot of time playing the game in online or offline multiplayer against the AI in action mode. As in most games, the multiplayer mode is as good as your opponent – from mediocre to fantastic, depending on where your player level as an opponent falls into this spectrum. The online gaming browser may not be as stable as it could be, but the Netcode is solid and shouldn’t get in the way of your fun, provided you don’t get too close to the minimum requirements. In skirmish mode, the CPU AI is pleasantly malicious, giving even the toughest rts junkies a run for their money on small cards. Less experienced players will want to stick to the larger action maps, where the larger area gives you more tactical flexibility and planning time, but don’t expect an easy ride. Overall, I found the single player campaign more compelling than the skirmish modes, but they should still be a lot of fun for players who have gotten everything out of the campaign mode.

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