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Posted on Oct 16, 2006 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Company of Heroes – Game Review (PC)

By Jason Taylor

I’ve always enjoyed learning as much as I can about World War II. Both of my grandfathers served in that titanic struggle. Although they never spoke to me directly about their experiences, I was told by my father about his father being wounded in the Battle of the Bulge. I always listen intently as my girlfriend’s grandfather tells me about his experiences in the Pacific and how he was awarded his two Purple Hearts. I think I play games set in this period to experience just a tiny bit of what they went through.

Rare is the World War II game which does "history" well in the real time strategy (RTS) market. Rarer still is the game that appeals to both the casual gamer and the more historical accuracy-minded wargamer. Many developers have made the attempt, but few have had any margin of success. Vancouver-based Relic Entertainment is the latest team to try their hand at this most elusive of goals with their entry into the World War 2 theater: Company of Heroes.

Gameplay

The game takes place in France during the Battle of Normandy. Missions are as diverse as securing a beachhead, capturing the town of Carentan, and cutting off Axis lines of retreat. The action in this game comes fast and doesn’t stop.

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My first impression of Company of Heroes is that the game is hard. It is hard because it plays unlike most every other RTS game out there. Do not be alarmed by this – it is a good thing. A short time playing should suffice to familiarize you with the system, and from there it is a simple matter of learning what the individual units and abilities do to ensure your success playing this game. Once you learn the basics and begin succeeding, the feeling of accomplishment is that much greater.

Gone are the conventional workers who go out into the world and bring resources back into your base to help create your fighting forces. Instead, Company of Heroes uses a different approach for managing your economy. There are three resources in the game: Manpower, Munitions, and Fuel. All are acquiring by capturing objectives in the field. This moves the action out of your base and into contested territory, where you and the enemy duke it out. Manpower is the primary resource, and is used for most things in the game. You’ll need lots of Munitions to get upgrades for your units, from Thompson submachineguns for your rangers to panzerschreks for your grenadiers. Fuel is necessary to deploy armor and vehicles. As such, Fuel is often the most hotly contested source in the game, and many battles will be waged over these critical resource points. With this emphasis in mind, players with an aggressive style are hugely rewarded. If you turtle in your base you are doomed to defeat.

The units available are diverse: everything from mortars to snipers and armored cars to tank destroyers can slug it out. The game incorporates many features lacking from conventional RTS games these days. Small arms will do no damage to armor, so you’ll need to have your own armor, bazookas or some heavy hitters like anti-tank guns. Vehicles have different armor values for front, sides and rear, so flanking a Panzer IV to line up a rear shot is much more effective than attacking its frontal armor. Sandbags, craters, and other terrain give infantry directional cover. Infantry can also garrison buildings to provide better shelter from incoming fire.

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