From the first, where you are placed in control of a brigade of troops tasked with landing on Omaha Beach and destroying German 88s, Relic's Company of Heroes grabs you and doesn't let go. With startlingly realistic graphics and sound, innovative and intuitive gameplay, and deeply compelling subject matter, CoH represents the next leap forward in real-time strategy, and stands as a tour-de-force of the genre.
Company of Heroes puts you in command of troops in Able Company, a U.S. Army unit, during the Battle of Normandy, which lasted from D-Day, when over three million troops crossed the English Channel, to the crossing of the Seine River and the occupation of Paris. A true RTS, CoH has you managing resources and troops much like StarCraft or WarCraft, but with the added twist of accomplishing primary as well as secondary mission objectives. Framing the RTS genre within a historical, realistic context lets you identify with your troops much more than say, an alien Zerg, and adds a layer of tension lacking in many other RTS games.
Each of the single-player campaign missions and maps are carefully designed and beautifully rendered, so it seems a shame that you'll end up blowing most of them up. In another departure from traditional RTS, the Havok Engine in CoH lets your troops physically alter the landscape. Tanks burst through concrete walls and wooden fences, sending the pieces flying. Engineers demolish buildings and build sandbag walls for cover. Your riflemen can even use craters caused by artillery as cover. This, along with the realistic AI of your troops, separates CoH even more from other games of this type.
It's a shame, then, that the ride is so short. The campaign consists of just 15 missions, all played from the Allied side (which is a good thing). Individual missions usually take an hour or two to complete, more if you replay them to win medals by fulfilling secondary objectives. Multiplayer, via LAN or the Internet, adds more variety though maps are limited and a random map feature is not, or could not be, included. Other complaints are minor. For example, sometimes the AI over-pursues enemy troops, making it easy for them to be trapped and annihilated. Enemy AI is equally deficient and can be exploited as well. And the game certainly earns its Mature rating, as your men cuss, scream and bleed in equal measure. Of course, it's your goal to make sure your own Company of Heroes cusses more than it bleeds. CoH sets a high standard for future RTS games in execution, tone, and sheer style.
Graphics: Detailed, elaborate maps and character models starkly illustrate the gritty reality of war. CoH unflinchingly depicts the violence and tumult of WWII combat.
Sound: From the rattle of machine guns to the cursing of your troops, CoH's sound effects and design are consistently excellent. A stirring, entirely appropriate musical score undergirds mission briefings and battles.
Enjoyment: As a single player game, CoH feels short with only 15 campaign missions played from the Allied perspective. However, skirmishes and multiplayer give you the opportunity to experiment with the German war machine.
Replay Value: Obtaining all of the medals for the campaign missions may provide additional replayability, but overall this is fairly weak. Multiplayer helps, though.
People who downloaded Company of Heroes have also downloaded:
Age of Empires III, Commandos 2: Men of Courage, Close Combat 5: Invasion Normandy, Command & Conquer: Generals, Age of Empires 2: The Age of Kings, Blitzkrieg 2, Commandos 3: Destination Berlin, Codename: Panzers - Phase Two
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