Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Company of Heroes Review

Alright, so I've gotten my hands on the latest of the WWII genre: Company of Heroes. A lot of people are sick of the Dubya Dubya Aye Aye type of game, but that's never really been a problem for me. However, I think even a guy who was sick to death of the subject after BF1942, MOH, and CoD can still find a lot to like in this RTS.

Yes, Company of Heroes is a real-time-strategy, and a pretty good one too. It feels very much like Call of Duty in RTS form, and there are notable similarities between the two. For instance, Tanks are largely superior over infantry, infantry units are squad based, Tank armor is thinner in the back than up front, attacking from cover is far superior than standing in the open, etc.


The squad dynamic is something I haven't really seen before, and it works pretty well. Though, I know some people like to play RTSes trying to aim for as few casualties on their side as possible, and I'm here to tell you that you will have to get used to the idea of spending blood to gain ground. There is a difficulty modifier, but even on the medium setting you'd best hunker in for a bloody mess and an aching jaw from clenching while you concentrate. Borrowing an idea from Command and Conquer: Generals, as you fight you gain "experience" which you can then spend to buy abilities such as artillery bombardment, faster unit production time or other such upgrades.


The controls are rather straightforward and intuitive to anyone who's played a RTS in the last 10 or so years. It's all point and click with keyboard shortcuts, assigning/selecting attack groups based on keyboard numbers, spacebar to zoom to the location of the last event that happened, etc. Anyone who's played a Command and Conquer game or a Blizzard RTS will find the controls easy to learn quickly. But the gameplay is different enough from them such that you don't feel like you're playing the same game again.


This is where Company of Heroes really shines. The models use about the same amount of polygons as BF 1942 or the first CoD, but usually you will be viewing things from 100 or so feet in the air. But you don't have to! You can use the camera controls to zoom right down to ground level and tilt the view up so you can see things just as if you were standing on the ground with your troops. It's a nice feature, even if you will only use it once or twice, ever. This also means that Heroes needs a pretty beefy machine to run well. My rig isn't a slouch (1.7 ghz AMD, 1 gig 3200 DDR ram, AGP Radeon 9800 pro 256mb), and even it couldn't handle much above 1024x768 with the bells and whistles at about half. But it is still entirely playable and enjoyable.


The sound is good quality, the voice acting excellent. The sound effects are the sort you would expect. Parents, be warned, if you have small children you're going to want to invest in some headphones. Much as soldiers really do, much of the dialogue is riddled with obscenities, epithets, slurs and plain old filthy F-bombs. Most of you will also recognize the omnipresent voice of Steven Blum, who you may know as "The Guy Who Did the Voice for (Pick)Spike Spiegel in Cowboy Bebop/Mugen in Samurai Champloo/Roger Smith in Big O/Zabusa and Orochimaru in Naruto/Kazuma in S-Cry-Ed/Jamie in Megas XLR/Captain Foley in Call of Duty/Half the Characters in Doom3/etc ad infinivm." The guy is freaking everywhere these days.

In Summary

Definitely one worth picking up. It's an evolutionary step forward in RTSes, with just enough new ideas worked in to give it a fresh feeling where it needs it. But be warned, some of the levels in the single player campaign will take you many hours. All in all, I'd give it a 9/10. Rating: A.

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