Review by Droknar
"Solid RTS offering good challenge, good replayability, but would provide a tough challenge for the novice"
Company of Heroes
First off, my RTS background includes Warcraft II/III, Starcraft, Total Annihilation, Command and Conquer (original, Red Alert II, Generals and Zero Hour), as well as the entire Warhammer 40K: Dawn of war series including the most recent, Dark Crusade. I'm an avid RTS player who definitely came to Company of Heroes expecting innovative gameplay and a unique challenge. This is true, but as is sometimes the case, you 'get what you wish for.'
CoH reminds me a lot of Warhammer 40k in that there are resources solely governed by territorial control and the construction of listening posts at each of these territories. The difference is inherent in the resource rate. CoH correctly portrays the 'supply line' mentality of World War II combat, in that resources are scarce and hard to control.
The premise is to use a combination of infantry, armor, and artillery to take control of territory to both bolster your army and starve your opponent into submission, while accomplishing side objectives or fight against time or unit constraints in order to achieve victory.
There are three types of resources to keep track of: manpower, munitions, and fuel. Manpower is just that - the ability to field personnel. This is used in general infantry, heavy weapons teams, mortar crews, engineers, snipers, as well as every tank and light armor vehicle you build. This is the staple resource and the easiest to come by. You also use this resource to reinforce your infantry squads. The other two are the game-breakers.
Munitions allow the use of special abilities and command powers. This is everything from telling your infantry to throw grenades or calling in off-map artillery. Everything has a munitions cost, and it typically isn't cheap. This creates a significant strategic problem and an additional layer of gameplay that can leave novice or non-hardcore players frustrated. It always seems like there is never enough munitions no matter how many points you take.
Fuel is far worse. Fuel is what allows you to field vehicles, and due to their power is extremely hard to get. Typically there are only one or two fuel points on a map, and they generate fuel extremely slowly. As such tanks are treasured assets that you should never leave alone and always pull back if in dire straits, into the waiting arms of your engineers.
Artillery is a horrific force in the game, as it is in real war. It is expensive to wield, but extremely useful in subverting enemy offenses and rooting out entrenched forces.
Single Player Campaign - 8 out of 10
Following Able Company throughout a long campaign of attrition against German defenses, the player will be tested in their micro-managing skills and quick thinking. Many of the missions are time-based and require extraordinary playing to win the coveted reward medals. Because the German army is usually entrenched and vastly outnumber your forces, you constantly feel outmaneuvered and in some cases, out-gunned due to the German Panzers.
Most of the game (on Normal Difficulty) provides a decent challenge and constant watch of your forces, but some missions (Hill 192 in particular) left me screaming and swearing in frustration. The 8 score is due in part to the sometimes awkward scripted events, awful load times, sometimes idiotic pathfinding and unit AI, and almost negligible fuel and munitions resource collection rates.
Tutorial - 5 out of 10
The tutorial does a good job of explaining the basics of troop movement, command powers and combat. It does not, however, cover building construction or upgrade order. The player is left to decipher just how to be able to build a Motor Pool on their own, which is inexcusable for a game developer.
Graphics - 10 out of 10 (Load Times - 1 out of 10)
The system requirements for this game are understandably high. My XPS laptop ran the game relatively well on most settings on High, however the load times were horrendous. One level in particular took nearly 10 minutes to load, which I haven't seen since my days of playing Commando on a Commodore 64. After dropping many of the settings to Low, load times are down to a minute or so, and performance in-game has remained about the same.
Sound 9 out of 10
One typically doesn't include a sound category in a review, but I felt it was warranted. The sound in the game is phenomenal. Even at mid-range settings, on headphones or surround sound speakers you can hear the artillery soaring through the sky from behind, then above, then in front of you before impacting on the ground. Infantry on screen will speak and sound like they are right next to you, while units off screen will sound like they are coming in over long-range radio. Tanks and vehicles engines hum and idle, cannons roar, and the sounds of combat are visceral and realistic. Voice acting is top-notch, as well, to include the German voices (spoken in German).
Overall (Should I get this game?)
This game is probably not for the novice RTS fan, unless they've played Dawn of War or Dark Crusade. It requires a large amount of baby-sitting for your units, which require reinforcement, upgrades, and specific clicking on special abilities (no auto-ability a la Warcraft III). The addition of resource cost for using these abilities adds another level of difficulty in micro-management of units. If this is a little too much to get your head around, I'd give this one a miss and maybe try Command and Conquer or Dawn of War first.
For the hardcore, the three resource types coupled with the requirement for use of nearly every unit in your inventory presents an enticing challenge. No doubt the subtle changes of strategy between German and American forces in multiplayer will give you lasting opportunities to test your prowess in RTS gaming.
Final Rating 9 out of 10
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 01/16/07
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