Review by Tom Ingram

"Decent game overall, with some drawbacks"

I got this game because my friend recommended it to me, and although I was new to RTSs I liked the idea of using the mine flail on nazis and doing complete overkill things like an artillery strike to kill a single sniper. So you have to understand where I'm coming from on this.

I LOVE this game. It is absolutely addictive, and consumed every afternoon from the day I got it for two months. The single player gets old fast, but where it really shines is multiplayer. That being said, the game also has its share of problems.

Graphics/Sound 9/10
You really can't ask for more here. The graphics are beautifully detailed, and the game runs relatively smoothely on my computer, hardly the beefiest one ever made. The only issue here is that in a recent patch they introduced a message that pops up every so often saying that somebody's graphics settings are lagging the game, even when they aren't (and the message won't go away if you turn the settings down). Other than that, it's perfect.

As for sound, the music is just your standard World War 2 game music, but the sound effects are perfect. When you click on a unit, they say something, often offering such humourous insights as "I hear the Nazis are all 8 feet tall". If you zoom in on the soldiers and wait a bit, you can hear them talking to each other--telling war stories, exchanging gossip about other soldiers, and lamenting the state of the war. It's a nice detail.

Gameplay 7/10
Gameplay is obviously the most enjoyable aspect of the game, but it's also where the problems come in. The game offers two armies, American and German (Wehrmacht), and the expansion Opposing Fronts offers two more. Each army has its own separate units, which are good for somethings but not others, and the allied armies often complement each other (for example the American army has very good infantry but their tanks and AT guns aren't as good as the British army, whose infantry is slow and weak). Each army offers three Command Trees (American Infantry/Airborne/Armour, German Defensive/Blitzkrieg/Terror) which get you better units, increase the production speed of certain units, and offer special abilities.

The maps are many and varied, with each one requiring different kinds of tactics. They support up to eight players (4-on-4), and you can mix humans and computers.

Server uptime is the first problem with this game. Much of the enjoyment comes from playing multiplayer with and against your friends, since the single-player campaign gets old fast. Relic's server, however, often goes down for maintenance and kicks everyone out of the game. When you're playing online, you'll often have a hard time getting the game to start (the minimap is blacked out, and none of the units move), especially with more people. Sometimes the game will just randomly kick someone from an online game for no apparent reason, and it can cause problems on some computers leading to crashes.

The main drawback of Company of Heroes is the AI. Suffice to say that if our soldiers were as stupid as the men in the game, we wouldn't have won the war (though neither would Germany; their units are just as stupid). It is unbelievable frustrating to lose a battle (or make a major screwup costing tons of lives) because your men decided to toke up before fighting. What I mean is that you can have a rifle squad and two engineer squads fighting a mortar crew of two men (who are unarmed except for the mortar, and not firing back) at point-blank range, and take ten minutes to kill them. They take your orders so literally that they don't move 5 feet out of the way if a fire is lit under them. There are cases of units simply deciding they're above the chain of command and not doing what they're told (this is not intentional, it's a bug), and units following orders issued to other units. Your tank and vehicle drivers would rather take ten seconds to turn around than just drive backwards for two seconds, often ending in the death of their vehicle and its occupants. Your men always take the shortest route to wherever you want them to go, even if it's shorter by five feet and goes right through enemy territory (or even if a bridge they need to cross has blown up. They'll just sit there and wait for a land bridge to form naturally). And self-propelled artillery pieces will often run into enemy territory to get in range of a target when they could just move ahead two feet.

Replayability 8/10
I've had this game since December 07 (it's April 08 at the time of writing), and I still play it often, which is more than I can say for most games. The single-player campaign leaves much to be desired, but fighting against and with your friends in online matches is where all the replayability lies (and if you're feeling up to it, you could always finish off that single-player campaign, but you usually get bored partway through and never finish). Note that it may be helpful to use XFire or Ventrilo or something similar to talk to your friends--while there is a chat function in-game, voice chat is better because you can communicate and play at the same time.

Overall 7/10
+Graphics and sound couldn't be better, run smoothly
+Good, balanced, nuanced armies
+Several maps supporting many players
+Highly replayable
-Ungodly server uptime
-Units that would give Forrest Gump a run for his money

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 04/23/08

Game Release: Company of Heroes (US, 09/13/06)

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