The first Company of Heroes was touted as one of the greatest real-time strategy games to date, and I couldn’t agree more with that statement. I spent many long nights facing off against AI and other players in competitive multiplayer matches and co-op. Company of Heroes 2 did not give me the same feeling. It felt like it had all be done many times before, there wasn’t enough there that differed from the original game and its expansions. This could have easily been an expansion and probably would have fared better.
That is not to say it was completely bad, I did have some fun playing the campaign for a bit. But it didn’t keep my attention firmly locked for the entire time. And after five or six missions I was struggling to continue, – it had lost its momentum and had become a task to finish. You never really feel invested in the story of the character you are inhabiting, or your task of stopping the German army. Everything becomes a blur and the only thing you see is the mission complete sign at the end.
While the Russian armies are generally a favorite of mine in strategy games, I never really felt like their likeness was captured in anything other than the cutscenes. The units felt like any other unit in the series. The Russians were known for sending mass numbers of troops against their opponents. This was rarely the case for me. While most missions granted you reinforcements in the form of a squad or two, it wasn’t a major turning point for the battle. You did not control the majority of Russian solders on the battlefield; instead they were useless AI squads, there to get in your way.
That is just the campaign however – the co-op and AI missions were hugely fun. Each had a specific task you needed to accomplish to test your skill. There is nothing like bombing a town with Katyusha trucks just so you can score a couple minutes extra on the clock. Arcing rocket barrages devastate all and will easily rack up a hundred or more kills, which is satisfying. The only problem with finding a game in co-op was the wait time in matchmaking, often taking longer than five minutes to find one partner for a mission.
Multiplayer is another matter entirely. This is the PvP kind of multiplayer. Relic decided to remove the system they had in place for the first game – player run servers, which worked – in favor of a matchmaking system. This was a terrible idea, and I’m not sure what they were thinking. This causes you to be thrown in with so much higher leveled opponents that you don’t stand much of a chance against. It was like playing a MOBA for the first time. My first game, I was level 6, I was put with level 70’s and higher. Neither of the other two members of my team stopped yelling over chat at me to do something or do it differently. There is no time to learn PvP when you are cast in with people like that. If I had had the opportunity to choose my own server perhaps it would have turned out differently.
So far the game may sound completely terrible by reading my review, and perhaps that is true. The technical side of things however makes up for it, but only a little bit. Graphically Company of Heroes 2 is a beautiful game, especially for a real-time strategy. The cutscenes may be lacking but that doesn’t detract from the fact that once in-game everything is detailed with extreme care. Units look great, buildings are detailed, and explosions are eye-catching. When you attack a building and it begins to crumble realistically, it brings a smile to your face.
Sound is another technical feature that Relic did quite well on. I may not have been around during World War 2, but I can imagine the boom of a tank cannon will sound pretty close to what the tanks in Company of Heroes 2 sounded like. Artillery whistles and roars as it flies through the air, eventually devastating its target with loud, concussive waves. And the shouts of your squad and the surrounding AI squads ring out across the battlefield.
I honestly don’t think I will be returning to Company of Heroes 2 any time soon. If I want to play a World War 2 RTS I will reinstall my copy of the original and its expansion packs. There just wasn’t enough here to keep my attention glued to the screen. Perhaps once an expansion pack or two is released and perhaps a few updates I may give it another go.
(Reviewed on PC. Review code supplied on behalf of Sega. Thank you.)
ONLY SINGLE PLAYER SCORE
Story – 4
Gameplay/Design – 5/10
Visuals – 6/10
Sound – 6/10
Lasting Appeal – 5/10
Overall – 5/10
(Not an average)
Ratings: M (ESRB), 18 (PEGI)