PAX Prime 2012 allowed me a sizable sneak peek at the sequel to the highly regarded tactical real-time strategy game Company of Heroes. Hailed as the highest rated strategy game of all time, Company of Heroes set a high standard for anything that followed it, including a sequel of the same title. THQ owned developer Relic Entertainment seems to understand that their next installment should further the entire series, not just rehash areas where critics praised them. This includes the introduction of the Essence 3.0 engine, as well a new setting for Company of Heroes 2 with an emphasis on environmental factors – namely, the biting cold of the Russian winter weather.
In explaining their choice of the Eastern Front of World War II, THQ reminds us that while hundreds of thousands of deaths occurred between American and European troops during WWII, a less well-known fact remains that there were 11 million Russian deaths, as well. Russia’s contribution to World War II is often overlooked by western education systems, probably due to the ensuing Cold War. COH2 seems to be doing the Eastern Front justice in their own way. The largest factor of why Hitler’s army failed on the Eastern Front was the extreme cold, which affects many choices in COH2. Snow in the game not only reveals locations and types of troops, it also hinders movement. Blizzards can increase the likelihood of soldiers dying in the snow if they are not shielded by buildings or vehicles. Bodies of water are frozen solid enough to allow tanks, but the ice below them can be blown out by enemy forces. Engineers become vital to smart progress in the game, as you will need them to clear out buildings with flamethrowers and build fires for the rest of your troops amongst their more traditional tasks.
Aside from mother nature in the motherland, there are other realistic bits worth mentioning, such as True Sight. This means that troops won’t be shooting at each other through walls or other dense structures. Another authentic touch is the infantry intensive Russian armies. Many fun vehicle types exist, some with amazing power and range, though they are not all as sturdy as the prototype tank you view in other WWII games.
I stole a chance to hear what team members felt was important about their game, allowed them to lead me through some of the gameplay, and I also gave it a shot on my own. There is a lot of fun to be had in Company of Heroes 2, which is not lost even at the cost of a stronger historical accuracy than many war-based games I’ve seen. I feel that fans of the series, as well as new recruits, will find a satisfying gameplay experience that continues Relic’s advanced and hands on approach to strategy gaming.