There are literally dozens, if not hundreds, of World War Two games out there. So when I say that there is another WWII Real-Time Strategy game out, you may be turned off instantly. But, Company of Heroes is certainly no typical WWII RTS. Taking place in Normandy soon after D-Day, Company of Heroes puts you in command of Able Company in the fight against Germany. Coupled with an expansion, Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts , you can also take control of the British 2nd Army or German Panzer Elite. The Gold Edition grabs you both for one price. The game combines constant action, wonderful graphics, and unbelievable historical accuracy which makes it one of the best in its class.
If you loved the movie Saving Private Ryan , and thought Call of Duty was a great first-person shooter companion, then imagine the idea transformed into the Real-Time Strategy genre. Enter Company of Heroes: Gold . You take charge of a company of troops, tanks, and emplacements in order to defeat your enemy. Gathering resources (manpower, ammo, and fuel) involves capturing strategic points throughout the battlefield. Each faction is highly unique, and offers three different company commander options to further increase diversity. Each company commander allows you to “research” upgrades for your troops, as well as specialized units and artillery and air support. Starting with a Headquarters, which produce construction units, you can build several different structures (or, in the case of the British, different Command Trucks) which open up new technologies and units for production. Each unit is displayed extremely realistically, with army specific weapons and weapon upgrades. Infantry squads are controlled as a single unit, and are very intelligent AI-wise. They use cover to avoid fire, and without cover are suppressed and pinned by heavy fire. Engineers allow construction of field defenses like sandbags, barbed wire, trenches, and machine gun posts. Tanks are armored behemoths, towering over infantry with massive firepower, but with armor depicted realistically, are vulnerable to rear attacks. Soon, you will find yourself unconsciously flanking enemy machine guns with infantry and anti-tank emplacements with armor to get a better shot.
With a heavy-duty gaming computer, visuals are beautiful. Bullets kick up dirt, tanks can bounce enemy rounds with their frontal armor, and artillery looks frightfully devastating. By zooming in on units, you can easily make out individual weapons and markings on vehicles. Also, the entire map is destructible. If you order artillery on enemy infantry hidden in houses, each shell that hits will knock off the part of the building it hits, eventually leveling the structure. Tanks turning on city streets will occasionally knock off the corners of nearby buildings, and walls are no barrier. With each distinct explosion leaving a mark on the landscape, it really looks as though a war has been fought.
Company of Heroes: Gold Edition delivers three separate campaigns, each with a very respectable length. You can lead Able Company, US Army from D-Day until the closing of the Falaise Gap. Choosing the British 2nd Army gives you command of the very distinct British forces in the drive on Caen. Finally, the Panzer Elite campaign places you in command of German forces trying to stop the Operation Market Garden airborne invasions. When done with the campaigns (which will take many hours to complete), there are several dozen instant-action maps to choose from. If you choose online play, there is a very active community. Another faction, the regular German Army, is available in instant-action and multiplayer games, with its own units and company command trees. My only personal grief was multiplayer connection problems, which are not isolated, but not common either.
Company of Heroes is probably the best WWII Real-Time Strategy game available. Between building your base, capturing points, and making decisions in combat (tactical decisions are very important as opposed to most RTS’s), even vet players will have their hands full. With such wonderful graphics and realistic gameplay, it can be difficult to stop playing. Such diversity, with four armies and three company commanders each, along with many varied maps and missions, make Company of Heroes: Gold Edition an excellent addition to the genre, and proves that all WWII games are not created equal.