When most people think of a Real Time Strategy (RTS) game, the beloved Starcraft or Command and Conquer names come to mind. Relic have just added another name which will be on that list. Company Of Heroes.
A World War II strategy game which instead of focusing on amassing resources and an a huge army is instead more concerned with the command of individual units and using them in a way to achieve a tactical rather than numerical advantage over an opponent.
Gameplay still involves traditional RTS factors such as resource collection, base building and creating units. The focus has now been taken off the amount of units you build and changed into how you deploy your units in the field. Resources are gained by capturing strategic points and connecting them to your base, a simple affair which allows for more time to issue commands to your units. Units can be upgraded with special abilities or weapons, for example the rifleman squad can be upgraded with BAR assault rifles to better deal with infantry or the Sherman Tanks can have a bulldoze attachment to allow it to plow through heavy defenses. Units can do a variety of things including; plant mines, take cover, build bunkers and make a wall of sandbags. They can be supported by half-tracks, Anti-tank guns, heavy tanks, artillery, air support even the mighty V1 rocket. All of which provide incredibly interesting battles and strategies
The single player campaign involves following the 101st airborne division and their invasion of France during World War II as well as a German campaign. Each has its own cut-scenes, briefings and story which while it didn't appeal to me may be interesting to some.
What really stands out in this game is the multiplayer. It is incredibly well balanced (and kept that way by relics on-going support through play tests and patches). The skirmish mode offerers a tough challenge against very good AI but online is where this game shines. Relic has it's own matchmaking system with ranks and leaderboards. This allows for easy match ups against opponents of your own skill level and I've had some incredibly close matches involving extended firefights over certain points with each player desperately trying to hold their own ground. (however because the game has been out for so long there are only a few new players so best bet is to learn in skirmish mode or campaign first).
The visuals too are very well done. While the game came out in 2006 it has had a patch to run in DX10 so still almost top of the line PC's struggle to run it at full settings, yet the game still looks and runs fine on older machines. The camera can be set at any angle, zoomed in right too the ground then rotated in any direction to admire the facial expressions on soldiers or the flash of a barrel.
The only flaws I could mention are, again, the story .Don't expect a particularly compelling narrative. Also the campaign is fun but has reasonably little mission variety (i.e. ‘capture this point’ or ‘defend this area’). Finally there is quite a big learning curve not only initially, (the campaign is a kind of tutorial) but if you jump straight online most likely you'll get pretty hammered, best bet is to jump on with some friends or against AI.
Overall this game is defiantly a 5/5 and any RTS fan should at least try this game. I believe it is one of the best RTS games out there. With already one expansion out (Opposing fronts) and another coming in a matter of months (Tales of Valor) (Oh and the PRICE!!!! $20 for a full game!!!) There is almost no reason not to!