The Average Gamer

Hands-On with Company of Heroes 2

Company of Heroes 2 puts you into the role of a Russian company commander and throws you straight into the deep snow. I talked to some of the team about the heavy focus on accurate history and the environmental features new to this sequel in an earlier interview. During gamescom, I got hands-on with this RTS set in the Eastern Front of World War II.

Developers Relic Entertainment showed us two game modes – a single-player demo specifically designed to showcase features and a multiplayer vs AI map to demonstrate a less scripted scenario. It’s an impressive game on both counts.

Single Player

The campaign pitched me straight into one of a group of battles that’s now known as the “Rzhev Meatgrinder” for their high number of casualties. Tasked with clearing a crossroads of invading Germans, I did what any foolish commander in unknown territory would do. I blundered down the road through the driving snow and straight into the fire of a machine-gun turret. My leading soldiers dropped to the floor for cover and were pinned down, unable to advance or retreat. It’s possible to save your pinned-down soldiers if you manage to take out the attackers some other way. Lying prone buys you only a few minutes to distract or destroy the enemy.

Lucky for me, the game was in special numpty journalist mode(TM) and whenever one of my units was destroyed, a new one would come wandering onto the battlefield. I regrouped and this time took advantage of the True Sight feature. Sneaking around a nearby copse of trees allowed us to flank the enemy, avoiding the turrent and we soon scattered the troops. Success!

..swiftly followed by a new objective: Take the nearby village. Cue more pushing up the road and more attempting to sneak around buildings. The flamethrower proved to be an incredible weapon for routing the Germans taking cover in the wooden buildings so common to the Russian landscape. It’s only wielded by the engineers so keep them safe until they’re needed. Cover provides a huge advantage in this game and you’ll find it very difficult to tackle buildings without some sneaky tactics.

As this was a demo, my freedom to explore was limited. I tried to sneak around a nearby church but was stopped by an invisible wall. Relic have assured me that the full game will let you explore wherever you want on the map.

In this case, I was blocked because the next segment of the battle revealed a troop of soldiers hiding in the church. There we were in apparent stalemate – my guys shooting futilely at the church and their shots ringing equally pointlessly against our walls. I brought out the trusty engineers again, sending a brave squad one way to distract the Germans while my flamethrower guys crawled along the churchyard walls to blast the flames from behind. Success!

Swiftly followed by a new objective – defend the village. We’d already taken up some good, defensible positions by now so this part was easy enough. Once the invaders had been driven off, we got word that a T-32 tank was ripe for the taking and it was time to abandon the village we’d fought so hard over. This was the campaign. Push, push, push. No time to celebrate, no time to take stock. Follow orders, keep fighting and pray that the enemy freezes to death before you do.


You can play the multiplayer campaign against AI or other players. The aim here is to capture and hold fixed command points to rack up the score. You have a home base where you can set up factories to build tanks and receive extra conscripts (i.e. infantry) and the smaller control points can be taken by engineers to build fires. As is a recurring theme all through the game, it’s cold in Russia. Really cold. Your infantry are bundled up as best they can be but when the blizzards hit – which they do often – you need to get them indoors or huddled around a fire before they start losing health.

In fact, an awful lot of the multiplayer is about battling the environment. The map I played set up up on the wrong side of a river, well defended on the opposite shores by machine-gun turrets and sandbag cover. Crossing on foot was plain insanity so the obvious solution was to build tanks. Big well-protected tanks. Big, heavy, slow-moving tanks to fill with lead bullets and soldiers and drive across ice. Brilliant.

It works, actually. You just need to cross where the enemy doesn’t see you and for heaven’s sake, don’t drive over your own tracks. Crossing too much in the same place will break the ice. If you see a foe on the ice you can land a mortar neatly in their path to drop them into the bone-chilling river.

Company of Heroes 2 is complex. Watching the “True Sight” field of vision change as a Il-2 Sturmovik flies overhead to scout the battlefield is impressive. The level of detail goes down to tank tracks that can be used to identify what type of tank passed recently; assuming they haven’t been covered up by the snow, of course. I think this game will please any fan of real-time strategy.

The release date for Company of Heroes 2 has not yet been announced.