The Average Gamer

Company of Heroes 2 Multiplayer Preview

There are many reasons why I hope to see THQ weather the storm of its much touted possible bankruptcy. The biggest is Company of Heroes 2.

For those who aren’t familiar with the series: Company of Heroes is, in my humble opinion, one of the best World War II real-time strategy games currently on the market, much famed for its excellent attention to detail, high skill micro-management options, and intense entrenched warfare online. If you’re an RTS fan who hasn’t played the original, now would most definitely be the time to head over to Steam and have a look.

In the not-too-distant future lies the release of Company of Heroes 2. If you’re after information about the single player, then I would suggest checking out Debbie’s hands on preview over here. The game is currently slated for a 2013 release with a beta expected sometime near the beginning of the year, and with that comes a slew of enhancements to the franchise’s multiplayer. THQ recently chose to finally raise the curtain and reveal the mode to the world. It looks superb.

There are set resources which you must collect to build structures and units – fuel and ammunition – well as victory points which you gain through simply expanding your army, so fuel and ammo are top priority. You gather these by building one of the resource collectors on a resource flag on the map. You then use your units to capture and protect more difficult areas of the map, where the capture points lie.

Resources are fought for constantly.

Resources are fought for constantly.

The game mode works in a domination-style way: there are 3 capture points, and when you hold 2 or more the enemy team loses points. The team which runs out of points first loses. Simple. As a nice addition to the series, you can now play 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, and 4v4.

As you would hope with a sequel, everything has been improved upon over the original. The graphics are crisper, maps and landscapes are more intricate, games are larger, the armies are more varied, the interface is clearer yet more effective, and they’ve even thrown in a new levelling system. The most impressive addition though? The weather.

The ice can be a real bastard.

This is a whole new idea for the CoH franchise. Weather conditions affect what happens in the game. If there’s heavy snow, your vehicles and infantry will be slower going through. If a blizzard strikes, your infantry must seek shelter in buildings, vehicles, or nearby fires or they will freeze to death. As well as that, all potentially hazardous weather conditions reduce unit visibility, making it more dangerous to maintain map control or use artillery bombings.

The winter conditions are the most difficult to cope with. During my day with Company of Heroes 2 I lost as many snipers to ice and snow as I did to any enemy force. On top of all of this, the maps have many more environmental elements to consider, such as thin ice which cracks under heavy loads, or frozen lakes which will shatter when bombarded with enough fire-power, leaving the section impassable.

However, most impressive does not mean biggest. In my mind the biggest switch up for CoH2 comes in the form of the upgrade system and custom loadouts. It may seem rather FPS-like, but it goes far more in-depth than that. The upgrading system is rather similar though. Your Company of Heroes 2 profile will have levels, which get higher as you earn more XP. You earn XP simply by playing the game; single player, multiplayer, skirmish – whatever you’re playing, you will earn XP towards your overall ranking.

As you go higher in the rankings you unlock more units, abilities for said units, and “Intel Bulletins”. Plus, your profile will display medals, much like WWII soldiers did on their uniforms, which I personally thought was an excellent touch.

“Gentlemen, you are about to witness the most famous victory in history.”

Customised loadouts though, are the big new toy for CoH2’s multiplayer. After you’ve picked your faction, Germany or Russia, you can then select 3 commanders and 3 intel bulletins. The commanders each bring with them specific buffs, structures, and units. You choose them prior to the game, but won’t unlock their abilities until mid-way through the game when you collect enough resources. You also select 3 intel bulletins, which are based on the real pieces of intel that were circulated in WWII, with each one divulging information about whatever perk it provide. For example, one will identify the weak points of the enemy armour, giving you a 10% damage buff against German heavy armour units.

There are 7 commanders to choose from, although we were informed they hope to release more post-launch, and over 100 intel bulletins in the game though so, technically, there are over 1,267,650,600,228,229,401,496,703,205,376 combinations of them both. Although that number also factors in which order they’re placed in – I’m a writer, not a maths professor. [Assuming 7 commanders, it’s actually 1,131,900 combinations, which is nothing to sneeze at – ed.]

The ranking system also brings with it a prestige mode for the lovers of levelling. This is called ‘Battle Honors’, but it essentially sets your rank back to zero, but with some awesome-looking emblems for your profile, and some exclusive intel bulletins which you can only earn through Battle Honors.

All in all, Company of Heroes 2 is looking to be a truly superb RTS. Relic appear to be doing exactly what any developer should do for a sequel: listen to the fans, and improve. Two very simple goals which are far too often forgotten these days. I’m excited about Company of Heroes 2, I hope you are now, and I cannot wait for the beta to hit my computer sometime very soon.

If you want to participate in the Company of Heroes 2 Beta then simply click these words you’re reading now, and also check out the multiplayer launch video below: