The Average Gamer

Company of Heroes 2 Review (PC)

Company of Heroes 2 - Map
I was looking forward to getting to grips with Company of Heroes 2 from Relic Entertainment, being a big fan of the previous incarnation. When somebody starts a review with “I was looking forward to…” there”s a fair bet there”s going to be some “buts” rising into the conversation somewhere.

CoH2 is only a small step away from the previous version in look, feel and play. Whether that”s an improvement seven years after the original, I find hard to state. Relic have managed to marinate some of the Russian front into the program so, as the Russian player, you often find that your only single-player tactic is to keep pushing out those poorly armed recruits, massing them and then rushing at the machine guns and tanks of the enemy.

As with the original, a lot of the flavour of your group is defined by what equipment you find lying around for your units to pick up. The only restriction is the storyline availability of units and the headcount cap which is ever-present. Got too many men on the map to allow you to call out that T34? Well, those shivering recruits over by that wall look like they fancy “scouting” the darkened area ahead at a full charge.

The multiplicity of variants leads to a rock, paper, scissors game with every tool and material in the world ever invented or discovered. Most other RTSs in my experience tend to refine down to you finding the handful of most efficient units for your playing style and concentrating on them. With CoH2 I found I had a grab bag of everything that was to hand at the time, and while obviously you have your favourites, there were several missions where I was just throwing units at the enemy to attain the upper hand.

The game has a “human wave” mentality which is in keeping with the myths of the period, but does lead to masses of AI controlled units charging across cover, and keeping on going, sometimes ignoring your own men, as they thunder on to somewhere undefined. Many occasions my squads would be appearing bewildered, firing in all directions, while having a decent-sized Wild West brawl develop around them. This makes directional cover, while having a huge effect on your troop”s survivability, a somewhat intermittent tool. It does occasionally lead to a typically Soviet tactic of just firing a tonne of artillery and mortar fire into the milling throng and let Uncle Joe sort out them out.

There was one fabulous mission where the enemy Stugs were charging around my village taking shots at anyone in sight. Because they wield forward-firing, fixed guns, they were driving in circles trying to target the troops who were obviously fleeing them, and who were wheeling anti-tank guns after other vehicles I”d ordered them to engage. The strains of Benny Hill music quietly played in my imagination while everyone ran in circles.

Company of Heroes 2 - Victory PointBecause of this occasional madness, and the wealth of destruction that can be poured on a small area from indirect fire and air, taking your eye off the ball in any one area is usually terminal for your troops.

As ever with these games, the AI is too dumb to turn a machine gun around to fire beside them at enemies out of the cone of fire, so there”s no point getting attached to any of your more successful units. They”re unlikely to have a chance to be honourably discharged.

CoH2 does have another single player game, called Theater of War. This is where I found the game became more free-form and just a bit more fun. Several players or AI generals command each side in a capture-the-flag, resource control game. The scenarios begin with you starting with minimal units and having to manufacture most of a base, create troops and send out those units to control various strong points and flags.

One nice touch, I thought, was when you have earned enough command points you select a leader from selection of three, and that dictates what developing types of units will be available to you. I particularly liked the partisan units available with one of the commanders, where small armed squads appear in unoccupied buildings and set out to mess with your enemy from the rear. These games are fast and furious, and do somewhat suffer online casino from the shortfall of AI. If you aren”t there, your troops aren”t smart enough to head into cover or turn a cone-of-fire weapon in another direction, so you have to be the General, the Captain, and also the sergeants and corporals to every unit.

Because this game is quite strongly modelled on rock, paper, scissors, you have to have one unit of each type in any one area to be reasonably confident of them being able to resist an attack while you go back to reorganise someone else. At the pace this game moves, having one of everything anywhere is just not likely, so it”s very patchy whether you can hold any terrain using just the AI. If you can”t tell that I tend to play a turtle strategy yet, well you need to pay more attention!


The multiplayer version of this mode is where you would expect to find the real longevity for the game. The matchmaker supposedly aligns you with people of approximately equal skill for a fair challenge and throws you in together to duke it out. You can have 1v1, 2, 3 and 4v4 matches and there”s also a mode that completes the missing places with AI controlled teams. Each side is purely about the resource point occupation, and your whole team shares the same allocation without splitting between players.

Company of Heroes 2 - BlizzardIn my playing online I have come up against some severe problems with this concept. As a player, in single, multiplayer or against an AI, you increase your rank as you play missions, allowing you to tailor your team with small benefits, increased accuracy, lower cost for certain functions etc. I have only recently been able to get online against human players, and the numbers of those playing seems to be fairly limited at this stage. When you hit the button to go and match up with someone, my little rank 5 account is playing against rank 93 players, who have access to any amount of bonuses that I don”t.

Now the obvious answer to this is to wade through as much of the game as I can to increase my rank and compete on a more level field with them. However the idea of playing with a slight disadvantage for so long is a daunting one and slightly masochistic. Because here”s where the multiplayer falls down.

Once someone has gained a slight advantage in the game, acquiring the resource to field half track mounted MGs for example, it”s almost impossible to claw that advantage back to make the game equal, without following your team around to use on the spot tactics to avoid disastrous encounters and occupy territory where possible. Acquiring territory on the flanks or rear of the frontline means throwing away a unit to do so, because you can”t watch them constantly and they will certainly be overrun. As I stated before, this game is about pebble dashing the enemy with troops, not building a defence and then sortying out from it to take advantage of weaknesses in the enemy.

Company of Heroes 2 - EngineersAlly that to the fact that the enemy player has a hand-picked advantage right off the line, and it”s difficult to justify the time I would spend weeping over the graves of my troops until I was rank 99 and could at least lose in the knowledge that I was doing so through ineptitude rather than unfairness.

My final main upset with this game is the fact that COH2 doesn”t support crossfire or SLI graphics card setups, which I have. This means that I have to switch off my crossfire before I play and turn the game graphics down. In this day and age you would think a hardware setup so global would be accounted for in the programming and definitely detracted from the value and quality of the game.

Overall, I would say that COH2 is no great advance on the original. While being fun for a few unoccupied hours I would not consider this a game I would pay full money for, nor a multiplayer experience I will do more than dip my toe into occasionally in the future. An average game, when everyone expected so much more.

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