Released nearly 7 years after the original, and again developed by Relic Entertainment, Company Of Heroes 2 is the much anticipated sequel to the massively successful WW2 RTS game Company Of Heroes, which itself has won numerous GOTY awards and is the second highest rated RTS game on Metacritic. Big shoes to fill then it would seem, also considering that the game might not have even been released if it were not for SEGA purchasing Relic for more than $20 million after the THQ bankruptcy sale at the start of the year. Has the game provided the bang for their buck?

The final barrage of deadly yet inaccurate rockets exploded over the target area. Capable of showering an area the size of two football fields with fire and shards of metal, the devastation wrought by my Katyushas should have been total. However with the area shrouded by debris and smoke, I could not tell for sure if the Germans who had been probing my supply lines had been obliterated. I could not afford to sacrifice my trained units, so our conscripts were ordered forward. 12 men looked around themselves nervously, before entering the area.

All seemed quiet, until the cracks of rifles and hollow whoomps from mortar tubes broke the silence. First one, then two men fell. A conscript took a round to the stomach and fell to the floor. Grasping at the man to his left, he tried to crawl back to us. Others started to follow him. Soon, the 8 conscripts that were left were all heading back to us. That was, however, until they spotted the NKVD unit and Commissar. Order 227 was in effect. I watch as all 8 of the conscripts fleeing the German guns are gunned down on the spot by our own men. This is Company Of Heroes 2, and it’s not pulling any punches.

Single player missions are wonderful to play through, and even though a fair few of them have time restrictions which can force you into a particular strategy, for the most part you can play them at your own pace and using your own devilish tactics. And tactics play a huge part in Company Of Heroes 2. Buildings can be set on fire, damaged or collapsed. Artillery can bring down bridges or saturate an area making it impassable. Armoured vehicles are just as invulnerable to small arms fire as you would expect, making them a truly deadly foe. Bring up some tanks or armoured cars of your own and expect to suffer specific damage, such as destroyed engines and damaged turrets rather then simply being destroyed.  

Company Of Heroes 2 makes you think about what you are doing, and it’s all the better for it. A fine example of this is the addition of the brand new weather system. Sometimes you will find yourself fighting in the snow, and as well as focusing on the battle at hand, you are also forced to monitor your troops temperature. Leave them out in the cold for too long, and they run the risk of freezing to death – at times a much riskier foe than the ones firing bullets and shells at you.

Relic have also included a leveling system into the game, as well as a medal and citation system. By using different types of units in different ways or by passing certain requirements – such as leveling up a unit type 15 different times or killing 500 of unit X with unit Y – you access such things as new commanders and intel bulletins which can be used to create ‘Load out’s for your army in the multiplayer modes. If you’re familiar with the perk systems that many other game utilize, you won’t go far wrong.

With such additions as increased tank damage, faster reload times for specific units and increased damage control the possibilities are endless, and I’m sure many players will spend a fair few hours trailing the numerous different options available to them. Being able to unlock these multiplayer perks by playing the single player campaign – as well as the large number of different abilities to unlock, with some of them taking a fair while to do so – adds a lot of longevity to the title.

Multiplayer is certainly catered for in Company Of Heroes 2, with battles supporting maps for up to 4v4 battles as well as Skirmish options and Co-Op missions. The matchmaking system seemed to work perfectly while I was using it, and I only experienced a few times where lag was a problem, which could have been down to connection issues rather then any problems with the netcode.

Skirmish battles allow you to perfect your stratagems against various levels of AI, and with the amount of different loadouts you can use, it’s a great way of finding out what works best for you against different styles of opponents. Co-Op is an interesting addition, especially in the theater of war scenarios, which give you specific objectives and, in most cases, a set amount of units with which to complete said objective. It gives the feeling of a puzzle mode, and it’s great fun. I have a sneaking suspicion that these scenarios will be something many people overlook, but once you settle down with them they offer a lot of interesting play options.

Graphicly Company Of Heroes 2 looks great. Running in DX11 – or DX9 if you’re system does not support DX11 – explosions looks fantastic, troop movement is slick and great damage effects such as buildings slowly burning before collapsing and sheet ice cracking and crumbling under the weight of a tank before it falls through into the water all add to the overall experience. One major issue I had though was the cutscenes. Compared to the rest of the game these cinematic sequences look terrible. It’s a strange feeling having cutscenes look worse then the actual gameplay but in general these scenes don’t last for too long. I suggest closing your eyes or looking out the window until they are over.

In summary, Company Of Heroes 2 is the best WWII RTS game to be released in years. Gameplay is smooth and involves a lot of thinking and the multiplayer is slick with a lot of hidden depth. Fans of the original and it’s expansions will love what Relic has done here and it really does feel like a lot of love and care went into it. For those who have not played a CoH title before, you are in for a treat. Company Of Heroes 2 is not RTS as you know it; it’s war and it’s dirty and brutal. But by God it’s a lot of fun.

Scored: 5/5

Company Of Heroes 2 is out now exclusively on PC.

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