World War II has been a constant setting for hundreds of games in the past. Where Company of Heroes differs from other WWII games is in its real-time strategy structure. The WWII genre is typically dominated by first-person shooter games like Call of Duty.
Rather than put you in command of one particular solider, Company of Heroes gives you command of entire squads as you battle against the enemy.
One of the major problems with the RTS genre as a whole is the tedious nature of resource gathering and base building. Most players are far more interested in taking part in strategic battles than spending time building up their supplies. Company of Heroes has sought to readdress the basic RTS structure and tackle this issue with a more simplified system.
To that end, resources are tied to control points that can be found on the map. These special locations provide you with fuel, manpower, and munitions — the elements that are essential to supplying your squad with everything it needs. Not only does this get rid of a lot of the less desirable gameplay that is present in other RTS games, but it feels more appropriate for a war game. Having to take and defend these resource control points is much like how a real-life force would carve out a supply line and protect it as they continued with their offensive.
In addition to those changes, Company of Heroes has an efficient and easy-to-use control system. Sending your troops around the battlefield and choosing what they should do is an awfully simple process.
Combined with well-designed user interface options, playing the game is something anyone can do. This is a good approach, because an RTS like Company of Heroes should be testing the tactical and strategic skill of players, not their ability to actually use the game.
The fighting in Company of Heroes does not just come down to quick thinking, either. You have to position your soldiers well and take advantage of the environment. Cover plays an important role in this. Players have to carefully manage exactly how much protection their troops have as they move around the battlefield.
Territory can also be vital, as it can provide boosts to your resources if held. This adds an extra layer of strategy and ensures there is depth to the combat. Any mistakes or lack of thinking in this area could lead to disaster, so it constantly keeps the stakes high.
Visually, Company of Heroes is one of the best RTS games available. Every unit, environment, and structure has incredible detail. You can see the work that went into the creation of each texture. Moreover, the special effects work in such a way that explosions look real and convincing. Even guns firing and flames look authentic. This really helps to put you in the moment.
The culmination of this level of detail is that you can zoom in to extremely close levels and see the actions that individual units are doing. Whereas many other RTS titles would not want that kind of close inspection, Company of Heroes revels in it.
Even more important, though, is the destruction. Buildings, as well as the rest of the environment, will take damage from big impacts. A tank or mortar shell can easily topple a defensive structure and send walls crumbling down. Together with the rest of the visual aspects, Company of Heroes is a game that aims to look good. It’s a feature this genre often lacks.
Ordinarily, the music in an RTS is not a great concern. However, thanks to industry veteran composer Jeremy Soule, Company of Heroes has an impressive soundtrack throughout most of the action. Even the menus have some rousing tunes to help put you in the mood. In a clever move, the developers have also chosen to do away with music entirely once in a battle. Instead of being blasted with a dramatic score, they let the sound of war flood through the speakers.
This is a wise choice, as it means that players get to experience the ferocity of each gunfight without any distractions. It immerses you in the combat and gives you a good idea of what it must be like to be a soldier in battle, with explosions setting off around you and bullets flying over your head. Every one of these sound effects is authentic and satisfying, delivered in high quality throughout the entire game.
When combined with the solid voice acting, which can often be heard in short salvos from the fighters on screen, it creates a realistic portrayal of war.
Company of Heroes gets plenty of things right, including the all-important combat and gameplay. It also has a lot of great production values with a look and sound that stands out from many of its competitors.
Then, you have to consider the excellent campaign, which should take around 20 hours at a minimum to complete, and a good selection of multiplayer offerings.
In all, Company of Heroes is an amazing value for money and one of the best strategy games available.