Believe it or not the sea of gaming titles that get released for the holiday season starts releasing around now, and there’s a doozy available. Company of Heroes bills itself as a real time strategy game, a genre I don’t typically enjoy, but really it’s more of a pausable real time tactical game. The ability to pause, the slower pace of the combat, the relatively low number of units you have to control, the fact that they’re bundled into squads, and a decent control scheme all conspire to make this a very manageable playing experience compared to the click-frenzy that you find in most RTS. Couple this with a great graphics engine, excellent physics engine (houses you can level to the ground? Brick walls you can storm a tank through? Unfortunate marines flying through the air after you blast them with a flak cannon at close range? It’s got it all), and a well crafted single player campaign based on the WWII invasion of Normandy, and you have a classic on your hands, possibly one of the best RTS ever made. I’m absolutely loving it.
Of course there are some downsides – as with all games in this genre, the artificial intelligence seems a bit dodgy – lay down a line of tank traps across a strategic point and the enemy will drive around them 100% of the time even if you’re funnelling their armor into a trap, instead of deploying engineers to take down the tank traps, for example – but it’s still generally better than that found in most titles and in fact is still creaming me in skirmish games most of the time despite me recognizing ways to exploit it. It requires some pretty significant horsepower to run with the eye candy torqued up, and it’s beautiful so you’ll want to torque it up, but if you’re machine isn’t up to it your framerate will be below single digits. The most damning problem is the inability to pull the camera far enough back from the action, so sometimes you’ll have artillery or tank fire coming in and will flail about trying to figure out where it’s coming from. This is endemic to this class of games and I wish developers would come up with a solution. If it’s true this is about multiplayer balance, then let me do it in solo and campaign games, for gods sakes, and if it’s about performance, let me decide what’s acceptable performance instead of limiting me.
So – pros and cons assessed, to me even if you’re not a fan of RTS usually, this is worth a look because the pause feature lets you play at your own pace and everything else is generally excellent. If you like RTS, you basically have to get this game. While I don’t like the genre, typically, I do tend to try the demos of all of them, and this is the finest game to come down the pike since Kohan II.
It’s also on sale at gogamer.com this week for ~$35 shipped if you’re interested, check their deals section.