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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Game Review 23:Company of Heroes

You have encountered many FPS games on WW2, but you seldom see RTS games based on WW2. So is Company of Heroes any good to justify the need to go through the events of WW2 again? The answer is yes. Company of Heroes, quite simply, is one excellent game that should never be missed.

From the makers of Warhammer 40K, comes a RTS games unlike any other. The focus is not so much on producing mass amounts of units and flanking them through sheer numbers, but instead, Company of Heroes beams the spotlight on strategic planning and some management skills. There are 3 types of resources in Company of Heroes, namely Manpower, Munitions and Fuel. What is amazing is how Company of Heroes shifts your attention away from the typical resource gathering to the action. This is accomplished through a unique system that requires you to capture the numerous strategic points on the map in order to bump up your resources. Besides, the points have to be linked back to your base for it to be contributing to your resources count. In a way, this makes Company of Heroes a fast-paced game from the start and it is less forgiving on those players who decide to sit back and just defend. It also introduces more ways to defeat the enemy. For example, you can cross into enemy territory to cut off their supply line to weaken the enemy first before attacking it.

Now, to the single-player campaign of Company of Heroes. There are a total of 15 missions in all. These missions offer great variety; objectives can be anything from securing a road to setting up a defensive perimeter to defend a town to destroying a heavily-armored tank. The action engages you from the start to the end, never once letting you go. Yes, I can confidently say that the gameplay (or action) in Company of Heroes is enjoyable and severely addictive. To make it even better, there is a medal and secondary objective(s) that can be earned or completed at every mission, providing more challenge for the hardcore RTS gamers. The normal A.I. in Company of Heroes is comparable to the A.I. on hard difficulty level in any other game as well. At the start of every mission and at the end of it, there are various breath-taking cut scenes, which are made more cinematic by the accompanying subtitles, depicting the sequences of WW2. These act as mini rewards for anyone who has completed a mission, and also as a little history lesson.

Alas, Company of Heroes will not be complete without some of the most amazing graphics in recent memory. Units including tanks and structures are incredibly detailed and you have the option to take a closer look. Environments are completely destructible and they never look the same after a battle. Company of Heroes will push your computer to the limits. In other words, you need a high end gaming machine to experience the full graphical effects of this game.

Sound is the last thing that comes to mind when you play such a compulsive game like Company of Heroes, but that does not mean the developers, Relic Entertainment, has neglected it. In fact, the sound in this game is first-rate. Everything from the crackle of gunfire to the movement of tanks is covered pleasantly. A lot of effort has been put into the sound department. Voice acting sounds realistic. Although some sentences and phrases are repeated a number of times, they are no doubt fun to hear given that no holds barred language is present in this game.

Controls are generally kept simple, with you using your mouse most of the time. The interface is clean and uncluttered. Frantic battles that often take place in skirmish and multiplayer matches make this game worth your attention a lot more even after you have completed the single-player campaign. One gripe with this game are that loading can take quite some time, but for a game this great, I cannot complain. The other thing I want to point out is that skirmish and multiplayer matches take the form of Axis vs. Allies, but your teammates are all displayed in yellow color. More color schemes for different groups will be a nice touch. Overall, Company of Heroes, in a word, is perfect. Yep, no errors other than the really minor ones mentioned above. What Relic Entertainment has created is a masterpiece that everyone should try out even if you are not a fan of WW2 or RTS games. Go get it.

Overall score: 10/10 (new no. 6 on my top 10 games of all time)

Good points: Enjoyable and severely addictive gameplay, breath-taking cut scenes, missions offer great variety and engages you from start to end, fantastic A.I., amazing visuals and sound, skirmish and multiplayer matches extend replayability
Bad points: Relatively long loading times (but you cannot complain for a great game like this), needs more colors for teammates


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