Epic Battles

The battle, which is one of many memorable moments in the game, is everything an epic war movie would aspire to be, truly amazing considering this is a game. The moment that the Germans brought artillery fire down on my carefully constructed base made me feel as tense as any game ever has, I genuinely felt like I was fighting a real battle and the ensuing retreat back to defend the local church felt like a desperate struggle, very different from your average RTS game.

What really does distinguish this game is the fact it has the balls to make you build up a base, defend it doggedly and then five minutes later annihilate it completely in a shower of shells. The developers are clearly confident in their ability to take the genre in new directions. The game treads the thinnest of wires between annoyance and complete genius, but thankfully achieves the Nobel prize (rather than the igNoble prize awarded recently).

Artillery fire is the next topic of interest. The game offers you 'promotions' of sorts dependent on your progress through the game. These promotions give you special skills such as the ability to call in artillery fire on the enemy or build special types of troops. It's not a new trick in RTS games but it does add to the depth of the gameplay, giving you ever more angles to consider when creating your strategies for success.

Company of Heroes An Epic Battle Company of Heroes An Epic Battle

Troops

I won't spoil the game by telling you every cool thing about the various troops, needless to say there is far more to it than what I lay down before you. I do need to tell you about some of the coolest troops you get to use in game.

The sniper is quite simply awesome. The only unit in the game that acts solo, the sniper moves slow but is able to kill units with one shot. What I really like about this unit is the way he reminds me of great movies like Saving Private Ryan. If there is a big building, like a church with a blown out spire, stick the sniper in there and he'll climb up to the top and take aim. This tactic is one that the computer employs quite regularly against you, devastating an entire group of your soldiers in moments if you're not on top of things.

The tanks are cool, with the ability to roll over pretty much anything in their path and ability to shell and machine gun enemies into obliteration. Like any good RTS game though, the tanks do have their weaknesses - roll over a mine and you'll be in trouble, get caught with some sticky bombs from regular soldiers and your tank will take a severe hammering. The game is tightly balanced and reeks (in a good way) of good game development.

The game has the standard RTS modes for you to indulge in, the traditional skirmish mode as well as multiplayer. The multiplayer is a case of capture the resource points and build-up an army to defeat the enemy. I'm personally not a big fan of RTS multiplayer, I'm always too slow and indecisive and in this game you get punished for that indecision. In the skirmish/multiplayer modes things are fast and furious and I think those who are big on games like Warcraft 3 will be tucking in.

Company of Heroes An Epic Battle Company of Heroes An Epic Battle

The Perfect Game?

Is this the perfect game then? Can games get any better? As great as this game is, and it truly is brilliant, there are some niggles that make it fall slightly short of perfection. The story for instance, is neither original nor particularly well done. It's not really bad in terms of a gaming storyline, but it's a rehash of the Band of Brothers documentation of Easy Company. It has all already been done pretty well in Brothers in Arms and rather than try and do something different with the story, Relic has understandably taken the safe option of doing what works. It's not so much a criticism; I can understand why they didn't want to gamble on a story, it's quite possibly the most difficult thing to do well in the game.

So as you can see I, like any other right-minded gamer in the world, think this game is amazing. The best is yet to come though as over the next three pages I run through the ins-and-outs of the graphics, how well it plays on different settings and finally will talk about why this game has the most realistic War sounds you will ever hear outside of Hollywood.
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