Preview

Company of Heroes 2 Preview (PC)

Company of Heroes 2 poses a real humdinger of a question: who is your real enemy?

On one hand, enemy soldiers stifle your advance with continuous gunfire. On the other, the Eastern Front challenges your will to survive. Combine the two, and an intense RTS experience is formed.

For the most part, it's the use of weather that distinguishes this game from its predecessor. Those who played the original title will be familiar with the style of action, but now extreme conditions are involved, strategy is deeper than ever. A thoughtful approach has always helped those attempting to outlive a Company of Heroes campaign, but with Relic's emphasis on natural hazard, tactics now go hand-in-hand with quick thinking.

Simple travel is more difficult than before, and requires careful planning

This is something the developers are hugely proud of. At a recent presentation, the so-called 'ColdTech' was shown off at every opportunity. It must be said, this new addition is rather impressive. At the beginning of a treacherous scene, infantry struggles to wade through thick layers of snow. After a couple of minutes, the extremity of these conditions starts to settle in. With constant snowfall and temperatures below freezing, the mission starts before any opposition is found.

Once the battle begins, Company of Heroes 2 quickly settles into a typically confident performance. Advancing across each map requires a dynamic state of mind, as challenges arise throughout. Open spaces represent great difficulty, as the cold stiffens up any limbs that are exposed without cover. Abandoned vehicles provide respite, allowing your infantry to take a few moments away from the snow that continues to pelt down. Every step must be monitored, as if one member of your squad is exposed to the cold too long, they'll die.

Thankfully, the enemy can suffer too. As tanks break through a rival fort, it appears the opposition have got themselves in a spot of bother. A little too much energy has seen a vehicle become stuck on some ice, a situation that shouldn't be taken lightly. After a few seconds, a large chunk of ice breaks, sinking the behemoth and anyone near it. It's brutal, but glorious.

It's these moments that make Company of Heroes such an enticing franchise. Players will undoubtedly have heroic stories to discuss with their friends, sharing tales of dramatic victory and laughing about those unforgettable set-pieces. Running with pre-alpha visuals, the battlefield already flaunts a beautiful eeriness that only adds to the tension. The weather is dangerous, but it also adds a sense of scale to each conflict. If your fellow man doesn't get you, Mother Nature sure will.

If a bad decision is made, entire squads can be wiped out within seconds

Although this method of death can't be controlled, plenty of authentic World War II weaponry is waiting to be unleashed. The most impressive is the Katyusha missile, a powerful onslaught that can wipe groups of enemies out with one accurate shot. As with everything else in the game, this is largely manipulated by snowfall. If conditions are too harsh, such an offence cannot take flight. If a break in the snowfall provides the chance to fire the Katyusha, it must be launched quickly. Such power can turn a difficult battle in your favour, meaning it must be implemented with care.

We've only witnessed a small portion of what Company of Heroes 2 has to offer, but it's looking to be right on the money. Relic has promised returning players will be challenged and newcomers will have enough help to get to grips with the game's strategic elements. It's clear the series is evolving quickly, and with weather at the centre, this might be the most unpredictable and rewarding RTS in some time.

Top Gaming Moment: Watching a tank sink through a block of broken ice.

Comments

By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jul 26, 2012
SirRoderick
If this mechanic is as good as they say it is, I will bloody love it.
By Impaler (SI Newbie) on Aug 08, 2012
Impaler
Time will tell..hope they deliver :-) Or else it's back to COH Blitzkrieg..
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Aug 08, 2012
SirRoderick
Oh you play Blitzkrieg too? Awesome bloody mod that.

And great to see a new "face" around here ^^