Company of Heroes 2 is Shaping Up to Be An Extremely Innovative RTS
If you’re an RTS fan, you’re probably familiar with THQ’s Company of Heroes. Far from the struggles of Protoss and Zerg in the Korpulu sector, Company of Heroes is a much more realistic RTS franchise. The original game focused on the American campaign against the Germans following the events of D-Day. The sequel however will shift focus to the Russian front, which is apparently where all the battles were far more ghastly and horrific than anything that happened on the American side of things.
I learned in history class that Russian infantry often had one gun between two soldiers because supplies were so scarce. One of the soldiers would be unarmed with instructions to pick up the gun after his buddy died. That’s harsh, but watching the E3 demo of Company of Heroes 2 taught me that Russian soldiers were also under orders to shoot any of their comrades that retreated. I was watching a demo at E3 and when the player’s troops were faced with overwhelming odds they attempted to fall back to an entrenched position. The NPC’s in the entrenched position decided they were traitors and mowed them down. The messed up part is, after all the original troops were dead, the player assumed control of the troops that had just murdered their buddies.
Company of Heroes 2 has more going for it than a few shocking history lessons though. The game also has the most advanced cover system I’ve ever seen in an RTS. Units that get into cover can also vault over it and charge the enemy, something I’ve yet to see in other RTS games. Additionally, the cover is destructible. So if the computer feels that its human opponent is abusing a nice, waist high brick wall it can call in a mortar strike and blow the wall to pieces along with any troops unlucky enough to have been squatting behind it.
And walls weren’t the only things being blown up on the Russian Front. Pretty much all of the landscape could be damaged or destroyed in some way. Structures could be blown up and the ground could become cratered after a shelling. There was one section where the Russian troops stepped out onto a frozen lake and were hit with a mortar strike. I half expected the mortars to break the ice and drown the troops, but alas Company of Heroes 2 isn’t quite that advanced.
In addition to the cover system, the new Company of Heroes will be improving the standard “fog of war” that limits vision in most RTS games. Instead of a bubble of sight around a particular unit the fog of war will impair a unit’s vision if an obstacle is near by. For example, if there’s a cluster of trees to the left of a unit, that unit will not be able to see past the trees, but will still maintain vision of any unobstructed areas. They’re calling this feature “True Sight” and it’s looking very promising. During one part of the demo, a group of units entered a forest and their “True Sight” looked pretty accurate. This could create some extremely interesting ambush scenarios.
Another interesting feature in Company of Heroes 2 is the ability to bail out of vehicles. If a tank is in a tough spot, the player can order the troops out and into the cover of a nearby trench. However, enemy soldiers can then commandeer this vehicle and use it for their own purposes. It’s an extremely interesting system and armor in the game will be of much greater strategic importance. In Company of Heroes 2, losing a tank may mean that the enemy gains a tank.
When I play an RTS game my main focus is almost always multiplayer. And Company of Heroes 2 does promise to deliver a competitive, well-balanced multiplayer but unfortunately I didn’t get to see any of that. The single-player campaign flowed smoothly and scripted events never pulled the player out of the experience. So I guess I’ll just have to trust that THQ has taken as much care with their multiplayer as they have with the campaign. For more info on this game, you can check out our interview with the director of Company of Heroes 2, Quinn Duffy