Relic or Russia: Who’s Rewriting History in Company of Heroes 2?
World War II was the first truly global conflict. Out of the ashes rose the first truly global economy, powered by bold new technology invented in war, but perfected in peace. Nearly 70 years later, this system enabled a small, award-winning Canadian studio called Relic Entertainment to create a video game about World War II and sell it in Russia. It also enabled angry Russian consumers to broadcast their complaints about the game on the internet for all to hear. And it allows me, sitting on a small island in the mid-Atlantic, to write for a site owned by a company in Los Angeles and tell you, wherever you are, what I think about the game and its many detractors.
The backlash against Company of Heroes 2 began on YouTube, with a scathing review by Russian entertainer TheBadComedian. Over the course of a 30-minute video, the comic provides a detailed, sarcastic critique of the game’s singleplayer campaign, which is marked by its depictions of brutal Red Army tactics. He also repeatedly compares the Relic development team to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.
As the video gained more hits and more attention, Russian gamers turned to the game’s “User Reviews” page on Metacritic, flooding it with 0/10 scores and angry complaints. “This game is full of lies, it corrupts the truth about greatest heroism of our grandparents,” wrote one. Another particularly irate gamer created an online petition, asking that the game be banned in the CIS, a group of countries that includes Russia and several other former Soviet republics.
The petition has over 18,000 signatures, but is still well short of its goal. As Game Front reported this week, however, leading CIS distributor 1C Softclub has stopped selling Company of Heroes 2 completely. TheBadComedian’s angry review seems to have gotten results.
Yesterday, Game Front published a statement from Relic and SEGA, the game’s publishers:
“SEGA and Relic are working closely with their Russian distribution partner Softclub 1C over claims concerning Company of Heroes 2 and the historical context of the game from a Russian perspective. Whilst investigations in to these concerns are ongoing we would like to express our regret at any offense caused to those affected by these claims.”
As the PR teams at SEGA and Relic circle the wagons, it’s worth considering: should Relic be blamed for misrepresenting history and slandering the Russian war effort, which expended huge amounts of blood and treasure during World War II and arguably did more to defeat Hitler than any other Allied power? Or are Russian gamers overreacting?