Company of Heroes 2: Theater of War Hands-On: Launch the Blitzkrieg!

Next up was “Indirect Fire,” an exercise in heavy bombardment using the Soviet Katyusha rocket trucks. The mission: destroy as many German headquarters buildings as possible within a time limit. It was an exercise in protecting the vulnerable Katyushas and even capturing more of them, keeping the rate of artillery fire up while making quick advances into recently bombarded territory with infantry, light vehicles, and sniper teams — this was the only challenge I played that allowed building extra units.

The ability to build units also meant that there was a headquarters to retreat back to. Retreating is a key mechanic in Company of Heroes, crucial for preserving fighting strength, and I was surprised to find that it was basically useless in the first two Solo Challenges I had tried — retreating seems like exactly the kind of lesson that would help a budding multiplayer general. The scripted AI troop spawning that I encountered during Blitzkrieg also seemed to send the wrong message — if a squad of infantry suddenly appears behind your lines in online play, you’re either not paying close enough attention, or your opponent is cheating.

These complaints aside, Theater of War offered a tough and instructive challenge, even for an experienced player like myself. Relic is wise to fill the gap between singleplayer and multiplayer, especially with easily digestible chunks of content that can be consumed in one quick sitting, or added after the game’s release. Some timed challenges or horde-mode-style siege scenarios might even lead expert players to compete for bragging rights — for the most rapid assaults, and the most dogged defenses. Given Relic’s history of supporting player-made maps, we might also seen some player-created Theater of War scenarios in the game at some point. Now that the closed beta is over, however, we’re all just waiting for the curtain to go up on the open beta.

Company of Heroes 2 is due to launch on June 25, so we’re hoping to hear more about the open beta soon.

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