Guest Author - Lisa Shea
Company of Heroes is a squad based World War II real time strategy game. Instead of commanding individual soldiers, you command squads. You don't get life bars for individual soldiers, you worry about the squad health and upgrade them as a squad. If you lose squad members, you send the remaining guys back to the home base to regroup with new guys from your barracks.
You can't find vehicles and jump into them - you have to build a jeep group, for example. On the other hand, if you have a group with a MG42 and they get killed, another squad can come over and pick it up. Some upgrades apply to an entire unit, while others give a specific person a new item to use. The game is nice about this - if your unit is being whittled down, they leave any special guys for last.
As you build up experience with your units, they develop new abilities. There are different kinds of branches available, each with its own new features. You can become able to call in an air strike, for example. Different types of upgrades require different resources. For example, if you want to call in an air strike, you have to use resources to do that.
There are numerous forests, shrubs, rubble, stairs, waterfronts, and much more to use as cover, to bottleneck your enemy with, and to strategize around. It makes for great tactical fun. You can put down defenses too - barbed wire for infantry, mines for tanks, and sandbags for your own protection. The cover AI is rather good.
You can take cover in buildings, and if you zoom in you can actually see them peering out of the windows and using cover naturally in there. You can even blow up buildings and pieces will fall off. Your world is quite destructible!
You take on territories which are marked with colors on your mini-map and with colored lines on your larger map. This helps to make it easy to track your progress. Also, taking more locations increases the total number of units you can support. You capture flags which indicate resource piles - depending on which flag you grab, you can supply upgrades for weapons, armor or so on.
The graphics are great - if you've got a top end computer you can crank up the quality level to some pretty amazing detail. Even slower computers get a lot of detail with flags on the houses, leaves on the trees, and details on uniforms.
You have a soft background music track playing, but it is very low key and does not interfere with gameplay. The various voices of the characters have the country accents that you'd expect and seem relatively good. They all speak English of course :)
Like most games of this ilk you get a campaign mode with preset missions, a skirmish mode where you can practice on various terrains, and then an online mode where you get the real challenge of facing off with other humans.
If you've got a *really* basic PC, you might be annoyed that this game won't run well on it. But really, I find that hard to be a fault. If you make a super, top notch game, it's going to need a lot of horsepower. There are plenty of other more basic games on the market for those systems to play.
Gameplay is realistic but not gamer-destroying - you get a great challenge playing this game but not the instant-death frustration that some other games pose. We really find that both beginners and experienced RTS fans enjoy this one, playing for hours and hours.
Buy Company of Heroes from Amazon.com