Company of Heroes 2 Preview

Relic Entertainment announced last year that Company of Heroes 2 would make its debut in early 2013, and the title showed up in force at E3 2013 this week. The sequel that gamers have been waiting seven years for certainly looks and feels like a well-polished title, delivering exciting tactical combat and heart-wrenching moments. Game Rant went hands-on with the PC-exclusive title, rushing into Leningrad and securing the city in a massive raid. Will Company of Heroes 2 please hardcore strategy fans? Read on to find out.

Relic Entertainment is focusing on the eastern front of battle this time around, shifting away from the typical Allied campaigns that are staples of the genre. The campaign will follow the Russians as they strive to fend off the Nazi invasion and reclaim lost land. Dynamic weather environments will play a large role in the gameplay, and smarter AI means players will have to get creative on the fly as the battlefield changes around them. One of the largest changes veteran Company of Heroes fans will notice straight off the bat  is that line of sight is now a factor in the game – the player can only see what their soldiers can see. Prior to this, the original game had no fog of war, and players could see the entire map – losing control of this makes each battle feel much more frantic and realistic, ultimately adding to the experience in a great way.

The ability to use special cooldown moves like air strikes and instant conscription reinforcements provides more depth to the title than most would guess. Knowing what moment to save the aerial bombardment for can make the difference as the battle wages on, and utilizing the new mortar and artillery units provides plenty of new strategy considerations. Soldiers can pick up abandoned equipment from dead foes and use it against them, meaning even passive equipment left on the battlefield must be regarded carefully when adjusting plans on the fly. It’s all these things mixed together that makes Company of Heroes 2 such a good strategy game, without having the slow-pace of other popular titles like Civilization. While tons of thought goes into gameplay, the carnage of the battlefield certainly isn’t forgotten – flying limbs and friendly-fire mortar incidents will remind players of that quickly.

Company of Heroes 2 Combat

The intensities of battle will leave plenty of gamers at the edge of their seats during certain “do or die” moments. During a mission where I was tasked with reclaiming a city in Leningrad, one squad of soldiers ran for an anti-tank cannon as the enemy tank itself mowed down helpless light infantry. Grabbing it, they began to turn the artillery to face the tank, loaded, and prepared to fire – but just before they could, the tank bore down on them at almost point blank range. Limbs flew into the sky as panic set in for both soldiers and gamer – it’s moments like this that make Company of Heroes a thrilling series.

Terrain also plays a much larger role in the game, as tanks and infantry  passing over ice-covered lakes may succumb to a cold and watery death should the enemy use explosives. Blizzards and cold snaps are now a threat as well, as the eastern front of warfare had to deal with some of the harshest wartime conditions known to man. As such, soldiers may die from the cold before the first bullets are even fired – and with snow impeding vision and slowing forces, the coldness of the eastern front is set to be just as dangerous an enemy as the Nazis.

It’s clear that Relic have worked at polishing the title prior to its release later this month, and the result looks like an entertaining product that should please strategy and warfare fans alike. Those looking to just shoot things should stick to Call of Duty,but  fans searching for a fast-paced real-time strategy – and an improvement over the original Company of Heroes – need look no further.

Company of Heroes 2 will invade PCs everywhere on June 25th, 2013. Interested gamers can pre-purchase the title through Steam here.

Follow me on Twitter @Makelevi.