Company of Heroes

Company of Heroes is a refreshing wake up call to a genre that had in many ways grown stagnant. The Real Time Strategy (RTS) genre has become to many gamers more of the same, just packaged with splashier graphics.

While the graphics and sound quality of many RTS games has improved, many games still suffer from a sense of been there done that.

With that in mind, it is a very rewarding when a breath of fresh air such as Company of Heroes comes along.

The game puts players in command of actual historic units during some of the biggest battles in the liberation of Europe. From storming the beaches on D-Day to retaking and securing towns and seaports, the game offers plenty of variety to gamers.

Aside from an incredible sense of detail and fun, the game has some of the best A.I. you will ever find. Units do not simply wait around and get shot, they take cover, they return fire, and target enemies based on their threat.

Many a RTS game is made or lost by units, as it is important to offer a variety of units and keep micro-management to a minimum. In those categories, Company of Heroes shines.

Gone are the frustrating resource collections which hamper the action, instead the game requires players to secure and defend key fuel and ammunition depots in order to fund the addition of units. If you want new units such as tanks, mortar squads, and machine gun crews, then you must have enough fuel and or ammunition on hand to do so.

As an added bonus, players can choke off the enemy units by keeping them from securing depots, which allows players to in essence wait out the enemy by literally staving them out.

Perhaps the most versatile and important unit is the engineer who not only constructs important building, but has the ability to set and detonate charges, lay and remove mines, and construct and remove obstacles such as barbed wire.

During a mission to destroy an Axis command center and heavy guns in a seaport, the game really stepped into high gear, and shined.

As I gathered my Sherman Tanks to make a push into enemy held positions, I was able to muster special Ranger units in secure positions. Of course in doing so, the enemy units came to bear which allowed me to unleash a surprise upon them, which I did with a concentrated howitzer strike upon the enemy. With the versatility of the Havok engine, Nazi troops were soon flying through the air flaying in an impressive display of debris and carnage.

Another mission of note required me to air drop units into a very heavily defended locale to locate and destroy a V-2 launch site.

The ability to drop units into key locales and detonate guard towers and building with satchel and explosive charges was great fun. Also the ability to capture and use enemy gun batteries was also a nice plus as being able to use the enemies heavy guns against them was a nice addition to the game.

Of course being able to call in air strikes to pummel enemy units and then drop troops behind the lines to reach the objective while ground units occupied the enemy is also fun, and this is just one of the many options open to players in each mission.

The game also offers a tutorial and a solid multiplay function which will keep gamers playing long after they have finished the solo play campaign.

Graphically the game is solid and the sound and music score compliment the action and cut scenes very well. The smart decision to make your units more than meat for the grinder was very wise, as through the cut scenes you get to learn more about the characters you command, which in turn makes you care about their fates.

Not only is Company of Heroes the best RTS game of the year, it is one of the best games of the year.

5 stars out of 5.