Company of Heroes 2: The British Forces
The Good: More Company of Heroes.
The Bad: Multiplayer only. Kind of dumps you in the deep end of CoH.
The Ugly: Relic continues its tradition of terrible tutorials.
Note: I’ve written a lot of reviews of CoH, CoH2, and the various expansion packs. The overall nut of the game remains the same – it is a relatively paced and highly strategic WWII RTS. Resources take time to gather and units are pretty expensive. You need to balance your forces and use them wisely. CoH is a game that strongly favors the incumbent: a player who knows the units, their strengths and weaknesses, will flatten someone who doesn’t. If you want an in-depth review of the mechanics of CoH, look up one of those many, many earlier reviews – I’m not going to rehash all of that now. Capish? Onwards!
This may get a little inside baseball, but let me tell you a little something about being a game reviewer. The process starts with me and my editor talking about upcoming games, what I want to cover, what I want to pass on. Then the games come in and they’re divvied up amongst the venerable game-over reviewers. Games typically come as digital downloads, often through Steam. In the past I used to get games Fedexed to me, box and all, but the last time that happened was Wolfenstein: The New Order. I don’t get paid as a game reviewer, except in games, so you could imagine that I end up with a lot of games, three on my desktop to review at this very moment. What I’m trying to say is that I get a lot of games that I play to review, and then I never have a chance to get back to them because new games keep showing up. And I say this as a guy who has been trying to get back to Skyrim for like two years now. So I’ve played CoH, I think every title in the series, and I’ve enjoyed CoH, but when the review goes in, that’s the end of me playing CoH. So I’m not good at CoH, which is a game that positively revels in a complex rock-paper-scissors and requires you to be intimately familiar with dozens of unit types and what they do. It’s not an easy game to put down for months and months and then suddenly pick up again.
Which seems like a good time to bring up the press release. I get one of those from time to time along with the game to review, points the developer or publisher want me to hit, and I got one of them this time. A line in the press release reads, and I quote “The British Forces will be released as a stand-alone package that is the perfect entry point into the vibrant Company of Heroes 2 community.” I’m going to have to disagree here. It may be a cheap entry into the CoH2 community (only $12.99 USD on Steam), and apparently gives you access to all the maps in the series including community-created maps, but it’s far from the perfect entry point. The tutorial, rather than a handful of missions to kind of get you oriented, consists of a huge pile of text plus some videos and such. Sure, the information is probably there for someone who wants to dig through it all, but you’d likely have an easier time studying conversational Mandarin. And the game is multiplayer only, so those people who are looking for anything with more context than a skirmish map are out of luck. Additionally, the computer AI, while adequate, is limited in its creativity. You can kick ass against the AI, and then go online and get your head handed to you by a far more clever human opponent. CoH2 is just not an easy game to pick up casually, and I doubt The British Forces will be the game that causes a rush of fresh blood to the CoH2 community.
One line from the press release that they are dead on about is as follows: “The battlefield comes to life like never before thanks to motion-captured data for the most common animation set.” CoH has never looked better, in a ghastly kind of way. Soldiers get blown in half, drag their injured carcasses around before expiring from their wounds. Smoke, fire, explosions, deformable terrain – CoH is a cornucopia of death and destruction. With all of these new graphics comes a host of new voice work. The press release informs me that “an international cast of actors from England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and New-Zealand were hired to bring the units to life, with accents ranging from the posh elite to the working class.” All I know is that it sounds great to me.
The British Forces for what is it, seems OK. It’s a new faction with a ton of new units (the press release tells me there are actually 15, and calls them “15 one-of-a-kind units”) and eight new multiplayer maps. There is also a significant branching point in the tech tree, which adds to the depth of the British faction as well as replayability, plus improved unit animations and new voice work. That seems like a pretty good deal for $12.99, and I think will make some hardcore CoH2 guys thrilled. For the rest of us, it’s kind of a blur of explosions set in yet more mostly bombed out cities featuring capture points and choke points and guys running around and tanks. For us, I’d have to recommend buying CoH2 ($39.99), which comes with a smoother learning curve, a single player campaign, and access to multiplayer (though still a terrible tutorial).
Reviewed By: Phil Soletsky
This review is based on a digital copy of Company of Heroes 2: The British Forces for the PC provided by Sega.