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Company of Heroes 2 delivers classic RTS gameplay on the Eastern Front

Hayden Dingman | June 26, 2013
Company of Heroes 2 is a sequel with a few new tricks that plays almost identically to its predecessor, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Yet that never happens while you're actually playing Company of Heroes 2. You'll scrounge equipment from the battlefield occasionally, sure, but you're never leading a group of unarmed, terrified, underfed Soviets straight into a German machine gun until their bodies form a wall of cover for your remaining soldiers.

In fact, considering you're supposedly scraping penal colonies and other "undesirables" to make up the majority of your army, your soldiers follow orders remarkably well. Every time you call up conscripts, the game enacts Order 227--a real-life (though short-lived) edict by Stalin whereby retreating troops were shot on sight. While Order 227 is in effect, any of your troops--not just the conscripts you called up--who panic and flee will be executed.

It's a neat idea, but in practice it rarely has any negative consequences; in my time with the game I never saw anyone executed because of 227. It's just another timer to pay attention to, one more example that the horrific images conveyed in the game's scripted sequences rarely affect how you actually play--they're just set dressing. Given how linear most of the campaign missions are, Company of Heroes 2 ends up playing out like a weird Call of Duty or Medal of Honor strategy game where you aimlessly follow the game's directions with no real sense of why. Maybe that's meta-commentary on Soviet High Command during World War II, but I doubt it.

Combat in Company of Heroes 2 oscillates between wonderfully challenging and disconcertingly easy.

The AI difficulty is also frustratingly inconsistent. Playing on "Captain" difficulty (the game's equivalent to Normal) I alternatively felt like I was squaring off against General George S. Patton himself and a lukewarm cup of tap water. At best the missions are an exciting push-and-pull of tactics; at worst, your Soviet squads will frolic down the road right next to a bunch of Nazi soldiers, neither group acknowledging the other exists.

All this aside, the campaign isn't bad. There are a few stand-out missions, including an excellent scenario midway through the game where your small squad of infantry plays hide-and-seek with a German Tiger tank in a sleepy village, ineffectively chipping away at its armor with limited armaments. But that's the exception--most of the campaign is underwhelming.

Theater of War
There are very few set up a base, build troops, manage resources, attack scenarios in the main storyline; in fact, the extremely scripted and linear Company of Heroes 2 campaign gives you almost no idea how to jump into multiplayer with the exception of a few missions at the end.


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