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3.4 out of 5 stars
3.4 out of 5 stars
Platform: PC|Edition: Standard Edition|Change
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It can be tough for developers to make sequels to best-selling games. Vary the formula too much and people will complain about you moving too far from what the game is about. Don't change things and people will moan that you've produced an overpriced expansion rather than a new title.

For Company of Heroes 2, Relic's sequel to their very popular 2006 strategy game, they've gone conservative. The shift in focus and time means new sides - the Russians and the German armies of the eastern front - but the improvements over the first game are modest. The graphics are better, but not as improved as you might expect given the seven-year wait for this game. This is less of a dig at Company of Heroes 2 (which is still the best-looking strategy game in existence, at least until Total War: Rome II launches in September) and more of a reflection of how astonishingly far ahead of its time Company of Heroes was in 2006. The sound is a lot better, with booming explosions and realistic machine gun noises, a lot of them sampled from the genuine weapons. Sound design isn't usually something that stands out in games, but Company of Heroes 2's is simply the best I've ever encountered in a game.

In terms of gameplay, things proceed much as before. The battlefield consists of a home zone for each team and a patchwork of territorial zones in between. By capturing territory you boost your resources and can summon new troops to the battlefield more quickly, as well as unlocking fresh abilities through combat. Units gain experience in battle, becoming more accurate or tougher, and so does the commander, unlocking abilities such as recon planes, artillery bombardments or air strikes. Company of Heroes 2 changes things a little by having both locked territories (which are pre-set to provide fuel, ammunition or manpower points) and 'open' ones, which you can set to a particular resource by building on them. This is a nice touch which helps factions if they lose a rare resource zone.

Of course, you have to fight you away across these maps. Infantry can be summoned quickly to the battle and are surprisingly versatile, with anti-tank squads perfectly capable of taking down individual enemy tanks (though they're less effective against larger armoured formations). Snipers can provide both recon and a way of eliminating infantry at range, whilst mortars are formidable short-range artillery units and heavy machine guns are excellent for disrupting enemy charges. In the mid-game armoured cars, anti-tank guns and light tanks appear, and in longer battles expect to see heavy tanks like the T-34 and the Panther enter the fray. So far, so much like Company of Heroes. Improvements are modest rather than revolutionary, although a much stricter 'true sight' system allows for some sneaky tactics and makes things like using smokescreens much more effective (as it removes the enemy unit from sight altogether, rather than making hitting him harder). Some may bemoan the less-effective MG units, which find it tougher to pin down enemy infantry and reduce their effectiveness.

It's all loud and fast-paced but the game retains satisfying tactical elements. It's possible for battles to swing quite wildly from side to side, with armies being driven back to their bases only to burst forth again, reinforced for battle against their exhausted pursuers. It's great stuff, as much now as it was back in 2006.
In terms of structure, there's a single-player campaign which takes place against a backdrop of different parts of the war. This is framed with a former Red Army soldier being interrogated for seditious activities during the war, allowing the narrative to jump from Stalingrad back to the opening of Barbarossa, the siege of Moscow and the battles for Kursk and Berlin. Relic try to do something interesting with this narrative, by focusing on the individual heroism and bravery of the soldiers whilst exposing the brutality of the Soviet regime (which was not much better than the Nazis in terms of the death and destruction it caused). It fails due to weak writing and a feeling that there's too much of a Western (and particularly American) sense of morality impugning on what was a true life-and-death struggle for millions of people. The ambition is laudable but the execution is poor. Individual missions are quite well-designed, especially in the latter part of the campaign, but ultimately there are too many arbitrary restrictions on what units you can or can't use in a mission.

More impressive is the Theatre of War mode, which offers up a variety of different missions to the player. Some are single-player, focused scenarios (such as using a squad of snipers to assassinate enemy officers in a village) whilst others are bigger co-op missions or full-scale battles against veteran enemy forces. The Theatre of War covers events for 1941 only; updates are promised for the future to cover the rest of the conflict. Freed from the restrictive narrative, these scenarios can be more inventive and interesting than the campaign missions.

The game also introduces a couple of other ideas. One is the notion of winter itself as a threat, with the temperature suddenly dropping and your soldiers no longer able to fight. Getting them into cover or, better still, to a campfire, becomes a priority. It's a nice idea but it adds an extra level of randomness to the game which most players will likely prefer to do without. Fortunately, it can be switched off for multiplayer. Another new feature is that an NKVD officer will be deployed to your HQ whenever new infantry are deployed; if the infantry retreat to your base, the NKVD officer will shoot them. This simulates Stalin's 'not one step back' doctrine which made Russian soldiers fear retreating more than advancing. Again, it's laudable that Relic try to reflect this, but in practice it's just rather annoying. It's also historically inaccurate that your soldiers won't simply kill the NKVD officer themselves (NKVD troops assigned to Red Army squads occasionally 'fell to enemy fire, honest' during the war if they proved too zealous in punishing their soldiers). Since the retreat order is the best way to avoid being pinned by MG or mortar fire, the game punishing you for using it is something that gets old rather quickly.

Ultimately, Company of Heroes 2 (****½) is a modest evolution of the original game rather than anything too spectacular. The Theatre of War mode is its biggest improvement over the original, along with some exceptional sound design and graphics. Some of the new features meant to convey the atmosphere of the conflict backfire a little, but overall this is an accomplished, impressive and enjoyable RTS.
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The eastern front may or may not be where WW2 was won, but it is certainly where WW2 was lost: after Stalingrad and Kursk it wasn't that Germany still thought they could win that kept them going, it was the belief that they could get better terms than unconditional surrender. The eastern front was also brutal: less Allies were killed in combat by Germany on the Western front than Russians were shot for desertion by their own army in the East. On the German side, one of the biggest failures of the German strategy was that they could never bring themselves to tactical retreat, thus signing the death warrant of millions of men.

The eastern front was also a more varied area of operations than the Western front: you had the open plains of the Ukraine, the massive tank battles of Kursk, to the street-to-street fighting of Stalingrad, along with drastic seasonal changes. And of course, in such a huge front the railways were the most fought over thing, because they were crucial to either side.

And yet, Company of Heroes 2 doesn't feel that different from the original. There's better graphics (although they only look better compared to COH1 - compared to modern competing titles, they are better described as merely 'current gen'), and be aware that COH2 seriously underestimates your hardware - you only need about 30fps average in an RTS rather than 60fps, but COH will drop your settings right down unless you manually take control and give yourself better quality - and it even sets 'medium' quality on both a 6 year old and a pretty fast current machine (see my computer specs at the end of the review). You do get some new stuff to do with snow (your men can freeze, ice can shatter, and vehicles lose speed in it), and you get things like smoke grenades to blind the enemy close up, but it seems a low change count for the several years since COH1. This is all evolutionary rather than anything new and revolutionary.

Worse, some of COH2 is a step back. Some of the maps, especially the early ones, are too small to conduct strategic movements (such as flanking, traps, kill zones, etc). Instead, a lot of the maps are a race (place enough mines before the tanks come or similar side task). Yuck! Its much rarer to end a mission with the units you started off with in COH2, and although this may reflect the massive losses incurred on the eastern front, it doesn't allow you to identify with your units so you don't care if they survive, and the game just feels a bit soulless because of it.
The game generally feels a lot faster and more 'arcade': you can't stop and think on many of the levels, so its often speed rather than strategy that wins the day. For me, that's one of the biggest disappointments of COH2 - they are clearly angling more towards the console player rather than the PC strategy gamer.

The story is different from COH1, but we have already had lots of Eastern front games (Red Orchestra, etc), so it no longer feels new, and COH2 comes off looking like it was late to the idea. In fact, if the Eastern Front is your thing, there's about 4 other, older (but very good) titles you could pick up together for the same price as COH2. If you instead want something that is more towards cerebral RTS but that still taxes your GPU at the same time, then get something like European Escalation: Airland War.

So, overall good, but a little disappointing. If you want an RTS with FPS accessibility, then get this. You won't see any surprises or anything that really taxes you strategically, but at least you won't see any disappointment either... well, if you can excuse the German narration in the tutorial videos sounding a bit Welsh!

My rigs for this review:
Slow (my old desktop) - Core 2 quad Q6600 @3.6GHz, 8GB DDR2 1333MHz, Windows 7 Pro, Radeon 6870, WD Black HDD, 3DMark 11 score ~4300.
Fast (my Alienware Aurora) - i7-980X @3.8GHz, 24Gb DDR3 2000MHz, Windows 8 Pro, NVidia GTX770, Samsung 840 Pro SSD, 3DMark 11 score ~11000.
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on 25 June 2013
It has been 7 years since the release of the original Company of Heroes - one of the most favoured RTS games of all time on the PC. So the sequel, Company of Heroes 2 had an awful lot to live up. Well did it do so? Kind of..and I'll give my opinions as to why in this review.

First thing to take note of is the game is divided into 3 core sections: Campaign, Multiplayer and Theatre of War

The Campaign:

Away has the focus gone from the over done to death, Western front of the Second World War, and Relic now turns it's eye towards the savage, gritty Eastern front. It does so pretty well actually, capturing the brutal, desperate moments that the Russians had to embark upon to defend their homelands from Hitler's ambitions.
The Campaign will probably take the average player, depending on the difficulty, around 9-12 hours, and for the most part it is an enjoyable, immersing experience.
You take part in historic battles such as Stalingrad and take part of 'scorched earth' tactics in order to delay the German advance.
All these missions are pretty well done, but I can't help but think the lack of morals from Russian Officers is slightly over exaggerated in the cutscenes and in game - it actually gets slightly annoying at times when all you hear every couple of minutes is a reminder that 'Retreat is not acceptable, it is punishable by death..' etc etc. Although it may be true it can feel rather forced.
However, I suppose this is a rather minor niggle, and overall you can learn an awful lot Historically about the Eastern front, whilst having a pretty good time also. You can tell the team at Relic spent a lot of time digging through Historical Data!
I however felt that at times, the tactical elements were slightly ruined by the typical Russian 'meatshield' tactics of just throwing wave after wave of conscripts at the enemy, eventually pushing through and succeeding, even on the harder difficulty, this was a tactic that could be easily employed. It doesn't as such ruin the gameplay, but it does deter from overall satisfaction of a bloody victory.

Overall it looks like Relic did take quite a bit of care into it's campaign, even though there are some pretty dated animations going on, notably in the cutscenes, the problem of the extremes in the weather and atrocities were over exaggerated, but this is merely my own opinion.

Theatre of War:

This is somewhat like a campaign, where you can play as either the Soviets or the Germans taking on 'mini' missions. You are forced into tricky scenarios such as defending against waves of armour, or taking out officers of the adversary. There are options for solo missions, along with coop. One problem that I could see with the coop is that there is no 'matchmaking' - so if you don't have a friend with the game, you probably arent going to be able to do this section until you find someone willing to do it with you.
I found this pretty stupid because most games that have a coop option allow you to take part with a random person - A missed opportunity there I think.
Overall though this is pretty similar to the Campaign, but perhaps more intense and tricky, though it provides more of that 'satisfaction' that I was talking about that was missing from the main campaign.
I have to give it a 4 though because of the lack of coop matchmaking - it could potentially hinder some people's completion (though i dont think it will be a huge problem for many who will have others to cooperate with)


To me, this is where the game is really quite excellent. There are currently 13 maps, which is quite a low number considering the amount of time they have had for production. But for now this is okay, and hopefully more will come in later patches for FREE. Please do not charge us for maps - this isn't Call of Duty (Especially since in COH, there was a vast array of community maps and official maps made free)
You have the option to battle up to 4v4 either against other people, or against AI on a chosen difficulty.
There are two game modes - Victory point and Annihilation. The latter is self explanatory, where as VP is a mode where when you hold the majority of 3 points, you drain the opposition's ticket count. A pretty intense game-mode which doesn't go on forever, which is quite nice for those who haven't got hours to spare.

They have now introduced a leveling up system that is both good and bad.
Part of this is the ability to use Commanders. Each of these has their own 'abilities' that you can use in battle, such as deploying the infamous Tiger tank, or calling in a railway artillery attack. This is somewhat like the Doctrines of the old game, so nothing too much new there.
What is new however is the introduction of 'Bulletins'. These are 'challenges' that you can complete to give boosts to your troops, albeit they are very minor e.g. 3% boost in health. Whilst it is a good idea in some ways - I don't really see the point, and increasing these boosts will only create a lack of balance.

You can also unlock camouflage, which is pretty self explanatory..but not a good thing when they start trying to sell them on Steam individually...ALREADY, though you can unlock many through simply playing the game thankfully.

Multiplayer can be really fun once you get into a game that isn't laggy - and it's pretty darn intense at times, which can create some really memorable moments.
One thing I don't really like ingame is the 'Blizzard' phase - where randomly a blizzard will hit the map, forcing all infantry to take shelter or suffer hypothermia and die. It's a nice idea but it can break up the game a little bit - which for some could be seen as good, or bad.

Overall they kind of nailed the multiplayer element, and this is where the game will last

I just feel overall there are a few thing's that just made me wonder how it took so long for them to bring this out - yet not deliver as much as most probably hope for. The graphics are incredibly demanding on most systems (even with an i7 @ 4.5ghz and a gtx 680) and don't really look that great. Hopefully drivers will sort the disappointing performance. Along with this, there are a disappointing number of units in my opinion. The Campaign is good, but not incredible, as is Theatre of War.

Relic has delivered something pretty awesome - but it's not perfect. They stuck to what made the original so great, but I feel they stuck so close to it that they didn't raise the bar as much as most would have probably liked. It's still a game you have to buy and play, and with future expansions and a competitive online community, this game will be around for a very long time.
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on 5 January 2014
I loved COH1 and so did my wife so we bought 2 copies for Christmas. I started with the campaign which is ok but a little too scripted and too many subtitles for the hard of understanding - "go here", "light this fire", "get into cover" etc.

I then tried the skirmish mode versus the AI and find myself having to micromanage everything as my troops kept getting wiped out. This was fine of course for the AI as it did not have the slow mouse+click interface I had to deal with. As before its just a race for resources, then vehicles, then tanks with little time to plan a strategy.

The graphics are a huge step up from the already impressive original and almost everything is interactive. You can knock down trees with tanks, or burn them with molatovs. You can blow away walls the enemy using for cover. All in all excellent on the graphics front.

The most difficult thing for me was the confusion of what building produced what unit. Even after a week I could not find what I needed. The soviet engineers cannot build tank traps either so the old tactic of funneling the enemy into a kill zone to overcome the inherent disadvantage of the user interface versus AI players was is not available and there is no way to build a contiguous sandbag wall either - this is a major step back IMHO.

All in all I would have liked THQ to have spent less time on pretty graphics and more time on making the game play more intuitive and enjoyable. So like many things of 2013 a bit of a triumph of style over content.
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on 26 July 2013
Look all the way down for a TLDR version. :)

Company of Heroes 2 had a lot to deliver, because the original Company of Heroes (CoH) was very critically acclaimed and a great RTS in the eyes of many, including me.

CoH2 builds on the formula of the first: the scope is small and there's a great deal to micro-manage. For example, squads depend on cover heavily and tanks take more damage from the rear and sides, so for the best efficiency the player needs to be where the action is. CoH2 adds a type of weather, winter, to the mix, which includes soldiers freezing to death in the open, slower movement, and ice that can be broken using artillery, potentially sinking your expensive tanks.

The UI has also received a nice facelift, the right side of the screen now shows all of your units with little icons, including their cover state, health, and whether they are in combat. This makes seeing your overall status very easy, and is a vast improvement on CoH1 if you ask me. A lot of the mechanics, like vehicle movement, have also been improved due to critic about the first game.

The storyline of CoH2 does not involve a German antagonist like CoH1; instead, the Russian army itself seems to be the main 'enemy' of the story. In the first eleven missions, I haven't seen any Germans in the cutscenes, but juts Russians shooting their own men because they retreat and using the 'scorched earth' methods. Of course, this is historically accurate as far as I know, but at times it feels very forced, and literally as if you're not fighting Germans, but your own. It was kind of depressive because I missed the saving grace of the player's own side, while you fight for them the whole time. The story is not the best point of the game.

The last addition is Theatre of War, a completely new game mode which is comparable to the Tales of Valor missions from the original CoH. You fight in historical areas on a year basis, so you begin in 1941, and if you complete all the missions you can continue to 1942. There's solo missions, co-op scenarios and AI Battles, the latter are just Skirmish battles against a specific kind of AI with predefined 'rules' and special circumstances. I really like this game mode and it gives the game some more replayability, and I think this is great for the co-op fans.


- CoH is a trueful successor and keeps the core of the franchise
- The new winter mechanics add a bit of depth, but they aren't as noticeable in the multiplayer and Skirmish
- The new UI is great and a vast improvement, granting the player more overview of their units
- The storyline is a disappointment to me and makes the Russians the bad buys instead of the Germans, and while it's accurate at points, it feels forced and exaggerated.
- Theatre of War is a great addition and makes for a nice extra bit of content.

I'd really recommend this game to RTS fans and CoH fans in particular. Expect no revolutionary concepts, but just mechanics that are a logical step forward from CoH1 and give just that little bit of innovation that you'd expect from a sequel.
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on 10 December 2013
Love the COH series, played the first one for endless hours online and in single player. Was really excited that after years this finally came out to refresh good memories of those times. Now I have to say this is a good game, The story is great if a little short ( I finished it in one night..) and multi player is fun with the Russians fighting the Germans in PVP battlefields, BUT it kinda gets old very fast...and unlike the first game where you can play as 4 factions ( British, US, Germans, Panzer elite ) you only get 2 in this game at the moment and it feels kinda meh...the Russian faction is not "Cool" enough to make up for it too. for the first day or so you will love this game and really get into it, but after that you may wish you waited for expansions and more factions.
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on 22 June 2014
I've played the original COH since it came out. COH1 with Blitzkrieg mod is sublime to this day - zoom out perspective, excellent and varied unit choice and command trees. I would, and have, paid good money again and again for COH1 with blitzkrieg mod.

I played COH2 a lot in a desperate attempt to enjoy it when it came out. It's an arcade game: it is boring, the unit choice is appalling, the gameplay is tedious, the constant demand for money to make a tank look different / extra missions is disgusting and the monotonous contrived, pedestrian game play is sacrilege compared to blitzkrieg mod. I can't believe they managed to make a game quite so poor. Thankfully the original game and blitzkrieg mod keep giving. I've just tried COH2 again after 4 months of not playing it and my opinion hasn't changed - truly awful game.

I live in hope that they open this to modding beyond maps because as it stands it is diabolical garbage that not even alcohol can make bearable.
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on 28 January 2015
I was happy to discover this game worked on my laptop but was then disappointed by the game itself in comparison to the genius that was the first Company of Heroes. The graphics are similar but everything seems smaller, making it harder to see what is going on and more fiddly to select units. Some changes have been made allowing you to select your own Doctrines (the special powers for your forces) but otherwise the gameplay remains much the same. Sadly though a lot of the wit and humorous remarks by the soldiers in the first game have been replaced by unimaginative phrases like "It's so cold here".

The focus of this sequel definitely seems to be on the multiplayer game, either in competitive or co-operative gaming. Unfortunately though the sides in COH2 are completely unbalanced. This is not just me being rubbish at the game but seems a common criticism of many players on gaming forums. The Russian forces are greatly inferior to the German forces and this is not reflected in the points costs for units. Most notably the Germans can build bunkers with automated machine guns while the Russians can only build sandbags which need to be manned. As a result the German player inevitably has more units to spare in an assault.

In addition to this COH2 only runs on Steam, you need to install it just to upload the game (which takes ages). Steam is one of those things you either love it or hate it and I have to say I hate the thing. As soon as Steam is installed your PC slows down considerably when you are trying to do anything other than play a game on Steam. If you want to play COH2 though there is no other option.

It's sad that after such a great start COH2 is an inferior game to its predecessor. While its great to be able to play a new army with new units given the choice I'd much prefer to go back to the American army of the first game. There have recently been new additions to COH2 that allow you to play Western Front armies (the Ardennes expansion pack) and this does give the game more depth. This initial game though is a disappointment and should have been a lot better.
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on 8 July 2013
It's the same old Company of Hero's, which is a good thing.

However, I find it hard to relate to the Soviet's experiance in this game. (As was in the war) The tactics seem to resolve around pouring numbers on the German units till they break or die. And doing so doesn't really let me feel like a bad-ass general. Perhaps they're trying to re-create the hopeless meatgrinder that the soviet army was.... but... it's just that it does not make for the most entertaining gameplay.

I can't speak of the MP experience, I'm not fond of MP in RTS games.
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on 13 October 2013
I thought it might be integrated with the earlier editions but its not. Population cap out of balance, good graphics,but overall not to my taste. All COH needed was extra scenarios etc, ruined a good game !!
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