Company of Heroes Preview

With several classic RTS games under its belt, Relic Entertainment is not planning to plant its feet up on the table and lean back just yet. In fact, Relic is continuing to develop new games, and with their upcoming RTS Company of Heroes for the PC on the horizon, they are just further cementing their legacy. Originally announced in April ’05, the game has taken long strides since then and is set for release on September 14.

Powering Company of Heroes is Relic’s own Essence Engine. Providing every single next-generation graphical effect, this RTS game will rival any current and upcoming game visually. Effects like HDR lightning, normal mapping, advanced shader effects, and dynamic lighting and shadows are included and really paint the WWII landscape. Burned out buildings with smoke billowing in the wind, or dirt and gravel littering the landscape as mortars fly out of the sky really enhance the experience. The Havok 3 Engine is also used in the game, which allows the game to associate physics with every in-game object. Trust me, there’s nothing better than seeing your tanks roll over fences, walls, and enemy units, or seeing the absolutely stunning explosions hit dead center in a squad causing the bodies and weapons to fly around.

A single player demo is out now, weighing in at slightly over 1.5 gigs, and it features the tutorial and two missions. The tutorial introduces you to the various aspects of the game, namely the different squads, resources and various abilities and tactics needed to excel in the game. Your units are primarily divided into three groups, and they are the bread and butter of your gaming field. Of course, resources are the backbone of your units and without them you’re as good as dead.

The resources are divided into three branches: manpower, munitions and fuel. Manpower allows you to build squads and is generated by your headquarters and from the total number of territories you control. Munitions allow you to upgrade your squads with special abilities and are generated by capturing munitions sectors in the different territories. Lastly, fuel allows you to deploy vehicles, build base structures, and achieve global upgrades and is generated by capturing fuel sectors in territories. In order to generate resources, you have to capture, defend and hold on to territories. Initially this involves just capturing strategic points, but enemies are not going to allow you to control them that easily. After a first-hand defeat, the enemy may come back with reinforcements, so you might have to defend and ultimately hold your captured territories to keep on generating resources.

Your units are divided into infantry, airborne, and armor. Infantry squads range from standard riflemen and heavy machine gunners to engineers. Riflemen are your standard gunners, while engineers allow for repairing vehicles and deploying defense structures. Just captured a new territory? Deploy your engineers to build a security post over the strategic point and you’ll generate more resources as well as force the enemy to destroy the security post before taking back the strategic point. Armored units includes various tanks, like the standard Sherman tank, or the Sherman Crocodile which can bulldoze over tank traps and use its flamethrower to burn the enemy infantry down. While using your units, you gain experience by capturing territories, building structures, and fighting. In turn, this experience can be used for command points, which can then be used to unlock special abilities for your units. Want your riflemen to build sandbags for better defense, or want to call in a howitzer strike when things are looking grim? Go ahead and spend your command points.

The first mission in the demo is the Normandy beach landing, and it opens up with a stunning cinematic. Like the opening cinematic for Relic’s Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War, this movie is gritty and very violent. After a smooth transition to the in-game engine, you take control of the landing squads. Your first objective is to get at least 25 riflemen to the fortified beachfront that leads further in. Using the scattered armor points on the beach for cover, you direct units from the boat landings towards the goal. After gathering 25 units, you then have to navigate your engineers to blow the barbed wire protecting the shingle. After that, you need to take out the various bunkers with your engineers’ satchel charges. The last objective is to take out two 88 batteries. There’s also a secondary mission: eliminate all the bunkers on the beachhead. During each mission, special little objectives arise that may award you with medals. In this mission, if you open up the second beachhead, you’ll get a medal.

The second mission involves the paratroopers who went in behind enemy lines before D-Day; you’re in charge of defending Carentan until reinforcements arrive. Your first objective is to build the necessary defenses and survive until the reinforcements arrive, which takes about 15 minutes. Using your engineers, you can build an MG42 machine gun placement in front of the three bridges which lead into Carentan, or place sandbags to protect your infantrymen. You can also upgrade your paratroopers, allowing them to hold heavier rifles which can take on lightly armored vehicles and/or buildings, or have your infantry use panzershreks to take out the heavier armor.

The demo that’s out now is a beta; Relic is planning an optimized version to be released during the first week of September. But with what I experienced with the beta build, Company of Heroes is shaping up to be a hell of an experience. Combining Relic’s unique craft of RTS magic with the setting of WWII may lead to the RTS that everyone has been waiting for. Being a slight newcomer to the RTS genre, I didn’t feel overburdened to micromanage all of my resources or nitpick where to place my units, either. Relic took the time to smooth the interface and make the game feel friendly to non-RTS fans, which really helps. They also took the time to add the little details to everything. Watch dying units squirm and wiggle as they gasp their last breath, or watch the tent flap of an MG42 placement fly around as bullets wiz by, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Multiplayer is expected to be done well, too, with over 20 maps available to play with up to 8 people on LAN or the Internet. Mark September 14 on your calendar, since Company of Heroes will be leaving craters in stores near you.


  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Myspace
  • Google Buzz
  • Reddit
  • Stumnleupon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Technorati
Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

Leave A Response

You must be logged in to post a comment.