World War II has been gamed out. This global catastrophe has spawned a slew of first-person shooters, strategy games, flight simulators, action-adventure games and scroller shoot ‘em ups. But among the hundreds that tried and failed, Company of Heroes Complete: Campaign Edition stands as one of the best adaptations of World War II in a real-time strategy setting… and it works really well.
Company of Heroes is a text-book real time strategy game if there ever was one. Set up your base of operations, train your hardened soldiers and sent them out onto the bloody battlefield. Boiled down to the basics, Company of Heroes is all about numbers: what unit beats what, when. You’ll be armed to the teeth with a plethora of soldiers, tanks and settlements to defend your position and push back the enemy advance. While a heavily fortified German Panzer may demolish your machine-gun defences in a blink of an eye, get an anti-tank gun behind the thing, or maybe even attach a sticky bomb, and it’s a sitting duck ready to be plucked.
Whats new in Campaign Edition
This campaign-only edition includes all of the levels from the original game and its 2 expansions, which means your stint at being a general won’t be over too soon. Each campaign focusses on different factions, from the American squad Able Company to the British 3rd Battalion to the German Panzer Elite.
Each faction has their own special units, with the British going for a more defensive stance, being able to build defensive structures like anti-tank emplacements and slit trenches, and the American Paratroopers being able to reinforce ground units by skydiving them in from above.
Most missions are designed to be short and snappy, encouraging the player to push forward whenever possible. This means there is limited emphasis on base-building. Sitting tight and forging a huge base to send units from is out of the question here, and most of the time it’s all about boldly striding forward without looking back. Resources are gained by capturing territories and fortifying them. Without resources, you can’t build structures or create units.
That being said, some missions are really intense. Such as when you’re defending a river bank from a surge of German tanks, artillery and infantry until reinforcements arrive. The use of land mines, tank traps and swathes of defensive structures all come beautifully into play, and the game really clicks.
But for a game that revels in its mastery of the RTS gameplay, its missing one vital component; a Skirmish mode. For those outside of the loop, the Skirmish mode is a customisable battle scenario where you are able to set the objective, opponents and map and then build up your base and battle it out. Whilst the campaign missions are gratifyingly fierce at times, you can’t help but feel pulled along by a leash to every set piece and enemy fortress, just like the poor soldiers you command. Most missions don’t give you much time to set up camp and base-build before you’re pushed along by an urgent objective or ally squad in need of help.
What’s more, the scope of weapons, units, vehicles and structures lends itself to complex strategic advances, but most missions only give you a handful of neat tech, limiting combat situations. A skirmish mode would have been great to offer the player some freedom to think and build for themselves.
The game suffers from a few AI problems as well. The cover system is inaccurate and unreliable, as squads can sometimes run out of perfectly good cover, only to get pinned and stuck by machine-gun fire in no man’s land. The enemy can also behave a little dim at times. Such as when you open fire on a machine gunner from behind, and he remains totally oblivious to your attack and refuses to turn around and blast you to smithereens.
Company of Heroes may not live up to the graphical standards of the latest games, but it doesn’t do too badly either. The colour palette is a little drained of colour, I admit, but the punchy explosions and a powerful physics engine that allows you to smash gaping holes in buildings leads to a realistic enough World War II setting.
Company of Heroes Complete: Campaign Edition is an excellent RTS tainted only by the lack of a Skirmish mode. It portrays the gritty and harsh nature of the world’s most gruesome conflict perfectly, making it the most cinematic and intense way to strategise through the bloody battleground of a war-torn France.