Company of Heroes 2 Review - Multiplayer and Graphics
All of which highlights just how dependent this title is on its multiplayer following, and thankfully it’s here that the new game shows its chops. Under the bonnet, tweaks to path-finding and cover-taking have improved the overall feel of the game while the new cold-weather game mechanic shakes things up enough to mean seasoned players have to learn a new set of tactics. Game finding has also improved, with it easy to jump into battle with real-life or AI players, in anything up to 4v4 battles. Be warned, though, if you’re new to Company of Heroes, prepare to be annihilated time and time again as the game makes few concessions for newcomers. Instead you’ll have to train long and hard against AI opponents.
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Best of all on the multiplayer front is a new game mode called Theater of War, which combines singleplayer and multiplayer elements. It presents the player with a number of challenges – survive a wave of attacks, or take on a battle with certain restrictions – that can be tackled either alone or with other players. This new mode really excels because it frees itself of the forced drip-feed of new features and the tedious story of the singleplayer campaign, providing a bit more focus for multiplayer and letting you explore the limits of the new gameplay elements.
Also highlighted here is the new ‘TrueSight’ fog of war system, which goes somewhat unnoticed in the single player game. This new feature constantly reinterprets how much of the map remains visible based on environmental conditions, unit skills and of course terrain. Of particular note are snipers who can see much further than normal units, making them vital for advancement into unknown territory, which again is another tweak that seasoned players will have fun incorporating into their tactics.
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Combining TrueSight with uprated polygon counts, higher resolution textures and many more particle effects, COH2 is a marked step up from the first game when viewed up close, though as mentioned earlier there isn’t that sense of this being a completely dazzling new game in general play. Nonetheless, this is a seriously demanding title when it comes to graphics hardware. We ran the game on a GTX 670 at 1,920 x 1,200 and had to resort to using medium or lower for most settings and had AA turned off completely. In particular it’s when employing the adjustable camera that the framerate plummeted: drop the camera low to take in the view and the framerate will drop by at least half. Certainly if you were looking for an excuse to upgrade your hardware this title will give you plenty.
Up close, there's clearly an improvement in detail levels between COH (top) and COH2 (bottom) but zoomed out the differences can be subtle.
In summary, then, we can’t escape the feeling that Company of Heroes 2 is really only a game for continued fans of the original: those that are simply looking for a slight new twist on their favourite title to make it exciting again. In this sense this game is a success, and certainly if you subscribe to the idea that RTS games are almost entirely about their multiplayer mode then you’ll feel that’s all it ever needed to be.
But, we don’t subscribe to that idea. Command and Conquer – the poster child of RTS – was a game series built on the back of great cinematic single player campaigns, and plenty of other games in the genre have been more than enjoyable as a single player experience, not least the first Company of Heroes. While Relic hasn’t completely abandoned the single player campaign, it has failed to produce a worthy follow-up to the original in this respect.
It’s a particular blessing, then, that this is a PC game so is only priced at £24.99. At that level it’s still worth a punt even if it’s not the calibre of sequel it perhaps could have been.