Saturday, March 22, 2008

Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts (RTS PC Game 2007)

I'm sure that I mentioned more than once that the RTS genre has hit a lull in terms of originality and gameplay. Most of the time, all you have to do is tweak the strategy a little bit, and before you know it, you're playing the same game that you've been playing since the inception of the RTS. This game totally blew the lid on that whole chestnut.

A year or so ago, multiple people did mention to me how this game was new and actually very fun, but all I saw were screenshots of WWII crap all over again, so I ignored it: my mistake. For the last 2 weeks I have been having a jolly good time playing this game to death, so thus it deserves some very high accolades.

Story
The campaign story followed around US, German, and British forces during real-life missions that were actually fought. In terms of story, it gave the missions a bit more purpose; but as I'll get to in a little bit, you actually start caring about your units instead of not giving a fuck as you send a whole blob of infantry to their deaths.

Cinematics
The movies were very nice and artsy at times. Some scenes were old-school cinematics using regular computer models, while others were "moving art". I'm not sure if that is the right term, but I'm sure some of you have seen it before. It looks like a painting, but then various additional paintings are layered onto the original to make it seem like the screens are moving. I think that's a pretty neat way of showing the transition of time.

Gameplay
This is where this game shined and where it was uniquely different from all other RTS games. Usually in a game, if you have a vehicle go up against an infantry unit, 99% of the time the infantry unit will get its ass handed to it within seconds. I guess it's realistic, depending on the "world" you're playing in, but it's way too predictable. Because this game was set in WWII, it was hella realistic in terms of possibilities.

So for example, in real life if you had a squad of infantry consisting of 6 men, and they were going up against a tank, there IS a chance that the squad would be able to take out the tank, depending on the situation such as cover and weapons. If the squad had a bazooka and was in a location that had very good cover, they would actually stand a fighting chance in surviving. This game followed a realistic system of offense and defense, which is a much different model for a RTS. I totally dug this aspect of gameplay, as real strategy was actually taken advantage of instead of being blown aside, like most other RTS games.

Attacking a group of tanks from the rear can totally turned the tide if you're outnumbered or pounding an area with mortars can soften up an enemy enough to send in your ground troops. All of these little micromanagement techniques hella assisted in actually having fun again.

I guess some people might not enjoy the micromanagement associated with positioning, defense, and offense, but I think those attributes totally made this game stand out. It was flat out fun, and that's a hard thing to do and maintain these days.

Controls
All of the controls were the same for any game in this genre.

Graphics
Visuals were really good. Everything from a tank firing into a garrisoned building, to smoke billowing from a damaged APC, to the weather and rain effects were all very impressive and realistic.

Sound & Music
All the sounds were great. Tank shells, artillery, machine guns, snipers, and air support all had terrific supporting sounds. Unfortunately, the pirated Chinese version I had didn't have any music, so I can't comment on that.

Overall
Obviously I was very impressed with this game. Even though the WWII scenario should be axed, the idea behind this game and the engine that it was built on was great. If Relic wants to make more money, all they have to do is follow what Activision did with Call of Duty 4. Make a modern-day version of this game using modern weapons and units and they'd make a killing in sales.
Rating - High