THQ – Company of Heroes review

excellent and original World War II RTS
Photo of THQ – Company of Heroes

“Oh no”, you groan, “not another World War II RTS game with the usual resource gathering, base building and mass charging that have characterised the genre for so long, together with bad acting and repetitive oaths?”

Well, fortunately not, as developers Relic have instead chosen the brave course of taking a well trammelled game theme by the throat, giving it a thorough shaking and then releasing it back to the unsuspecting public. It’s not coincidental that packaged with the game comes a free copy of their last big hit, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War, which used many of the same techniques displayed here.

For instance, resource gathering is not simply a matter of sending minions to pick up chunks of gold, wood and rock in the immediate vicinity. Instead your three resources – Manpower, Munitions and Fuel – are increased after success on the battlefield by killing the foe or acquiring territory.

So if you need more men, head out and capture Strategic Points which will in turn mean you control a territory sector on the map. The more sectors you control, the more resources become available to you and the nature of the Strategic Points determine what those resources will be; whether upgrading weapons, men, heavy vehicles or structures.

But even here there’s a unique twist because you have to make sure that your captured territory sectors ultimately link back to your HQ for the flow of supplies to be effective. The main result of this is to stop you sitting at base and building up massive defences which you probably won’t be able to make full use of anyway, rather than taking the fight to the enemy.

It may sound obvious but this is also one of the few WWII games where strategy really means what it says. To aid this there are three rankings of cover for your forces: light cover such as hedges and craters, heavy cover such as walls and sandbags and Exposed which means you’ll get shot to pieces. In addition, virtually everything on the map is destructible so you can blow up buildings and use the rubble as cover, drive a tank through walls and outflank your enemies or bulldoze trees or tank traps out of the way.

There is a tech tree as well, known as Company Commander, which gives you access to some special powers such as calling in a heavy artillery strike, arranging a parachute drop or bolstering your defences, and access to this comes from building up experience points.

The graphics – especially the explosive effects – are some of the most realistic ever seen and the sound effects are phenomenal. Crank up your surround sound to the max and you’ll believe you’re in the middle of a true firefight, and the acting and oaths are spot on!

Company: THQ

If you don't buy any other RTS game this year, then buy this one. This is war-gaming strategy as it's meant to be played: hard, bloody, frantic, chaotic and exhilarating. Don't turn out the lights.