Company of Heroes 2 Review: For the motherland!


By Yolanda Green on Monday, July 8, 2013
"This masterpiece is an opiate of World War II themed strategy"

Company of Heroes 2 tells the story of Mother Russia’s humanity, fighting her way to Berlin against the fascists. I know it might seem odd to say such a thing, since you’re going to be crushing Nazi’s to free your country, but as you play the game you get to experience The Motherland’s feminine side.

Brute force is best force

Company of Heroes 2 Rain of Death

As you relive the memories of soldier turned journalist Isakovich, you quickly learn how the game mechanics mimic the Soviet war effort’s heartless ability to spit out waves of men and women willing to die for their country, ready to be disposed of as quickly as they arrived.

With almost an endless supply of conscripts the game lets you effortlessly built an army of overwhelming numbers. This is after all how you’re supposed to take on the Nazi’s, right? In most missions squads are trainable at your base. Losing trained squads however, is dire to your cause. Fortunately, you are able to send in multiple squads of untrained infantry to merge with trained squads when you lose your comrades. Conscripts fade much quicker though, they aren’t very affective in battle, and the more squads you have the harder it gets to keep track of it all. The increased population of 135 tiny Vlad’s might add to the experience of building a Soviet Empire, but definitely takes from the enjoyment of the game. How much you’ll enjoy these missions, will as a result be completely up to you and how smart you play the game.

This is where vehicle warfare greatly comes into play. Tanks provide cover and Engineers provide longevity as they are able to constantly repair damaged vehicles. It is also good to keep a couple of those at control points, building fuel or munitions caches, as well as serving as great defence squads against invaders trying to capture or recapture control points. Once upgraded to equip flamethrowers, these squads are more than just meat sacks to be disposed of. They can be your strongest assets in the game. Their ability to quickly burn down enemies and place mines to detonate are but a few of their great qualities.

Company of Heroes 2 Snow Battle

Missions mostly require you to take over bases, but there are a select few that really stand out. One of my favourite missions was guiding my men through a harsh, icy environment. Constantly getting your men to camp fires and building to ensure they don’t freeze to death, it’s almost heart-breaking when they die. Snipers play a crucial role here, sending out flares to increase the radius of visibility. Another great mission was guiding a squad of Polish snipers through their mission. You really need to play tactically to secure the victory.

I only really started to enjoy the game once I abandoned the historical Soviet tactic of strength in numbers and switched over to using a hand full of tanks, half-trucks and Engineers. Just past halfway through the campaign, this was the most effective method to smash through enemy defences. Adding air strikes to strategy, I could seamlessly glide through to victory.

A miss is as good as a mile

The most frustrating part of the game was that my army had the worst aim, ever. I had lost so many comrades to the fascists purely because they couldn’t really shoot. Great soldiers they turned out to be. In some battles my overwhelming number of tiny meat shields would get gunned down like it was target practise, against small numbers of Nazi trained infantry.

In any reality, should eight or twelve soldiers be stormed by three times more soldiers than that, they’d not survive. Even if they did have a machine gun. I guess this was supposed to drive you to spawn more conscripts, but it did quite the opposite for me. It’s why I switched over to vehicle warfare instead.

The game’s cut scenes are, in their own right, brilliant, but the game does not to them justice. They aren’t exactly CG, but the art style suited to the theme. Right off the bat, these scenes struck a cord with me. I knew it was going to be filled with emotion, and tell a great tale. In retrospect, they make you see the game through different eyes. Instead of seeing your troops as mindless, soulless animals sent into battle for slaughter, you see them as heroes. Brave souls marching on, knowing that death is breathing down their necks.

wmplayer 2013-07-05 15-49-25-23

Here’s the part where the game doesn’t do it justice. Missions greatly overshadow the cut scenes. While in-game, once you’ve started that mission, your mind immediately goes to work. You strategise and you’re completely immersed in battles. So much so that you forget about the scene you just saw. Fantastic for gameplay, tragic for the story. It’s something that can only be properly appreciated once you have finished the campaign. I really wish I could be equally immersed in both throughout the game.

In Soviet Russia, games play you

Company of Heroes 2 drives its players, compels them to push forward at any cost, even if it is death by friendlies. A no-retreat order is instated by Stalin, which is activated for some periods of time during some missions. Should your troops retreat during the active phase, a commander in your base shoots them on sight. I really liked this idea, but it had no effect on my game at all. I had no reason to retreat, because losing squads had no real consequences. It is also possible to outsmart the commander, which defeats the purpose of him being there.

I always felt that I could push forward in the game, and when you’re given a military powerhouse like The Red Army, how can you not? There’s no real reason to slow down, if you’re playing the game effectively. Because of the high population cap, you are able to always have back up troops and vehicles, in the majority of the missions.

Brutal frontline warfare

The Theatre of War is one of my favourite parts of the game. It is a lot more challenging than the campaign missions. Theatre of war pits players against harsh scenarios, odds that are not a cake walk to beat. The mode tells different stories from the conflicts on the Eastern Front. Players can play solo or co-op and as you achieve success in your missions, your story progresses on the timeline. The first mission asserts the tone of the mode, timed to reach your objectives, you have no idea that you’re probably not going to get this right in the first try. At least, I didn’t.

The game also includes a multiplayer mode, where you can challenge other players to a battle of the mind.

Company of Heroes 2 Approaching Battle

Company of Heroes 2’s weakness is its strength, as much as some aspects of the game disappoints, others make up for it tenfold. This masterpiece is an opiate of World War II themed strategy, it will have you coming back for more.

Company of Heroes 2 was reviewed by on the 8th of July , 2013 at 3:30 PM on PC

GAMEPLAY
7.5
Following the game instruction to gameplay may not be the optimal approach to the campaign. There are however a great variety of methods to secure the victory. You get to decide how you want to play it. Needless to say, it is rather addictive.
DESIGN
7.5
The campaign can get a little monotonous with its levels or missions, but there are some fantastic missions that stand out from the typical control point objective. Theatre of War adds greatly to this game.
VALUE
9.0
15 to 25 hours of single play through campaign, Theatre of War and online multiplayer, you get more than value for your money. The campaign has definite replayability, you can go back and try finish missions in different ways and even up the difficulty for a bigger challenge.
TOTAL
8.0
With so many different ways to win a fight, you may choose to adopt The Red Army's strength in numbers methods, simulating the bloodbath as they fought their way to Berlin, or you are given the option to play as tactical as you like. It is in every way in which it really matters, a stellar strategy game.

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Author:Yolanda Green

I like bacon and games, and occasionally I say something coherent about it. I'm not old or cynical, and I'm not the Dork Knight. I AM SHE-RA! Wait, what?

Don't stop now.... you're having a good time

  • Ultimo_Cleric N7

    So pretty…..

  • DieJason

    Getting my PC fixed up a little bit this week so that I can play Company of Heroes 1. Well, hopefully it will be good enough to run it.

  • Admiral Chief Groot Wors

    Wow, this looks incredible!

    • RinceWind

      Yeah. I hear the PC is developing a graphics card capable of playing it… TROLOLO!

      • Harvey P, Cheesewinkle

        Yeah, because it was totally demo’d on the PS3/360…oh wait.

        /facepalm

        • RinceWind

          LOL

  • John Ambitious

    Must….have……MUST…..HAVE….

  • Hammersteyn

    LOL @ Red Army’s strength in numbers method, they didn’t even have enough guns for everyone during the Battle of Stalingrad

    • Admiral Chief Groot Wors

      Yeah, pretty horrible.

      • Hammersteyn

        Even the steamroller method they used was horrible.

        • Admiral Chief Groot Wors

          War in general is horrible. Unless its in a game, then its pretty fun

          • Andre116

            War is (fun as) hell!

    • Lardus

      The first one takes the gun, the second one takes the ammo. If the first one dies, the second one picks up the gun!

    • HvR

      Most of that is actually BS based on American myths regarding Russian fighting tactics

      Russia in WW1 (then still an empire) fought with the by steamrolling the Germans with untrained conscripts in some instance given every 4th soldier a gun and the other 3 a wooden gun to use as a club. And from the late 30′s commissars were not allowed to just shoot retreating soldiers.

      Gen Zukhov was brilliant general who wouldn’t just throw equipment and men at the germans, he used small groups of men on the frontal assault as diversion over the river and the main large armies including halftracks and tanks up the flanks to overrun the German and Hungarian groups to envelop the city.

      What made the Battle of Stalingrad so notoriously bloody is that it was a political with both sides prepared to fight to the end.

      • Weanerdog

        AFAIK and I was not there but most of the standing army were very well trained but as the Russians needed more and more troops the level of training got a little suspect, remember these were personnel recruited within a war zone. For example preservation of life was not a major concern with the main battle tank of that time. The T-34s were very effective against the smaller German tanks but were very badly designed in terms of ergonomics and ventilation. Radios were not always fitted which meant that coordinated attacks were difficult and if the tank burned no one was getting out. The sure numbers of these tanks made them effective against the bigger foes but at a cost of lives.

        • HvR

          You confusing/merging 30 decades of history.

          By 1941 Soviet soldiers were as well trained as their US counterparts although not as battle hardened as their Nazi opponents.

          Although not a technologically advanced the USSR was full industrialized by 1940′s with higher output than Germany although this was severely disrupted by the German blitzkrieg.

          At the counter attack at Stalingrad German Nazi Armies and Russian Armies were almost matched in terms of number of soldiers, but the Russians had double the number of tanks and aircraft.

          The T-34 was more than a match for the German tanks with superior engine power, tracks and suspension. Especially on the armor side the T-34 had casted sloped armor which the Germans found difficult to penetrated and was vastly superior to the Panzer 4′s flat panel welded armor.

          The Germans were so shocked at the when encountering the T-34 in 41 that they fast tracked the Tiger tanks and Panzer 5/Panther designs (these were so unreliable mechanical wise that they spent more time as fixed guns than tanks although revolutionary on other fronts) , there 50mm AT guns were useless and they had to fast track 75mm and 88mm guns to front. It was only in late 43 that German heavy tanks outmatched the T-34 on a one to one basis.

          • John

            In the battle of Kursk, the largest tank battle in human history the German tanks destroyed the russian tanks at ease, the lost ratio was 5:1 the only problem was the Russian’s strenght and that is the reason the Germans lost the battle of Kursk. The Germans had the best tanks in the war no way that the Russian tanks outclassed them.

          • HvR

            Hundreds of accounts by German soldiers facing T-34 with ineffective AT weapons and dead Panzer 4 crews that got stuck in the winter mud and picked off by T-34 disagree with you.

            The Great tank battles of Battle of Kursk happened end of 43 and as I stated by that time the Germans rushed the completion of their new Tiger tanks, the Tigers kill ratio was about 20:1, but they were expensive and complex so the Germans had less than 300 Tigers and they broke down a lot, this is why they were replaced by the Tiger 2 less than a year later.

            The Germans even used captured T-34 at Kursk since they faired better than their own medium tanks.

      • Harvey P. Cheesewinkle

        According to Notes from a Sniper (Vassili Zaitsev’s book containing his notes/thoughts during his time as the first official sniper for the Soviets, and the commander of the first official sniper platoon for the Soviets), the American ‘myths’, aren’t very far off. Or are you claiming to know more about it than a guy who was actually there and was awarded the ‘Hero of the Soviet Union’ for actions during the war?

        • HvR

          He wasn’t the first sniper or even famous soviet sniper, Lyudmila Pavlichenko was racking up more than 100 sniper kills in ’41, at this to,e Zaitsev was still in the navy. He did help form ground breaking sniping tactics and trained a lot of snipers.

          I’m not saying the communist structure were not merciless but in Notes of Sniper he never recounts the scenes as depicted in the movie.

          • Harvey P. Cheesewinkle

            Right, because if there’s anything we know for sure, the movies are always, 100% more factual than the books? Seriously? And you realize through the entire book, he never once talks about Rachel Weisz character, right? Someone who was so integral to the story line in the movie, being mentioned 0 times throughout his own notes? Seems a tad odd, don’t you think?

            In Band of Brother’s, the Nazi Officer who surrendered to Winter’s in Kaprum, Austria, did not get his side arm back. Winter’s kept it, and it was sold at auction for $5000 with Winter’s hand-written providence at Simpsons ltd. collector firearms.

            Movies are often subject to being dramaticized by the director, in some cases they’ll even take artistic liberties over known facts. Such as the chilly reception Webster received when he returned to Easy Company after being injured during Operation Market Garden. This in fact, never happened, nor did Webster accompany Easy on the ‘Last Patrol’ as shown in the mini-series.

            Books > Movies, with regards to facts.

          • HvR

            What is your point then? That is precisely what I’m saying the whole time.

            Scenes portrayed in movies like Enemy at the Gates and in games with a lot of dramatization (although the en mass gruesome slaughter human beings can never be portrayed a 800 000 people killed and as many wounded in a few months at Stalingrad) and with “artistic liberty” portray the soviets as having ten times as many men but untrained and ill equipped being thrown at enemy lines as meat shields. I do not have a problem with this since it is entertainment but it shouldn’t be taken as historic fact.

            In fact the soviets had about the same amount of man power than the Germans at the Stalingrad counter attack but was better equipped (although Germans had better machine guns at the time) and with superior tactics from Zuckov and poor tactical decisions by Hitler who overruled his generals defeated the Germans.

            And with the exception of suicide penal brigades made up of criminals commissars were not allowed and did not gun down retreating troops during the 1940′s.

          • Gazzo

            Got to disagree with you. According to Anthony Beevor’s book on Stalingrad (one of the more recent, and seemingly most authoritative accounts of the battle), the Germans had total air superiority during the initial 18 months or so following their invasion of Russia, while in Stalingrad factory workers were sent straight to the frontlines with little or no training, and often without weapons, while students from the local university built ‘tanks’ from scraps, which had no proper sights and could only be used at point-blank range.

            In a broader context, Soviet soldiers were under orders to shoot any comrades seen surrendering to the Germans. Stalin did issue ‘no retreat’ orders, summary executions for ‘cowardice’ (i.e. retreating, or allowing oneself to be taken prisoner) did occur, and penal battalions were not comprised solely of criminals – basically anyone found guilty of cowardice or liberated from German POW camps could expect to be assigned to a penal battalion.

            It’s also worth noting that while Soviet soldiers may have received equivalent training to their German counterparts, the disastrous initial phase of the German invasion would have resulted in the loss of many of these trained soldiers. The assertion of similar levels of training is also somewhat dubious if one considers the embarrassment the Soviets suffered during the ‘Winter War’ against Finland in 1939/1940, and the fact that Stalin had severely disrupted the Red Army with a massive purge in 1937.

            So, while the popular view of the Soviets (as depicted in this game) may be cliched, it is based on historical fact.

          • HvR

            Beevor’s work has been shot full of holes over the years and leans more towards popular media reading than actual historic work.

            He overstated the fact of the purges based on estimations in the archives of the CIA and British intelligence, Stephen Lee’s work took accurate numbers from reliable sources (declassified soviet documents and Russian eye witness accounts) the purge resulted in about 3% to 7% of the army officers being execute or expelled.

            Most historians agree that the initial success of the German invasion was that the Soviets were caught off guard by the German invasion (they expected a few months to finalize defences), less than half their men power were stationed in the west of Soviet territory and was spread over a large border. AND the effective way the Germans targeted soviet communication and transport lines making regrouping and reinforcement very hard. By the time the Soviet called in all their forces to the aid of Moscow and later Stalingrad the forces strength were similar to the Germans.

            All the facts you stated are true but were not the norm, The civilians (student, women old people) fighting were militia and not conscripted soldier that did so out of their own free will to protect their motherland. They willing gave their lives due to their believes indoctrinated into them over 2 decades of soviet communist rule. And this was at the start of the Battle of Stalingrad and not during the Soviet Counterattack.

            No retreat orders from Stalin was aimed at the officers who would face severe penalty if they failed. Tactical retreat and counter attacking is part of modern warfare and were not frowned upon.

  • ElimiNathan

    I have the game, haven’t touched it since it came out of Beta. I really have to be in the mood for this type of game but when I’m in that mood its oh so good

  • Admiral Chief Groot Wors

    *wonders if killing Nazi’s will ever stop*

    • Hammersteyn

      As soon as killing zombies does.

      • Skyblue

        Ah but Nazi Zombies are the best. That was a COD mode (don’t want to say COD MOD, oh wait…) that actually was awesome. Also see Dead Snow.

        • John Ambitious

          That COD MOD was seriously awesome

  • Hesperus Phosphorus

    I’m not the world’s biggest straight RTS fan, but damn, the first CoH had some of the best multiplayer ever. Can’t wait to check out #2.

  • Captain Minion TallTwit

    For some reason, when I read ‘…for the motherland!’ I think about the soviet units on RA2.

  • Sir Twakkus

    Brilliant! Cannot wait to get it later the month. Does someone know why its $60 on steam but 400 R’elas at BT games?

  • Weanerdog

    Incidentally all your pictures of tanks are actually of Tank Destroyers at least from the Russian side that is. But the fact that the Red Army used a system where the conscripts were not trained it was a very on the job training method where only the ones with potential ever got to get past the first day at the office. Saves costs and really sorts the chuff from the grain or however that saying goes. So the fact that your conscripts could not shoot straight or even at all is not that far fetched. If you were at the back when you got the 20 sec demo of how the rifle worked or you sneezed tough luck for you.

  • Tbone187

    The gameplay and design scorings: I think it’s a positive that the in game instructions are minimal as it allows you to think for yourself by providing only the basics …and by design, are you referring more to technical structure than artwork..?

    Sorry ,but I’m struggling to see how a game like Bioshock Infinite can get a nearly perfect score and this a measly 8 when I would even rate the 1st COH better than Bioshock…

    And the MP on COH is legendary, providing hours upon hours in value yet it receives less than Bioshock which provides no reason to play through it again nor any mp worthwhile for extended value.

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