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Company of Heroes 2: everything we know


Company of Heros 2 has been released; read our Company of Heroes 2 review to find out our verdict.

Over six years ago, Company of Heroes made quite the splash with its detailed tactical battles built on the strong foundation of Relic’s Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War series. After two expansions and the deaths of countless digital soldiers, the strategy developer is gearing up to launch the sequel, Company of Heroes 2. Why should you journey to the Eastern Front and lead the Red Army to eventual victory? Here’s everything we know.

If you want to play right now, there’s an ongoing beta on Steam. It’s free to join. You probably should try it.

It’s all about the Soviets

Starting with Operation Barbarossa — the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 — players will take control of the vast Red Army, marching them through Russia and eventually Germany, smashing through the German front, and not stopping until they reach Berlin.

A cinematic, personal narrative plays out between the battles, with Lieutenant Lev Abramovich Isakovich recounting the conflict from a Siberian gulag in 1952. These interludes aim to show the grim reality and extreme cost of the war.

Six years on, it’s still familiar

Company of Heroes 2 doesn’t look like it’s set to reinvent the wheel. Control points, garrisoning buildings and desperately trying to find cover feature just as prominently as they did in its predecessor.

Returning mechanics have been augmented and polished, however. For instance, troops ducking beneath a wall – attempting to avoid the shells of unrelenting tanks – no longer need to walk all the way around the wall should they seek to move forward. Men can now vault over walls and fences, making it easier for them to both advance and retreat.

Don’t get too comfortable, though. Two new features should lead veterans to reevaluate their tactics.


Snow isn’t just for playing in

The harsh Russian weather is a cruel mistress. Thick snow will hamper troop movement, but traversing inhospitable areas will be a necessity when the roads are guarded by enemies and covered in checkpoints. Flanking the Germans becomes all the more risky when one finds oneself moving at a plodding pace, but you’ll still have to do it.

The weather becomes even more deadly when blizzards strike. The dramatic drop in temperature will kill soldiers left out in the cold, so it becomes imperative to make them huddle together inside vehicles, buildings or around fires. While vehicles are unaffected by blizzards, they are still at the mercy of winter. Command your tanks to move across a frozen lake, and you’ll soon see that they become less effective when underwater.

Keep those eyes peeled

If your troops can’t see it, then neither can you. Eschewing traditional guff like the fog of war, Company of Heroes 2 employs what Relic is calling “TrueSight”. A unit’s line of sight can be limited by buildings, walls, or even foliage, making flanking and ambushes all the more dangerous.

Scouting and exploration will be key to ensuring that one’s forces are not sauntering into a devious trap, as will the destruction of cover. Worried that a horde of angry foes are hiding behind that big wall? Get your tank to blow it up.

The dynamic element to the line of sight feature also extends to smoke emitted from destroyed vehicles and fire. If one finds their troops out in the open with no cover, they can simply make their own by tossing out a grenade, shielding them temporarily from enemy eyes.


There’s beauty amid the carnage

The Essence 3.0 engine makes it worthwhile to zoom in and admire all of Company of Heroes 2’s easy to miss details. Running through the snow, units leave persistent footprints and tracks, and rather than being a huge, white expanse, the snow itself is made up of smaller segments that can be deformed as armies move through them.

The rest of the landscape sees equal attention to detail, with water currents dynamically moving around vehicles and soldiers as they wade through a river, flora waving in the breeze, and dirt and dust erupting from the ground as artillery pounds the area.

Buildings can be destroyed or set aflame dramatically, and looking closely reveals tiny particles drifting around in the smoke plumes. It’s a level of detail rarely seen in the RTS genre.

There’s a robust multiplayer element

Two modes were shown off during the recent beta stress test: Annihilation and Control Point. The former is a simple all out deathmatch, with two teams attempting to wipe each other out entirely. The latter sees the teams attempting to capture areas and hold them until the opposition’s points are completely depleted.

There are experience and upgrade systems in place, rewarding players with new abilities and bonuses for success in battle. “Intel Bulletins” can be applied via a customisation tab, augmenting a player’s army with persistent perks for use in multiplayer matches. These perks run the gamut from damage boosting bonuses and faster troop deployment to unit specific boons like increased health and accuracy. Only three bulletins can be employed per loadout, so experimenting with different builds will be a necessity.

In addition to these perks, up to three commanders (out of seven per faction) can also be added to a player’s loadout. They provide forces with a variety of unique bonuses, and they also come with special units and buildings. Commanders cannot be brought into play immediately, however, as they have resource requirements.

Company of Heroes 2 is due out on 25 June, 2013. The free beta is still going on.