One of the most annoying problems about getting into a multiplayer game over 4 months old is the fact that you will encounter 'elite' gaming members of the community who have reached the highest levels in the game, and have mastered every nuance. So when you join them, it's no longer about skill, but rather, knowing the game itself and how to quickly and efficiently use the game mechanics to destroy your opponent.
With Company of Heroes, my first multiplayer experience was met with absolute annihilation.
Company of Heroes is a RTS taking place during the final months of World War II. The first mission takes place on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, where you play as the allied forces attempting to force your way up the beachhead into the town beyond the German forces. This is mostly a simple level, since you will have a continuous amount of soldiers at your disposal, which gives you time to figure out how to attack. I had taken a tour through the tutorials first, so I had a great grasp on gameplay and controlling my units with the GUI, and I would suggest to anyone to do the same.
Moving on, the missions tend to get harder and harder, where you will have limited forces attempting to seize control over a map entirely controlled by Germans. There were times I had to replay a level multiple times because I kept failing mission objectives (after I had dedicated 45 minutes to the level). There is a SAVE feature available, which put to good use, will save you from having to start a level from the beginning, though sometimes starting from the beginning with help you re-plan your attack now that you know what to expect in the level.
The graphics in Company of Heroes are very well done. You can zoom out to survey the battlefield, or zoom in right up on the soldiers to get a more grounded view. Pretty much everything is destructible, and you'll find that after a battle, you will be in control of mostly destroyed buildings and blast holes.
Sounds are terrific, and you feel like you're in a war. The voice acting for soldier units all use different voices for the different classes, but you tend to hear the same lines over and over again... So an engineering squad will use a different voice actor than the mortar men, but when you tell them to set land mines, for instance, you will constantly hear them saying the same lines over and over again. It's not that big of deal, but it would have been nice to get more variety in the voice acting considering you typically play an hour each time you complete a level.
The GUI is pretty intuitive. Sometimes it's hard to find your units on the battlefield, but I believe there is a tab that lets you select individual units and pans the camera over to them.
The campaign is long, and levels can take an hour to complete, which is a nice change. You really feel like you out-maneuvered the enemy and feel accomplished when you complete a level. There's nothing more satisfying than marching your tanks and soldiers up to your enemy's last line of defense to blow the hell out of their HQ after fighting for 45 minutes, struggling for every foothold you can manage.
This leads into Multiplayer. You can battle up to 3vs3 online, with several different modes of play, but the basic gameplay is all the same. I mentioned earlier that after a few months, you would start to see elite players. This game was originally released in 2008. So by the time I got on board, I was so overwhelmed my first game, it was quickly over within a matter of 10 or so minutes. There are servers available that will only host people who are lower levels, but after 1 major victory, I was upgraded to level 4, which is usually right around the level that caps newbies from the experienced players.
Overall, I'm having a lot of fun. I'm not typically a RTS gamer (I stick with 1st or 3rd person shooters) but it's nice to play "God" for a change. It takes a different sort of knowledge to flank your enemy forces from two sides of the map, rather than being on the ground, trying to flank them in individual fights.
I highly recommend this game to people who are into RTS and have several hours to really dedicate to the learning curve and getting into the gameplay. Multiplayer is fun once you get good, but the single player campaign is entertaining for those who don't wish to play against human players, though the campaign can be hard as hell even on "Easy" difficulty mode.
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