9.5

Company of Heroes is one of the greatest RTS games in recent memory.

I'm a cynical, heartless bastard. That was what was once said to me when I said RTS games like World in Conflict, Supreme Commander, and even older 'classics' like Total Annihilation were awful. It seemed the RTS genre was losing its touch, and then Company of Heroes comes along and shakes things up. In fact, I dare call CoH revolutionary. While it takes concepts that have been done several times before (Even in Relics own "Dawn of War" series), it has various other nuances to make the game feel more realistic, and in the end, it feels like there's an extra 10-15 layers of strategy that no other strategy game has offered.

It's no secret that the game takes place in a rather familiar and worn out premise- WW2. Yes, you'll fight many familiar battles, but this isn't the tame "Run to the sergeant" Medal of Honor version or the "Rock climbing adventure" Call of Duty 2 version of Normandy. Remember "Saving Private Ryan?" This is that version. The second the game starts, the gameplay is just as brutal as the cut scene before it, having to run squads through cover in order to get beneath the bunkers is a lot harder than you'd expect it to be, but that only means you have to think out short cuts before you move any more men up. The game is ruthless from the get go, think and move, or die. Games often play out like a game of Natural Selection. If you can't keep up, you're doomed.

The graphics are great. The Essence Engine allows you to get into the battle on ground level, to the point you might as well be breathing down your soldiers necks. This allows an interesting way to view intense battles in a more cinematic way, and to see all the detail on units, some of which rivals much of what we see in your average FPS game. Some of the world textures may be bland, but everything else is exquisitely detailed.

In skirmish/multiplayer mode, it may look like a traditional game of "annihilate the enemy" but if you try to rush, you are playing the wrong game. Not only will you snuff out your resources early on, you'll soon realize that the enemies borders are slowly growing. That's right, their borders. To win a game, you must control three important things: Critical points, fuel points, and munition points. These are key. Not only do they expand your borders, they provide the resources necessary to expand your army as well.

The game is near perfect. My one complaint? Well, except in skirmishes and multiplayer, you aren't going to get a taste of the German perspective in WW2, which is a shame because it could've made the single player a bit longer and because as evidenced by multiplayer, Relic put as much detail in the germans as they did the Americans.

If you want a brutal, unforgiving, but intelligent, nerve racking, and FUN RTS game that emphasizes the "S," buy Company of Heroes. It's a real winner.

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