|Company of Heroes 2|
|Publisher(s)||Sega, Feral Interactive (macOS, Linux)|
Paul De Meo
|Engine||Essence Engine 3.0|
|Platform(s)||Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux|
OS X, Linux
August 27, 2015
Company of Heroes 2 is a real-time strategy video game developed by Relic Entertainment and published by Sega for Microsoft Windows, OS X, and Linux. It is the sequel to the 2006 game Company of Heroes. As with the original Company of Heroes, the game is set in World War II but with the focus on the Eastern Front, with players primarily controlling the side of the Soviet Red Army during various stages of the Eastern Front, from Operation Barbarossa to the Battle of Berlin. Company of Heroes 2 runs on Relic Entertainment's proprietary Essence 3.0 game engine.
The resource-generation system from the first game has been modified. Players will still capture specific flagged points all over the map to collect munitions and fuel credits, which will be invested in assembling their units. Most armies can construct caches to increase the fuel or munitions income from these points, though some points produce a higher income of one material but cannot have caches built on them. Instead of the soldier units actually gathering at the flagged point itself, capturing the point is possible if the player's units are inside a specific zone with no enemy units in the same zone. The accumulation of these resources and the size of the player's army can be much faster if players capture various flagged points all over the map. In order for a player to receive the benefits of a captured flagged point, it must be part of a continuous area of captured territory, thus allowing an unbroken chain ("supply line") connected to the headquarters. Thus, the resource intake will be curtailed if the opposing side captures territory that isolates ("cuts off") owned points from other allied sections in the map. Manpower is used to build common units, and the amount will decrease the larger a player's army grows.
Units can occupy a civilian building and use it as a temporary strongpoint. However, the occupants can be flushed out through attacks by artillery or soldiers using flamethrowers and grenades. The building-damage system from Company of Heroes is retained and enhanced; wooden buildings set afire will continue burning until they are reduced to cinders. Furthermore, buildings can be damaged by tanks and light vehicles driving into them. The Soviets' main structure is the Regimental Field Headquarters, which is used to produce conscripts and field engineers. The Special Rifle Command, Support Weapon Kampaneya, Mechanized Armor Kampaneya, and the Tankoviy Battalion Command are the respective Soviet equivalents of the original game's barracks; weapons support center, vehicle center, and tank hall. A field hospital can help treat seriously injured soldiers. The Wehrmacht's main structure is the Kampfgruppe Headquarters, which is used to produce pioneers and MG42 Heavy Machine Gun teams and to upgrade battle phases to allow for more advanced units and structures.
Combat includes controllable units that are recruited and ordered directly by the player (through the user interface at player-controlled buildings, or through a doctrine ability), as well as activated support actions, such as artillery bombardment or air cover suppression. Every controllable unit type, whether infantry or vehicle, has an associated construction cost and recruitment time, as well as a range of fighting abilities. Vehicles and infantry can eventually be upgraded by purchasing specific capabilities. Upgrades generally improve the unit's effectiveness. Some upgrades are global, granting immediate benefits to all deployed units, while others must be purchased on a unit by unit basis. Most combat takes place through direct, line-of-sight engagements. As with the original Company of Heroes, colored dots will show locations that provide varying degrees of cover for soldiers and support units. Soldiers can also climb over low terrain obstacles such as fences and walls while vehicles, depending on their type, can simply smash through obstacles. Occasionally if a vehicle takes too much damage, it will be abandoned rather than destroyed; the crew is killed but the vehicle remains mostly intact. Abandoned vehicles can be repaired by engineer units and recovered or captured by sending an infantry squad of sufficient size to crew it, or they could be destroyed by collateral fire to deny them to the enemy. The game also offers the player a chance to complete side quests in a mission, which are denoted by an inverted triangle icon.
The game's Essence 3.0 engine introduces a new line-of-sight feature called the TrueSight system, which aims to better emulate troop visibility in real combat. In contrast to overhead visibility seen in other strategy games, TrueSight more accurately represents a unit's visibility range based on environmental conditions and type of unit.
Weather conditions are a major factor in Company of Heroes 2's gameplay, under the new ColdTech weather-simulation system. Since many battles in the Eastern Front occurred in winter weather, troops can die of frostbite if caught in the outside during severe weather, especially when pinned by enemy fire; a thermometer-shaped bar to the left side of the unit icon denotes a soldier's body temperature. The soldiers can recover their body heat if they are close to a bonfire or have found a building to shelter in, though soldiers in cover outside will not lose or gain body heat. Players moving through deep snow will move at a reduced speed unless they are on a road; their footprints are also visible to the enemy. Certain maps have frozen bodies of water, allowing for more movement options. However, players face the danger of being attacked from the other side; as a result, the ice can buckle under the weight of the units in movement or shattered by explosions.
Theatre of War
The game introduces the "Theatre of War", a series of single-player and cooperative missions detailing various aspects of the Eastern Front campaign from both German and Soviet sides. Eighteen missions set in 1941 will be part of the game upon release with the missions from 1942 onward available as downloadable content. The first of these offerings is Case Blue, a package only free to pre-ordered copies and Red Star editions of the game, featuring the Axis forces during the Fall Blau campaign on the Eastern Front. Later releases include Victory at Stalingrad, taking place around the city of Stalingrad during 1942, and Southern Fronts, focusing on events surrounding the spring rasputitsa in 1943.
Company of Heroes 2's campaign attempts to tackle Joseph Stalin's Order No. 227, which prohibits retreating except under the direction of senior officers. Starting from the fifth mission set in Stalingrad, Order 227 will be in effect if the player deploys Fresh Conscripts, Frontovik Squads, or Penal Battalions. A time bar appears on the left side of the map display; for that duration, players must not have their soldiers go into full retreat back to headquarters or else said soldiers will be executed for doing so.
The game's story focuses on the Eastern Front campaign as narrated through flashbacks by Lev Abramovich Isakovich, a Soviet Army lieutenant locked up at a gulag in Siberia in 1952. Colonel Churkin – his old commanding officer – shows him a book and interrogates him about his experiences during the war, including the Battle of Stalingrad, the Battle of Moscow, combat in the outskirts of Leningrad, fighting in Poland, up to the Fall of the Reichstag.
Lev Isakovich first reminisces the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942, where he, as a Lieutenant, motivates his men to break through the German lines. As the Soviets reach Red Square, a wave of conscripts is pushed back by heavy defenses. The commissar orders a Maxim gunner to gun down the retreating men as part of Order 227; Not One Step Back. The Soviets attack again, this time the Germans are defeated. As Lieutenant Isakovich and his men inspect the carnage, they stumble upon a lone German survivor trying to surrender, only to be killed. His next experience details when he first met with Colonel Churkin of the NKVD. Churkin orders the Soviet forces to hold the line against the Germans and destroy/burn anything of value that cannot be evacuated to keep it out of enemy hands, including several houses and fields. As the rest of the supplies are evacuated, the Germans bring in Panzer IV tanks and the Soviets are ordered to fall back to the bridge. As a few soldiers run towards the bridge, Lieutenant Isakovich regrettably detonates the explosives, leaving the men at the mercy of the pursuing Germans. As winter began to roll in, the Soviets under Lev defend Mtsensk from German soldiers and StuGs long enough for T‑34 reinforcements to arrive. Soon later, temperatures dropped to an extreme low; the Soviets were far better prepared for these conditions than the Germans, whose vehicles stalled and suffered more losses to frostbite. Outside of Moscow, a small Soviet force struggles through the snow while destroying several disabled vehicles.
Returning to Stalingrad, Lev recalls that the only thing driving the Soviet soldiers to fight was Order 227, in which soldiers caught retreating would be executed as traitors. As the fighting in Stalingrad was coming to an end, Lev Isakovich, now a captain, searches for German intel. As he discovers a map on an officer, a German Tiger Heavy Tank flattens the building, burying Lev alive under the rubble. Yuri, one of the survivors of the expedition, goes back to HQ to ask to save Captain Isakovich before the Germans reach him. The Soviet forces then move into the area and hold their ground long enough for the captain to be freed. Upon returning to HQ, Major Polivanov shoots Yuri for leaving his post to save Lev, and orders Lev to placed on the next train to Moscow while the remaining soldiers that helped him are executed. As Lev is recovering at the hospital, he is holding a conversation with Sergeant Ivan Pozharsky, who discusses the Siege of Leningrad, which was completely cut off by the Germans for over a year, until the Soviets manage to break through the siege. As fighting in Leningrad continued, a Soviet armored squadron investigates the site of a recent tank battle. However, they are ambushed by a Tiger Heavy Tank. Despite losing their armor, the Soviets manage to kill the Tiger's crew and drive it back to their base.
After recovering from his wounds, Lev abandons his military career in favor of journalism but found nothing inspiring of the war, except for the heroism demonstrated by the soldiers on the battlefields. As the war went on, the Soviets fight the Germans in Lublin, Poland. After the ISU-152s break down the gate of a suspected prison camp, Lev realizes that this was Majdanek, a Nazi concentration camp and a glimpse into the Holocaust. Soon afterwards, Sergeant Pozharsky, who had recently returned to active service, introduces Lev Isakovich to Ania Zielinska, a leader of the Polish partisans. After she returns with a captured German officer, Pozharsky directs her to the supplies that were promised. But Lev watches in horror as Pozharsky betrays Ania and her fellow partisans, claiming that once the war with the Germans ended, the Polish would be fighting the Russians, before executing her. Lev then decides to publish his findings, only to be stopped by Churkin, who promptly assigns him to the 8th Guards' penal battalion.
As the Soviets enter Germany, they encircle a town full of Germans and prevent most of them, including civilians, from escaping. Soon, the Soviets began to lay siege to Berlin fighting the remaining Germans through the streets and ruined buildings, ultimately capturing the Reichstag, signaling final German defeat. Ironically, the Reichstag was disused since Hitler first came to power and millions of Soviets died to raise the flag.
These experiences have left Isakovich shaken as he reveals he tried to defect after the war in order to show the world the truth. He was captured and sent to the gulag on Churkin's orders. Isakovich claims that "The first casualty of war is Truth" and the truth is in the pages of the book. A man then steps forth and prepares to execute Isakovich, only to be killed by Churkin. Churkin then allows Isakovich to escape the gulag to spread the truth, and commits suicide, stating that he never looked at the pages of the book ever since it was recovered and he was not to survive Joseph Stalin's next purge.
THQ first announced the sequel to the acclaimed Company of Heroes in May 2012. THQ executive vice president of core games Danny Bilson noted that the publisher will continue working on Company of Heroes 2 following its launch next year. On December 19, 2012, publisher THQ filed for bankruptcy just after postponing the release date of the video game. The following month, on January 23, 2013, it was announced that THQ had sold Relic Entertainment to Sega for US$26.6 million as part of an auction of the company's properties in result of the bankruptcy.
On March 6, 2013, Sega announced that Company of Heroes 2 would be released in North America and Europe on June 25, 2013. A few weeks later, the company announced that the first closed beta will begin April 2, 2013. The open beta was released to the public on June 4, 2013 after the stress tests and the closed beta sessions were finished.
Relic has released downloadable content for the game aside from the Theatre of War packs. Commanders: Add new abilities and units to a players arsenal, which are available in skirmish and multiplayer matches. A player can choose up to 3 commanders of which he can choose one during a skirmish. This commander will then give access to 5 unique units/abilities. However, some commanders have been given away for free at certain events by Relic. Vehicle skins allow to alter the camouflage pattern of certain vehicles and tanks and are a purely cosmetic change. Faceplates are another cosmetic change only visible in the main menu or loading screen. With the release of the Western Front Armies DLC, the playable factions of the U.S Forces (USF) and Oberkommando West (OKW) are available. Relic had released The Western Front Armies and Ardennes Assault DLCs, which was released on June 24, 2014 and November 18, 2014 respectively. Ardennes Assault added a new, non-linear campaign taking place in Belgium as the USF, pitting three playable companies against the OKW in various scenarios and skirmish maps with unique conditions. The third expansion of the game, titled The British Forces, was released on September 3, 2015, adding the British as a playable faction in skirmish and multiplayer.
PCWorld gave the game 3.5 out of five stars. PC Gamer rated the game at 80 concluding, "Company of Heroes 2 is the USSR of real-time strategy games: huge, powerful and just a little bit broken." IGN gave the game an 8.4, saying, "More sequel-sized expansion than true successor, Company of Heroes 2 repeats many of the original Company of Heroes feats.
As of March 31, 2014, the game has sold 680,000 copies in Europe and North America.
The Ardennes Assault DLC received a similar score on Metacritic, with a score of 81 compared to the game's score of 80.
Relic has been questioned by critics and historians about accuracy of its portrayal of the Eastern Front in World War II. An article written for video game website Polygon by Colin Campbell reflecting on the subject stated that the "comments on forums and on Metacritic are testament to the strong feelings that the war still generates". In the same article, it cites the game's director Quinn Duffy who in regards to the creative direction of the first and second game felt that "the second game is painted on a broader canvas", whereas "in contrast, the first game focused on a small group of soldiers and did not seek to take a wider view".
Reception and criticism in Russia
In Russia and Post-Soviet states the game was found offensive by many users and critics for portraying the Red Army commanders as cruel, using their own soldiers in a cold-blooded way, exaggerating brutal war tactics. After the video made by the Russian blogger BadComedian (real name - Evgeny Bazhenov), thousands of people have signed a Change.org petition demanding Steam to block the game in CIS countries. The petition brands the game as "disgusting". In 2013 the sale of the game was banned in Russia.
Russian game publisher 1C-Softclub stopped distribution of the game on 26 July 2013 due to the strong negative feedback (notably a petition to stop the sale that was filed by the game players). Following the news, the game's publisher SEGA released a statement that they were "taking this issue very seriously and are investigating these concerns thoroughly with all relevant partners".
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