Game Reviews

Company of Heroes

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| Company of Heroes
Company of Heroes
| Company of Heroes

It's a good thing this game is set during World War 2. There's so much red tape you have to go through these days, you'd never be able to set up a limited liability company called the Company of Heroes today. Nope, you'd be lucky to get as far as registering the name with the various government agencies.

Instead, we'd be playing Bunch of Blokes with Guns, which has a far less dramatic air to it. See how lucky we are? We're also blessed that Company of Heroes, whatever its name might have been, offers an excellent line in turn-based strategy gaming.

Beginning with the aftermath of the Normandy landings, it's up to you to pull on your greens and don a helmet as you take control of Able Company, a collection of hardened troops tasked with the liberation of France.

From selecting the units that you'll take with you into the fray to calling in airstrikes, it's up to you to meet the objectives handed down from HQ.

These range from capturing various strategic buildings and positions and defending against enemy counter-attacks to carrying out ambushes on unsuspecting German columns. It's gritty stuff and, thanks to the way that the game plays, it's gripping, too.

The turn-based mode of play means that you move and fire your troops before the opposition does the same with theirs. It's not a new development – it's one that's been used for donkey's years – but here it's refreshingly quick-paced.

You select the troops you want to use by clicking on them with the in-game cursor and then point whereabouts on the battlefield you want them to move or fire their guns. It's all very simple, with colour-coded grids showing ranges and potential targets.

This simplicity keeps what otherwise could have been a very tedious affair (believe us, there have been some hopeless turn-based games in the past) into a fluid and fast experience. There's still time to think about your tactics, however, and you'll need to plan your troops' movements and positions with care.

Buildings can be occupied, ambushes laid, cover taken in craters and airstrikes called in from afar, and you'll need to make use of these advantages to complete the challenging missions. The enemy troops are all too happy to use the same techniques to try and gain the upper hand, too, so you need to consider your approach rather than rush in, all guns blazing.

It really does give you a chance to shine, and there are few games that can match the sense of achievement that Company of Heroes provides when you pull of a stroke of tactical genius when all the pieces of a plan come together perfectly.

The visuals help with this: they're grim and emotive enough to suck you in. You really do start thinking like a soldier, appraising the battlefield and viewing the enemy troops hunkered down in the ruins of a church as a potentially fatal problem that must – must – be overcome for the greater good, rather than a chance for individual medals and glory.

And a similar level of thoughtfulness will be required to determine whether this game is for you or not. This isn't one of those war games where you can make like Rambo, for instance, because if you fight alone you're going to perish on your own.

If you want a more realistic game where strategy is everything, though, you'll love Company of Heroes. So much you'll want to buy shares in it.

Company of Heroes

Thoughtful and demanding, Company of Heroes is a blue chip game