Have You Played… Company of Heroes?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Pew pew pew pew pew! That’s nothing like any of the sounds that happen in 2006 real-time strategy game Company of Heroes. I just like pretending to shoot you.

This was the game that made me like RTS again. Burnt out on Command and Conquers and yearning for something a little fresh, CoH delivered. It dispensed with large swarms of units and put small squads under your charge, yet that was often enough to do everything you wanted. Fights were won by taking cover, surviving, and making sure your wee men didn’t overstretch themselves as they took on the map, sector by sector. But that isn’t what I loved most about it. What I loved was turtling.

Yes, I’m a scoundrel. But I’m a scoundrel with an obsessive need to make each area as secure as possible. The barbed wire and landmines on offer here made many of my missions slow crawls toward suffocating the enemy in his own turf. I never played multiplayer, because I’m slow and stupid. But if there’s a game I praise as refreshing the whole genre for me, it’s this one.

25 Comments

  1. Shiloh says:

    I’ve not played Company of Heroes, no, but I’m currently slogging my way through the bocage and hedgerows of Normandy in Theatre of War 2’s Operation Epsom campaign.

    I’ve got to say, I’m absolutely loving it.

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    distantlurker says:

    Oi! Caldwell!

    Would you kindly remind Graham/Alex that you’re a proper grown up now and they should add you to the ‘About’ page and the ‘Rock, Paper, Shotgun was’ footer.

    I mean it’s only been like HALF A YEAR :eye-roll:

    /tiphat

  3. syndrome says:

    It was the bestest of RTS. I played multi for 6 years straight, and when CoH2, I was disappoint. What to say.

    Srsly, the DLC pack model wasn’t the smartest one, and THQ struggled at the time, there was also CoH:O (:Online) variant, a mildly successful attempt (imo) but abruptly shut down, and also one of key designers sadly died in a car accident, and after that nothing was ever the same. CoH2 can blow, I repressed the memory of trying it once, it hurts to remember.

    But CoH will always remain in my fondest memories as one game that interlocked tight balance, excellent design, good pace, fantastic voiceover and sound design, all within a ’44 Normandy theater with physics and majestic visual effects. I had a beast of computer at the time, and it felt so smooth, so controllable. It clearly stood out even for the turtling players like Brendan, and tbh I sometimes felt like that myself, but even then I’d start it up just to watch sublime tournaments, courtesy of cohreplays.com in-game recordings.

    Much better to watch than any shitty Dota or LoL if you asked me. Even for today’s standards.

    Even for today’s standards.

    I know there are a lot Homeworld fanboys, but CoH and DoW1/2 were probably the Relic’s best games, imho, setting the bar for the rest of the industry so high, noone has surpassed it yet. And I’m not talking about the graphics alone…

    • Asurmen says:

      CoH and CoH2 basically play the same to me.

      • syndrome says:

        Nope, compared to CoH, CoH2 lacks the UI polish and readability, the fidelity of animation, high constant framerate, the overall responsiveness, in general the things that are somewhat hard to notice, but are deeply felt throughout the whole experience, it’s as if I’d compare a diamond to a lump of coal (while you’d say “They both look like a carbon to me.”). For me, at least, perhaps it’s highly subjective. Though it appears that I’m not the only one, as CoH has been significantly more popular back in the day (otherwise we’d have a 3rd sequel in the making already).

        I thought I’d spend another six years playing CoH2 when Relic announced it, I was ready to buy it at day 1, but to my shock I spent only 6 minutes in it, that’s how different it was.

        As a side note, yes, CoH in general has too much micro for my taste, and yes, it’s a CPM whore, and yes it’s a little too pacey overall, but it’s still the best RTS I ever played, all aspects taken into account: its LoS engine, its tacticality and doctrinal development, its abstracted sense of ground control and resource gathering, the longevity and timing of unit skirmishes, general look&feel, “dice-roll” balance, vehicle damage model, unit roles that perfectly fit the historical account, the scale of it, asymmetric design of the factions, the retreat and veterancy mechanics, and the way everything is presented to the player, letting him BE operational and/or quick if he could manage everything and stay in the “zone” long enough.

        True, CoH2 does try to replicate all of it, but doesn’t quite feel as good to me.

        In fact, I played a game of CoH a couple of months ago, and it’s still pressing the right buttons. And I’m not your average gamer.

        Jais ne se quois, they say.

    • Unclepauly says:

      CoH’s graphics have been surpassed and you repeated the phrase “Even for today’s standards”. :D

      • syndrome says:

        Did you see the last sentence, or are you deliberately trolling?

        (I’ve intentionally repeated “Even for today’s standards” to accomplish a rhetorical effect.)

    • lich0 says:

      It was obvious CoH2 was rushed and wasn’t finished on launch, but a lot has changed since then. They’ve redone the animations. I think the UI is better, for instance you can use the grid hotkey layout or you can set units to cap points by clicking on them on the minimap.

      There are some issues with vehicle pathfinding though and they require a lot of micro. CoH2 with maxed out graphic settings will demand a powerful PC and even then there is no guarantee of steady framerate above 60 FPS (fire and smoke effects seem to be the main culprit here), but turn down image quality and AA and you should be fine on a fairly modern system.

      There have been some changes to how the game plays but it’s a similar experience to vCoH. I suggest you give CoH2 another chance and spend a bit more time than six minutes with it. ;)

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    Drib says:

    COH was excellent. What a change in form for RTSes, units that ducked and covered, acted like people, ran away and regrouped, occupied structures, everything.

    Too bad other RTS titles followed exactly the wrong lessons with this. Looking at you, DoW2.

    • Eightball says:

      DoW2 was trying to do something different – tell a Warhammer 40k story with an RTS/RPG hybrid and I think it did so very well.

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        Drib says:

        The campaign for DoW2 was fun, I enjoyed it through and through. The multiplayer was not, to me anyway.

        Retribution’s campaigns were incredibly samey, but still had their moments.

  5. Jason Lefkowitz says:

    I have, and I wanted to love it, honest I did. I’d heard so much about how it was a “thinking person’s RTS,” and as a strategy gamer who’s never had the reflexes required to git gud at traditional RTSes, that sounded very appealing.

    Then I played it, though, and found that I was just as bad at Company of Heroes as I was at every RTS I’d tried before, always just enough clicks-per-second behind the AI (never mind human multiplayer, the domain of people who had Razer mice surgically grafted onto their hands years ago) to reliably lose.

    Oh well :-/

    • Replikant says:

      I am in the same boat. It was the last time I gave RTS another chance, I think.

      Turns out, micromanaging brain-dead units on an artificially shrunk battlefield with a visibility of a few meters just to keep the stress levels high is really not my cup of tea.

  6. Vandelay says:

    I have and still do play it ever so often with a friend. Funnily enough, I had a rather great game of it just last night in which he knocked me down to about 60 points when he still had close to 300. He tried to do a sneak attack with some big gun emplacements right outside my base, but I managed to wipe them plus a bunch of his units and made the slow comeback. Finished the game with about 30 points remaining and him on zero. Was pretty glorious.

    Disappointing that the second one didn’t recapture the same feeling. It did have a really good line of sight mechanic that allowed for tanks to suddenly smash through hedgerow in a surprise attack, but everything besides that seemed no different or worse to the original.

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    Syt says:

    I tried it and wanted to like it, but it seemed too micro and twitchy for my tastes. I like my WW2 carnage a bit slower paced. :D

  8. GernauMorat says:

    In another, better timeline CoH was copied by one and all, kicking of a renaissance in actually tactical RTS’s, rather than obnoxious semi-moba design or the stripped down action RPG model of DoW 2 etc.

    On of my favourite games ever, and still unsurpassed.

  9. CartonofMilk says:

    I knew i was truly forever done with RTS when i tried this after all the great reviews and scratched my head looking for the entertainment value. I have not touched a RTS since.

  10. HigoChumbo says:

    If the multiplayer implementation was not downright terrible and archaic, this (probably with the Blitzkrieg mod) would still be my favourite multiplayer strategy game.

    Besides that, and as much as I loved the game, my only problem with it was that it required a truckload of micro-management, but still.

    Best implementation of vehicles and infantry I’ve ever seen in an RTS.

    I I’d easily put it in my top of best RTS games ever alongside Warcraft 3 (sadly, also micro heavy), Ground Control/World in Conflict and Age of Empires 2.

  11. haldolium says:

    Bit tough and too much micro management for my taste (also WW2… meh), but as with all of Relic games back then, it had the most tremendous sound design you can wish for.

    Sound design is, among a few other factors, what gives Relic a special place in my heart.

    That is also why I gave up hope on everything in regards to Relic in the aftermath of THQ, since it’s just not the same. Neither the new Homeworldish title delivers on that level nor all that remake stuff from Gearbox.

    Doubt that DoW3 will deliver there…

  12. KFee says:

    11 years old game and still looks fantastic.

    • SirDeimos says:

      Agreed. I fire it up about once a year to play a skirmish against the AI as a member of The Greatest Turtling Generation, and I’m always impressed at how it has held up visually. And not in a “aww, good for you” sort of way. I mean, the fidelity of the units, vehicles, and terrain are still really impressive.

  13. Synesthesia says:

    My favourite RTS, hands down. Small squad tactics done well. Until the god damn brits dlc turned it all into a sluggish no man’s land massacre.

    Still, good times. I should fire it up again and do some compstomp.

  14. poliovaccine says:

    I thought I had for a minute, but no, it was Men of War. I do remember this game, though – from a *demo disc.* You remember those??