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A cold day in Hell: Company of Heroes 2 moves east

Tuesday, 22 May 2012 16:03 GMT By Stace Harman

Relic Entertainment demonstrated the sequel to one of the highest-rated RTS games ever made at THQ’s pre-E3 showcase last week. Stace Harman’s impressions and a video developer interview inside.

In the company of greatness

Company of Heroes 2 is a sequel to Relic’s critically acclaimed 2006 World War II RTS, Company of Heroes.

The action takes place at the vanguard of the Eastern front, “Victory should be tactical,” says game director Quinn Duffy “We want to focus on the right actors and so it’s about troops, it’s not about peons.”

The primary focus is on the Russians fighting to repel the German invaders, “The Soviets are about mass, mass manpower and mass firepower but not necessarily well trained … “The German army on the other hand is more technologically advanced, very well trained; a professional army.”

Unlike its predecessor, Company of Heroes 2 features recording of real-life small-arms fire to enhance the authenticity of its battle scenes.

The game is set to launch early 2013 and will play an important role in THQ’s software line-up for the year ahead.

To claim a videogame offers a realistic depiction of its subject matter would be a hubristic oxymoron, but a videogame can certainly present an authentic interpretation of an experience. Based on the in-depth presentation and gameplay demonstration exhibited by Relic Entertainment, Company of Heroes 2 is wringing every last drop of authenticity from the harshest and bloodiest front of World War II.

Some context for those that may have missed the original game: Company of Heroes is a World War II RTS title that launched to critical acclaim in 2006. The game’s relative age and the franchise’s long hiatus from the spotlight seems to have done little to dent its popularity: Relic claims that following the official announcement of Company of Heroes 2 the original game hit its highest number of peak concurrent users in its six year history. What this translates to is an IP with a loyal and hungry fan base but, more importantly, it points to a franchise that stands as the go-to example for those that have never been interested in real-world, real-time strategy games.

Having created a best-in-class WWII RTS, it seems certain folly to follow it up with another one, for how can the sequel hope to have the same impact as the first? Relic specialises in RTS titles and the developer has already shown its flair for imagination with its work on both the Dawn of War series set in the fantastical world of Warhammer 40,000 and the similarly sci-fi focused Homeworld, so shouldn’t the team turn its hand to another conflict?

“I found this hard to believe when I went back and looked at it, but with the original Company of Heroes titles we covered four months of World War II,” recalls game director Quinn Duffy. “That’s from the invasion on the beaches of Normandy in June through to September of 1944; just four months of a six year war. That leaves a lot to be explored, no least an area where Germany lost around 80% of its combat fatalities; an area that we didn’t touch in the first game.”

The Eastern Front

Stalin’s order 227 is infamous for its brutality and indicative of the last-stand mentality that typified the Eastern front conflict. The crux of order 227, that there would be “not a step back”, was not mere rhetoric: it was reinforced by sanctions that decreed that no matter what lay ahead, any man that retreated without a direct order to do so would be branded both a coward and traitor of his country and risked being shot by his own comrades.

“This was brutal warfare,” says Duffy. “There was a real need for control that led to the creation of things like order 227; that really sets the tone in a situation where countries were essentially trying to avoid complete elimination.”

The wider campaign narrative is told through the eyes of an ex-soldier who returns to the front lines as a war correspondent. In a further bid for authenticity, Relic is in talks to license the contents of a book written by a Russian soldier who fought in the conflict, which it hopes will form the basis of its story.

Relic intends that this attention to detail will bolster its attempt to convey the mentality of the Soviet forces, as well as the desperation and resolve that led to the seemingly inhumane treatment of its own soldiers. It hopes to portray the circumstances and conditions of the conflict in such as way so as to be both unflinching and sensitive, something that initially sounds like a contradiction.

“The whole conflict was brutal and we want to portray that in a way that doesn’t shy away from the reality of what happened.”

“The whole conflict was brutal and we want to portray that in a way that doesn’t shy away from the reality of what happened,” says Relic general manager Alex Peters. “We don’t want to hide from that brutality, but we want to be able to deliver a sense of how hard it was without doing the Hollywood ‘over the top’ thing. So, through the campaign we’re going to have the player choose between different options, and sometimes none of those options are good.”

It’s this approach that leads Relic to strive to strike yet another balance, one that illustrates the differences between the two armies involved while making the gameplay interesting and engaging. On the one hand, there is the Soviet army, which Duffy likens to a blunt instrument, “Stalin talks about quantity having a quality all of its own and that’s really a part of the design of the Soviet army … not one single hammer; but millions of hammers, pounding their way to Berlin.”

Conversely, the German army is better trained, touts more advanced weaponry and relies more on the abilities of its forces to fight the numbers of the Red army. At this stage, Relic is withholding precise details about the campaign and whether the conflict will also be experienced from a German perspective, saying only that both forces will be available in multiplayer.

The original Company of Heroes. We’ll get
footage of the sequel soon.

In addition to contending with each other, both sides must also endure the unrelenting force of Russia’s harsh weather conditions, which are dynamically rendered by Relic’s propriety Essence3 engine. Snow has a depth that makes its traversal a gameplay consideration, while visibility will often be poor. This is a factor that Relic is highlighting with its true-sight feature, which Duffy describes as “moving away from soldiers punching a perfect little circle in the fog of war” and instead towards lines of sight that shift and flow to adapt to obstacles and terrain of the battlefield.

True-sight’s biggest contribution to game play is that it facilitates ambushes, sneak attacks and flanking in ways that were not possible in the original Company of Heroes. In the gameplay Relic shows, a Soviet convoy unwittingly trundles into the sights of a company of German fighters lying in ambush with anti-vehicle firepower.

The crew of an open-top, anti-personnel Soviet unit is killed in the subsequent shelling, which leaves the vehicle unmanned and leads to it becoming the focal point of a flash-skirmish as both sides fight to gain control of it. It’s instances like this that Relic intends will serve as smaller, dynamic confrontations within the overarching objectives.

“It’s about immersion and engagement, one of the things we do is focus on those front-line heroes and that dynamic tactical gameplay,” explains Duffy.

“We want to be able to immerse the player in some of that authenticity and provide an emotional experience; we want to be judged on the authenticity, accuracy and tone of the experience.”

Relic’s message throughout the presentation and gameplay demonstration is clear: to provide an authentic experience and try to convey the ferocity and magnitude of some of the bloodiest conflicts of World War II.

We’ll find out next year if Relic’s passion for its subject matter translates into a game that can live up to its predecessor, but it seems the choice to further explore this bleak period of modern history was an easy one to make, “We didn’t want to do different,” says Duffy. “We wanted to do more.”

Company of Heroes 2 is slated for a PC release in early 2013.

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13 Comments

  1. GrimRita

    OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG….breathes OMG OMG OMG.

    There isnt a single doubt in my mind that Relic will yet again deliver. I also pray that they are working on DoW 3 – going back to the roots of the first, because that would send me over the edge.

    #1 3 years ago
  2. Patrick Garratt

    Video interview added.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. Sam Clay

    @1 That was my reaction when I saw the game running. 2 thumbs up!

    #3 3 years ago
  4. someguy2

    I’m pretty sure the Allies joined the war in 1939, not 1941.

    #4 3 years ago
  5. Sam Clay

    @4 yeah, you’re right. What he means is when the Germans invaded Russia/started fighting on the Eastern front.

    #5 3 years ago
  6. someguy2

    @5 I’m referencing the fact he said the the Allies joined the war later than Red Army did. When in fact the Allies (mainly the British, French and Polish) were there from the beginning.

    On the actual game side, this is looking incredible. I got the game when it was on Steam for a ridiculously cheap price a few weeks ago and I’m playing every day, it’s utterly brilliant.

    #6 3 years ago
  7. Erthazus

    All the allies were late in the war if you don’t remeber the history. USA for example joined only in 1942 in El Alamein Brits in the end helped them. A lot of countries were destroyed by the third reich or were neutral in the end.

    Soviet Union started the war officially since 22 June 1941 year when the Third Reich finally invaded the country, until then they only had few conflicts since 1939 with Japan.

    In reality second world war started when the Third Reich launched an intensive preparation for revenge for their defeat in World War I in 33s. In the USSR, intensive preparation for a major war turned almost from the beginning of the 30s due to rapid industrialization in the 30s.

    #7 3 years ago
  8. GrimRita

    @2 lucky you! But good things come to those who wait… lol.

    With the original DoW and to some extent CoH, some of the online battles I experienced were simply fucking brilliant. Engaging, rewarding, fun, brutal..to put it simply, I am yet to experience an RTS even come close to both of these games.

    World In Conflict came close – looked great as well, Total War games have become a yawn fest and always launch unfinished and Starcraft 2 was the same copy and paste generic formula from days gone by.

    I expect VG247 to keep its finger on the pulse of this baby please.

    #8 3 years ago
  9. DSB

    It’s gonna be interesting to see where it goes. So far no sign of the Soviet zerg armies.

    @8 Never played it online, but definitely what made CoH stand out for me, was the fact that it was really challenging from the get go. If you didn’t try to learn the mechanics, the game was going to shit all over you.

    It’s also one of those games where I know I’m going to have to finish whatever mission I start, because it’s pretty much thrilling the whole way through.

    WIC is one of my favourite games of all time too. Just like CoH, it wanted you to know the guys you had on the map, but I do think it did a better job of that.

    #9 3 years ago
  10. Sadismek

    I really can’t wait for this, Looks brilliant. It seems, THQ has some sweet treats next year, I cannot wait for Metro: Last Light either.

    #10 3 years ago
  11. GrimRita

    @9 Yeah WIC was a great RTS. Online it was alot of fun as well and I just loved the marketing campaign with the 80s music/videos thrown in.

    #11 3 years ago
  12. GrimRita

    Im actually going to play CoH online now lol. Very active community online, much like original DoW – went on for years! What a game.

    Good video more more more please!

    #12 3 years ago
  13. DSB

    @11 Yeah, the problem was really that it was too ambitious. Expecting people to play four different unit classes, and actually work together? It’s too much for the public to handle I think.

    … And I always got left with the fricken infantry.

    I think they would’ve gotten a larger following if every player had had a small contingent of units across the categories, like a battlegroup.

    Either way, I usually pick it up once a year. Massive Entertainment were one of my favourite developers, and they are sorely missed. Thanks, Ubisoft and Activision.

    #13 3 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    The latest patch to Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is here with some major changes to game balance. Making good on the promise to nerf System Hack, developer Sledgehammer Games has released the latest patch to Advanced Warfare to do just that, and much more. The patch is out now on Xbox platforms, with PlayStation […]

  • Grinding three purples in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel may crash your game [UPDATE]

    Update: Gearbox Software has announced there’s currently a hot-fix in place for Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel as a temporary solution to crashes caused with the DLC update. Until a permanent fix can be made, the hotfix should correct crashing issues. All will be fixed in the next major game update. Original Story A bug that snuck […]

  • Havoc maps up the tempo for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

    Dave Cook dons his Exo suit to find the new Havok DLC maps a great change of pace for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Given that Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare places great emphasis on verticality, it’s little wonder that Sledgehammer Games has designed the first of its four DLC map packs with elevation and […]

  • G2A responds to deactivated Far Cry 4 keys debacle

    G2A, one of the third-party sellers that were named in the ongoing episode of deactivated Far Cry 4 keys has decided to release a statement. G2A is a well known third-party key sellers online. Most users know it through its sponsorship deals with many YouTube and Twitch channels. The service sells keys both through its […]

  • Petroglyph’s Victory resurfaces with Korean co-developer

    End of Nations, Mytheon and Grey Goo developer Petroglyph Games seems to have salvaged a stalled project. Victory popped up back in early 2013 after Trion Worlds took End of Nations in-house. Petroglyph’s attempt to crowdfund the unusual strategy title ended in iniquity, but it vowed to do whatever it could to bring the game […]

  • Far Cry 4 Hurk Deluxe DLC now available

    Far Cry 4′s latest DLC pack adds new story missions and a pile of new weapons. Far Cry 4: Hurk Deluxe is now available on PC and Xbox platforms, and is rolling out to the PSN in line with local network updates. The pack bundles five story missions, including Yak Farm, Blood Ruby and Hurk’s […]

  • Yes, Resident Evil: Revelations 2 has microtransactions

    Resident Evil: Revelations 2 has microtransactions, but thankfully they’re not as outrageous as initial reports suggested. The subject of Resident Evil: Revelations 2′s microtransactions arose earlier today with reports filtering out of a European press event that you’ll be able to pay to keep playing after your character dies. The ramifications of this are pretty […]

  • Play mini-games to unlock Magicka 2 content

    Magicka 2 publisher Paradox Interactive has invited fans to earn in-game rewards by playing other games. The Magicka website will host various mini-games in the build up to Magicka 2′s launch later this year on PC and PS4. Playing these games controbutes to a community score total which will eventually unlock in-game content as well […]

  • Deactivated Far Cry 4 keys were purchased through Origin

    Far Cry 4 owners who found their games deactivated without warning may be surprised to learn where they came from. Many copies of Far Cry 4 purchased through third-party re-sellers have been deactivated without notice. Although resellers affected by the deactivations argued that they had made authorised purchases, Ubisoft has denied this. The publisher told […]

  • Will Assassin’s Creed visit Japan in 2016?

    The next Assassin’s Creed game after Victory may finally bring ninja and assassins together. An Assassin’s Creed fan has spotted what certainly looks like a heavy hint that the next game after Victory will be set in Japan. Ubisoft forums member Cornik22 was looking through the Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag official art book when […]

  • Resident Evil HD modder aims to restore original, terrible voice acting

    Resident Evil and its early sequels are justifiably famous for their simply dire voice acting. Some Resident Evil fans feel they just can’t enjoy the experience of exploring Umbrella facilities if someone isn’t talking at them with absolutely no regard for pacing, content or tone. As a result, modder Bunny has stepped up to the […]

  • Record iPhone sales drive Apple to revenue spike

    The iPhone is still going strong – in fact, it’s selling better than ever. Apple has announced its financial results for the quarter ending December 27 2014, exceeding expectations with a 29.5% increase in revenues to $74.6 billion. This was a new record for the company. One of the key factors in this spike is […]

  • HoloLens has “mind-blowing” potential for games, says Microsoft CEO

    Microsoft’s VR wearable HoloLens is going to be great for games, according to CEO Satya Nadella. Speaking to investors, Nadella made Microsoft’s entertainment plans for the device explicit. “It’s also getting clearer how the games people love today will evolve to mind-blowing experiences in the future when designed for the mixed reality that Windows 10 […]

  • EA Q3: Battlefield 5 still on for holiday 2016, PGA Tour 15 spring release confirmed

    EA announced its financial results for its Q3 fiscal year 2015 quarter, ended December 31, 2014, noting total net revenue $1.13 billion in total net revenue compared to $808 million year-over-year. For the nine months ending December 31, total net revenue came in at $3.3 billion. Net revenues were up 39% and net income came […]

  • Players logged 113M single-player hours in Dragon Age: Inquisition, other EA games stats

    Ahead of its Q3 2015 earnings release, Electronic Arts has released a game infographic showing some interesting stats compiled through gameplay from October – December 2014. For FIFA 15, over 3.3 billion goals were made; 73 million knockouts occurred in EA SPORTS UFC; over 10 million families were created in The Sims 4; 113 million […]

  • Hyrule Warriors has shipped 1 million units worldwide

    Koei Tecmo has announced shipments of its Wii U hack and slash action title, Hyrule Warriors, has shipped one million units worldwide. The Omega Force-developed title was released in Japan on August 14 and in the west on September 26. Two packs of DLC for the game are slated for February alongside the version 1.5.0 […]

  • Xbox Games Store discounts Never Alone, Dragon Age: Inquisition, more

    This week’s deals available through the Xbox Games Store will be valid until February 2 with titles such as Battlefield 4, Dragon Age Inquisition, Never Alone, and Titanfall discounted. Discounted titles with an asterisk are for Xbox Live Gold members only. Xbox One Just Dance 2015* – 40% Another World* – 50% Never Alone* – […]

  • Say hello to Mortal Kombat X’s latest character: Reptile

    As promised, one of two character reveals this week for Mortal Kombat X has occurred: it’s the acid-spitting Reptile. Nice! Watch the video above. Mortal Kombat X is slated for release on April 14 and will be available on PC, PS3, PS4,Bxo 360 and Xbox One. Thanks, MrTGJelly (Trent).

  • Twisted fairy tale Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries hits Steam Early Access

    Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries, the successful Kickstarter from GRIN Studios, has launched on Steam Early Access. The PC title is described as a “cinematic fable featuring a vengeful Red Riding Hood,” who armed with an axe sets out on a quest to avenge the murder of her parents. Gameplay features action-platforming, combo-based hack ‘n […]

  • Dead or Alive 5: Last Round delayed to late March on Steam

    Koei Tecmo has announced it is delaying the PC release of Dead or Alive 5: Last Round to March. According to an updated listing on Steam (thanks, AGB), the fighter was delayed “in order to provide you with the best experience possible.” To apologize for the delay, Team Ninja will offer the Halloween 2013 Set, […]

  • Dragon’s Dogma Online will be F2P “no plans” for western release

    Dragon’s Dogma Online will be a free-to-play title for PC, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3. Set for release this year, Dragon’s Dogma Online has a lobby which will support up to 100 players, is open-world, and the executive producer is Hiroyuki Kobayashi. Players can form groups with up to four players or pawns while raids […]

  • Watch this release video for Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel DLC Lady Hammerlock

    The Lady Hammerlock DLC for Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel releases today on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and coinciding with the release is the launch trailer. In the Lady Hammerlock DLC, players are introduced and will be able to step into the shoes of Sir Hammerlock’s sister, Lady Aurelia the Baroness. The DLC will run […]

  • Free DLC for Tales of Zestiria takes place after main storyline

    Free DLC will be released in Japan for Tales of Zestiria, and while Bandai Namco has yet to state whether it will be released westward with the core game this summer, it’s an interesting slice of content. According to information from Jump posted by Siliconera, the DLC Alisha After Episode: What Is Reflected In The […]

  • This video of a Paris flat looks the real deal, but it’s all Unreal Engine 4

    I’m not entirely sure when, or how, this fella managed to sneak into my secret flat in Paris and film it, but since it’s out there I may as well share it with you. All joking aside, this video is rather amazing. It provides a virtual tour of a flat located in Paris; however, it’s […]

  • The Witness passes key development milestone, still no release date

    The Witness has seemingly come back from the dead. Creator Jonathan Blow has posted an update on the game’s development. Surely you still remember The Witness? Jonathan Blow’s follow-up to Braid, which was shown during the PlayStation 4 reveal event all the way back in February 2013? Well, today we got our first development update […]

  • You can now take selfies in World of Warcraft

    The latest patch to World of Warcraft has added a S.E.L.F.I.E. Camera to the game. And it does exactly what it sounds like it does. Patch 6.1 is currently being deployed to World of Warcraft’s Public Test Realms (PTR). There’s a massive list of patch notes, but the most pressing one, other than Twitter integration, […]

  • Hellblade: early gameplay and prototype footage revealed

    The latest developer diary for Hellblade is here with a look at some early gameplay prototypes and a peek at some polished areas. Hellblade developer Ninja Theory has revealed even more details of how game development works behind the scenes. The eighth part of this ongoing diary shows early gameplay footage along with some intriguing […]

  • Resident Evil Revelations 2: Raid mode offline-only on launch, more details

    Capcom has revealed a tonne of new details about Raid mode in Resident Evil: Revelations 2. Capcom has confirmed that Raid mode will launch with the first episode of Revelations 2 in February. You will be playing it offline only though, either solo or in split-screen co-op. As for the online portion, Capcom promised it […]

  • Watch the first 20 minutes of Life is Strange

    The first 20 minutes of Life is Strange have been posted online for anyone to watch. The opening 20 minutes of Life is Strange set the stage for what kind of game it is. The kind that you’ll probably like if you’re a fan of Telltale games. The video is courtesy of consolewarsofficial and you […]

  • Don’t blame Ubisoft for cancelling keys – blame the culture of overpriced games

    Publishers need to drop PC games prices in order to stem the flourishing grey market, says Matt Martin. “How are you going to sell me Far Cry 4 for £45 when I can pick up Far Cry, Far Cry 2, Far Cry 3, Far Cry: Blood Dragon and extra DLC for just £30?” Some players […]

  • Dragon’s Dogma Online is real, full reveal in this week’s Famitsu

    What’s been heavily-rumoured to be the next instalment in the Dragon’s Dogma franchise, Dragon’s Dogma Online, will be fully revealed this week. According to a recent post by Famitsu, the magazine’s upcoming weekly issue, which releases January 29, will contain a massive feature on Dragon’s Dogma Online. The magazine will dedicate 18 pages to all […]

  • Valve responds to recent Counter-Strike match-fixing scandal, bans offenders

    Valve has investigated the recent case of match-fixing involving two teams in the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive professional scene and decided to ban those involved from future tournaments. Recent allegations involving match-fixing between iBUYPOWER and NetcodeGuides.com – two of the professional teams that played in Cevo Season 5 – came to light. Valve has took notice […]

  • Having issues playing Grim Fandango Remastered on PS4? Sony is offering help

    Sony has offered a few steps to help those who are having issues with their pre-loaded PS4 installs of Grim Fandango Remastered. A few reports have started to appear online from users who’ve pre-ordered and pre-loaded Grim Fandango Remastered on their PS4 consoles. Sony has since posted a support thread on the official forums, to […]

  • Get Dragon Age: Inquisition for $36 and more in EA’s Xbox One sale

    Many EA digital games are being offered at considerable discounts on Xbox One right now. The latest EA sale is pretty good, offering sales on many AAA titles. It’s only available on Xbox One, with extra savings for Xbox Live Gold subscribers. The list below covers prices for Gold Subscribers. Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare […]

  • Grim Fandango Remastered reviews round-up, all the scores

    Grim Fandango Remastered is a classic game brought into the new generation, so it’s time for everyone to know how great it is. The reviews for Grim Fandango Remastered have started popping up and as per usual, we’ve collected a few of them below. Grim Fandango Remastered is, as the name suggests, a remastered version […]

  • The Witcher 3: latest build is 1080p on PS4, 900p on Xbox One

    The recent preview build of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was running at full-HD resolution on PlayStation 4 and 900p on Xbox One. German website Gamestar attended the recent preview event for The Witcher 3 and examined the three versions that were on offer, PC, PS4 and Xbox One. Here’s the quote, courtesy of Google […]

  • Joystiq is likely to close – rumour

    AOL is rumoured to be closing its video game site, Joystiq. Re/code is reporting that AOL is likely to close its video game site Joystiq soon, according to “various sources.” The move is part of a company-wide restructuring that will affect Joystiq and other “under-performing content properties.” Joystiq is one of the most renowned sites […]

  • The Last of Us movie will be “pretty faithful” to the game

    The Last of Us will bring many of the same elements to the big screen as the small one, according to writer Neil Druckmann. Although The Last of Us will have to be adapted in various ways to make the transition from lengthy interactive adventure to cinema-friendly story arc, Druckmann is hoping to keep the […]

  • Microsoft is fixing Xbox One’s slow controllers

    Xbox One control pads have many charms, but quick start up is not one of them. The Xbox One controller currently takes up to five seconds to connect to your console after switching on, which is an eternity for someone with an attention span as short as mine. Luckily, Microsoft is working to fix this […]

  • Lucius 2 releases on Friday the 13th (of course)

    Lucius 2 has a really fitting release date. Lucius developer Shiver Games has produced a follow-up to the dark tale of an evil child, and it’s coming your way on February 13 – which just so happens to be a Friday. Lucius 2: The Prophecy will set you back $20, and release through Steam. As […]

  • Saints Row 4: Re-Elected PS4 recalled in Australia, incorrect content to blame

    Saints Row 4: Re-Elected has been recalled in Australia due to a mysterious manufacturing issue. An Australian PR representative said that the retail PS4 version of Saints Row 4: Re-Elected has “a serious manufacturing issue” and has been recalled nation-wide. Here’s what we were told (emphasis mine): “A manufacturing issue has caused an incorrectly classified […]