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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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    Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 will offer an open beta to every player who pre-orders the game. The open beta is for the three supported formats – PC, Xbox One and PS4 – there is no version of Black Ops 3 for PS3 or Xbox 360. Solid details for the beta are yet to […]

  • Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 brings back 4-player co-op campaign

    This year’s Call of Duty campaign is designed specifically for four players to experience together. Let’s get boots on the ground, soldier. Don’t call it an Exo skeleton. Call it the Direct Neural Interface. Okay, it’s a little less catchy, but the DNI biotechnology in Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 will feel familiar to […]

  • Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 – watch the first official trailer here

    Here’s the first full trailer for Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, due for release on November 6. Anyone who pre-orders the game will get access to the open beta. The game will be released on PS4, Xbox One and PC. You can read hands-on impressions of the multiplayer here, check out early info on […]

  • Dota 2 International Compendium out next week, three annual championships added

    Valve has announced its adding three, yearly Dota 2 championships to its eSports roster along with the new that a new International Compendium will launch next week alongside a balance update for MOBA. The firm said it was adding three extra championships to the schedule as it recognized there was “room for improvement” on a […]

  • Dungeons 2 is now available on PC, Mac, Linux – watch the launch trailer

    Dungeons 2, the dungeon-crawling strategy sequel to Realmforge Studios’ Dungeons, has been released on Steam by publisher Kalypso. It can be yours for $39.99 on Steam and is available for Windows, Linux, Mac and SteamOS. The first game was released in 2011 and heavily influenced by Dungeon Keeper. A boxed version will arrive in North […]

  • This Mortal Kombat X “hidden character intros” video is rather humorous

    YouTuber Maximilian Dood mad has created a Mortal Kombat X video featuring “hidden” character intros centering around Scorpion and Sub-Zero. Some of the dialogue is rather funny, and we particularly liked the affectionate line uttered by Sub-Zero at one point. Just something fun for your Saturday. Enjoy.

  • Art of the Catch creator sheds more light on why he pulled the Skyrim mod off Steam

    The creator of Skyrim mod Art of the Catch has taken to Reddit to explain why he pulled the paid mod off Steam Workshop. Yesterday, it was revealed Chesko had pulled the fishing mod off Steam Workshop, after mod creator Fore stated he didn’t endorse Chesko charging for the mod because it used his his […]

  • Tripwire adds clause to Killing Floor 2 EULA banning paid mods

    Tripwire Interactive has updated its EULA for Killing Floor 2 stating that any mods players create for the game must be distributed free-of-charge. The end user agreement update, via PCgamesN, went live a couple of days after Valve announced it would allow mod creators to start charging for their creations. Bethesda is the first company […]

  • Five Nights at Freddy’s 3 recreated in LittleBigPlanet 3 is rather eerie

    LittleBigPlanet 3 players have created some really interesting content with the game’s level builder, but sometimes, the creations go beyond cute and bright and venture into the realm of creepy, as is the case with this Five Nights at Freddy’s 3 build. Created by TheLittleBigPlanetShow, the rather ominous level can be played with up to […]

  • Final Fantasy 14: Heavensward benchmark trailer shows off flying mounts, more

    Square Enix has released a rather nice benchmark video for Final Fantasy 14: Heavensward showing a battle, flying mounts and some of the new environments. Heavensward is the first expansion for Final Fantasy 14 and is slated for release on June 23 for PC, PlayStation 3 and PS4. The mac version is being handled by […]

  • Have a look at some Xenoblade Chronicles X gameplay

    During yesterday’s Xenoblade Chronicles X Nintendo Direct showcase, many details pertaining to the Monolith Soft title were announced, and quite a bit of gameplay was shown. The Wii U-exclusive contains real-time menu-based combat and four-player online questing along with diverse environments and the ability to use Skells, which are transforming mechs. These mechs are called […]

  • Here’s a look at The Elder Scrolls Online running on Xbox One

    The Elder Scrolls Online has a limited public beta test running this weekend on PS4 and Xbox One, and Eurogamer has been playing around in it. Have a look at the Khajiit sorcerer below in the Xbox One version. There isn’t an NDA in place for the beta, so expect to see more videos as […]

  • Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 leaks reveal Zombie progression system, four-player co-op, more

    More Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 details surfaced overnight thanks to a leaked pamphlet with information pertaining to Zombies XP progression, four-player co-op and more. Posted on NeoGAF, the pamphlet the shooter will contain a new movement system, a Specialist character system for multiplayer, tailored maps, “cinematic arena-style play,” and complete character customization. The […]

  • Gears of War Remaster in the works for Xbox One, according to testers – report

    Overnight, a rumor surfaced claiming a remastered version of the original Gears of War was coming to Xbox One. According to playtesters, it isn’t a rumor at all. Polygon first broke the story, citing a source who showed the site sreencaps of the Locust invasion with updated visuals. Screenshots of the multiplayer showing improved lighting […]

  • GameStop promo outs Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 for November, pre-order for access to beta

    Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 will be released in November, according to what appears to be a leaked GameStop store promo posted on Kotaku. The exact date is November 6, which isn’t a surprise to anyone. On the promo, it notes that those who pre-order will be granted beta access for PC, PlayStation 4 […]

  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Double XP and Elite Bonus weekend has kicked off

    Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare players can earn Double XP along with Elite Bonus on all platforms. There is even Double XP and Double Weapon XP on offer for Black Ops 2. The dry run is over. Prep for the Sunday reveal of #BlackOps3 begins now. 2XP/2XweapXP is live. pic.twitter.com/rn6SVtVJbY — Treyarch Studios (@Treyarch) April […]

  • Atlus makes “minor edits” to Dungeon Travelers 2 in order to avoid AO rating

    Atlus has announced it has made “minor edits” to four in-game images contained in Dungeon Travelers 2 to avoid an AO rating by the ESRB. According to a press release from the company, localization sometimes require changes to content in order for it to be “understood en masse,” which is why it worked closely with […]

  • Battlefield Hardline is 40% off through Origin this weekend

    The standard edition of Battlefield Hardline on PC is 40% off this weekend through EA’s Origin service. The Digital Deluxe Edition is also 40% off and includes various Battlepacks unavailable in the standard version. You can also pick up the Battlefield Hardline Ultimate edition for 23% off, which comes with all four planned expansions through […]

  • Submerged is an exploration-adventure game coming to multiple platforms

    Submerged is the latest title in development from Uppercut Games, and the exploration-adventure game is coming to PlayStation 4 and other platforms this year. The game takes place in a flooded city which Miku and her wounded brother Taku have reached by boat. Miku needs to find a safe place for her brother to rest […]

  • These screenshots for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt show superb attention to detail

    Some gorgeous new screenshots for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt have surfaced, and a couple are wallpaper worthy. Especially the one with the horse, but as you’re well aware, I’m horse crazed. The images below in the gallery have been scaled to fit properly, but if you head over to NeoGAF you can bask in […]

  • Namco kicks off Humble Store partnership with Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin

    Namco Bandai has started offering its PC titles on Humble Store, and this includes the recently released Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin. Other titles include Dragon Ball Xenoverse, and Project Cars. “In Japan, the Bandai Namco Group companies are known for supporting different charity programs and we are very happy to be […]

  • World of Tanks: 2,000 Bonus codes to give away

    Already have a World of Tanks account? We’ve got 2,000 codes for players to top up their Gold and Premium days. This weekend sees the World of Tanks Grand Finals take place in Poland, and we’ve got a bunch of game codes to give away to celebrate. Each Bonus PC code offers 150 Gold and […]

  • Mad Max contains Top Dog camps with boss fights

    Mad Max will have bases which vary in difficulty, some of which are considered a “finale” for a particular region and feature a boss fight. Speaking in the latest issue of GamesMaster via GamesRadar, the game’s producer John Fuller said this allows players to tailor their experience by deciding how much of a challenge they […]

  • Just Cause 3 gameplay trailer reveal coming next week

    Mark your calendars for Tuesday, April 28, because you won’t want to miss the gameplay reveal of Just Cause 3. Avalanche tweeted the date along with a teaser, as seen below. The box art has also made an appearance. Keep an eye on the game’s YouTube page, and we’ll be sure to post the video […]

  • First paid Skyrim Steam Workshop mod has been pulled

    Valve’s new incentive which allows modders to charge for their creations hasn’t been live for 24 hours yet, and already, one mod has been pulled. The mod in question was Chesko’s Fishing Mod for Skyrim, which the creator pulled after a community member questioned whether Chesko had permission from the creator of the character-idle animations […]

  • Resident Evil HD Remaster has sold over one million copies worldwide

    The HD remaster of Resident Evil has sold over one million copies worldwide since its January 20 release, Capcom has announced. The company attributed the sales milestone to producing a “great product” along with excellent word of mouth and praise from fans. In February, Capcom said Resident Evil HD Remaster was its fastest-selling digital title […]

  • The Crew: the Raid Car Pack and Raid Live Update now available for download

    The Crew players can now download the Raid Car Pack which is the last of four themes car packs. The Raid Live Update is also available, and it contains six new tuning specs. The car pack contains three new cars: the 2012 Cadillac Escalade, the off-road 2011 Volkswagen Touareg NF and the McLaren F1 supercar. […]

  • Geralt is very professional in the latest Witcher 3: Wild Hunt TV spot

    The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has a new TV spot that’s short and to the point. The latest Witcher 3 trailer comes in the form of TV spot. It’s all CGI, and it looks good. If you’re more into gameplay trailers, the latest one will serve you well. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is out […]

  • Steam roguelike sale is live, offers deep discounts on a stellar collection of titles

    If you’re into challenging, procedurally-generated, and infinitely-replayable games, Steam’s current sale will hook you up. Steam is hosting a sale on roguelike games. Plenty of titles in the genre are on sale for upwards of 75% off. Highlights include Risk of Rain at 75% off, Don’t Starve at 66% off, Spelunky at 75% off, FTL: […]

  • Resident Evil: Revelations 2 finally gets online co-op in Raid Mode on Xbox One

    Resident Evil: Revelations 2 has been patched to support online play in Raid Mode on Xbox One. The Xbox One version of Resident Evil: Revelations 2 lacked online support in Raid Mode for a long time. Until today. A new patch has been released to bring that version in line with the rest of them. […]

  • A section in Killing Floor 2′s EULA about cyberbullying is riling up some fans

    Killing Floor 2 has recently got into a bit of trouble with some fans due to a clause in its EULA that gives the developer the right to revoke a user’s license without prior notice. The Killing Floor 2 EULA – just like many others found in modern games, has a section dedicated to cheating […]

  • World of Tanks: 2,000 free tanks and in-game cash to giveaway

    To celebrate the World of Tanks grand finals this weekend we’ve got some great freebies to give away to new players. We have 2,000 PC invite codes to giveaway, with each one offering new accounts a T2 Light Tank, 100 Gold and 1 Days Premium worth around €8.00. All you need to do is enter […]

  • Marvel announces partnership with Telltale, first game due in 2017

    Marvel and Telltale have entered into a partnership that will allow the developer to work on a new game series, due in 2017. Telltale has announced that it has partnered with Marvel Games, Marvel Entertainment’s video games division, for the development of a new game series. No indication was given as to what the new […]

  • Destiny: Bungie is not saying no to a player trading system

    Bungie has not completely ruled out the idea of bringing a trading system to Destiny. Destiny does not offer any way for players to trade items amongst themselves. But ever since the game’s release, players have never stopped asking Bungie to add one in. While the developer does not have a satisfying answer, it’s still […]

  • Destiny: Xur location and inventory for April 24, 25 – MIDA Multi-Tool edition

    The weekend Exotics market run by Xur: Agent of the Nine is now open for business. Destiny’s bizarre vendor, Xur, has arrived at the Tower. Xur is your man if you’re looking for Exotic armour or weapons. Not only that, but he will also let you exchange your old Exotic gear for new, upgraded versions. […]

  • Warcraft movie delayed yet again

    The Warcraft movie will no longer hit theatres in March 2016. The release date of the Warcraft movie has been pushed back by three months. The movie was expected in March 2016, but Legendary Pictures announced yesterday that it is now due on June 10, 2016. No reason was given for the delay. This is […]