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Beta’d: “Company of Heroes 2”

Welcome back to Beta’d, Nerdist’s weekly look at the world of upcoming videogames. This week saw the release of the first trailer for THQ’s Company of Heroes 2. THQ showed us one of the first campaigns of the game in a behind-closed doors-demo, and here is what we saw:

Story: The year is 1941 and Nazi forces are pushing through Russia at an alarming rate. The Red Army has been in retreat for months, and German forces are about to reach Moscow. Stalin, recognizing that Russia would fall if he did not find a way to stop his troops from retreating, issues Order 227 that calls on military commanders to kill any soldiers that retreat as cowards. It’s at this point in the eastern front of World War II we begin the game. German forces are occupying a rural area in the Soviet countryside. You control a platoon of Red soldiers and fight your way through the area, clearing out entrenched German forces.

Graphics: Company of Heroes‘ graphics engine can handle a wide variety of enviroments and is focused more on the large amount of characters and environments than details on individual items. The images aren’t incredible, but for the sheer amount of  active items being rendered, they are impressive. In the level we saw, the snow effects were particularly striking, as the the characters weren’t just walking on top of the white stuff, they were having to wade through it.

Gameplay:  The Essence 3.0 engine was touted as being a learning engine that would actively combat against you, not just trying to be fodder for your bullets but actually looking for tactics to beat you. For this reason, no two play-throughs of an area will ever turn out the same way. When the singularity occurs, remember that it was the game engines that started it.

The player is also given near limitless Nazi killing options. One example in the demo occurred after surrounding a house with German forces in it. You have several options: begin a fire fight that could result in more deaths of your men or set the house ablaze, forcing the Nazis to evacuate and run into your oncoming bullets. Tanks and vehicles will also play a pivotal role in the game and, new to the sequel, players will be able to reclaim abandoned tanks and war machines. Players will also have to contend with the new TrueSight system. Your squad’s line of sight will be rendered based on the environment and what would actually be visible to them in the field of battle. If the enemy is using smoke grenades to block your view, you will have to shoot at the enemy blind.

Order 227 isn’t just part of background for the plot of the game, it will play a function in your gameplay as well. Retreat in a strategy game is sometimes a dire necessity, but when the game is set in the Soviet Union during WW2, retreat isn’t an option. Your own forces will fire upon you and decimate your squad if you try to back away from the fight. Developers say that there will be applications of 227; however, they aren’t going to punish players when they have no other alternative.

Impressions: The eastern front of World War II often doesn’t get the media attention that the Western and Pacific Theaters receive. While it has been covered in various FPS games in the past, the strategy required for Company of Heroes 2 will allow players to see the most intense campaign of the war from a new perspective. Strategy game enthusiasts will find a lot to love in this game, but not nearly as much as the history buffs.