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Even if you’re suffering from Second World War fatigue after all the Medal of Honor and Call of Duty games of the last decade, Company of Heroes can put a fresh slant on the proceedings. It’s not only the most friendly, accessible, and involving of any strategy game we’ve played, but also the closest you can get to taking part in World War II without straying into first-person shooter territory and thus losing the depth that a strategy game can deliver.
Despite its age (it debuted on Windows in 2006), the game looks great, with tons of visual detail. Fully rendered 3D models provide convincing environments, equipment, and individual units. And, unusual for a strategy game, you can zoom right into the action to get up close and personal with your squads, watching the action unfold from an almost first-person perspective.
It’s easy to play. You direct the action of entire squads, and can’t issue orders to individual combatants. This keeps the pace up and prevents the game getting bogged down in endless fiddling. You select a squad, then order it to move, find cover, or close in on enemy units, who will then automatically fight. When you select a target area, each squad member’s theoretical position is plotted on the screen, so it’s possible through small pointer adjustments to get them positioned exactly how you want them—lined up behind cover for example, or bunched up to provide a concentrated attack.
As you progress, you’ll take control of many unit types—riflemen are joined by paratroopers, engineers, tank regiments, and so on—and you can also capture and utilize enemy territory and hardware. This increases the complexity of the missions while still keeping the game entirely manageable.
It’s a big game too, featuring the campaign missions from the original game and two expansion packs. So over the course of your experience, you’ll get to take part in some of the most famous and pivotal battles from World War II.
The bottom line. It’s a stunningly playable and enormously gripping game. The only downside is the lack of a multiplayer mode. But that feels like a small price to pay for what is otherwise a substantial release.
2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, Mac OS 10.6.8 or later, 2GB RAM, 13GB hard drive space, ATI Radeon HD2600 or Nvidia Geforce 8600 or Intel HD Graphics 3000 or better with 256MB VRAM
Detailed environments. Gritty realism. Easy to play. Lots of depth.