Greetings GON’ers. Ice to see you. Ha ha ha.
With the requisite pun out of the way, so begins my recount of my brief stint as a German military commander on the deathly cold Eastern front of WWII in Company of Heroes 2 multiplayer. The preview build I played featured a 1v1 conquest-style (think Battlefield) match on a map set during winter. Two opposing desk-chair generals with limited experience in CoH multiplayer meant that neither of us knew exactly what was going on, but the stage was set for a tense and somewhat messy affair.
Fans of the series will be immediately familiar with the intuitive controls and UI, and my skills from recently re-playing the first game’s singleplayer campaign transferred over easily. CoH’s multiplayer has always been unique due to its minimal emphasis on base building and resource collection, which shifts the focus to the second-by-second tactics of the units themselves. Resource management comes down to how many – and what types of – control points you’ve captured. For example, capturing a fuel node will grant greatly increased Fuel accumulation, which is important for recruiting vehicles.
My first match involved me initially Zerg-rushing basic engineers to all the capture points. However, my foothold soon crumbled under the weight of Soviet sniper bullets. It’s now worth mentioning two of the new features being implemented for the sequel; a new line-of-sight system (dubbed “TrueSight”) and the dynamic weather. Large objects in the world can now block your unit’s effective LOS until they move into a position where the object no longer obscures their view of a particular part of the terrain, opening up ambushing opportunities.
This, in combination with the random blizzards that now appear, was the saving grace of my veteran engineer unit when it came under fire from enemy snipers. The sudden snowstorm reduced the range of the snipers and I was able to retreat back to safety behind a bunch of trees to wait for reinforcements. But if the bullets didn’t kill them, the cold definitely did. I found out the hard way that leaving infantry idling in a blizzard without basking them in the warmth of a building or fire is a reliable way to ensure their torturous virtual death.
Indeed, many more deaths were to come under my green command since I didn’t realise there was a button in plain view to tech up to recruit better units. The snipers picked off waves of engineers, and it wasn’t until I recruited some armoured half-tracks with heavy machine guns that I was able to counter the sniper attacks and quickly turn the tide. Having recaptured two of the three control points required to bleed out my opponent, I bunkered down with a strong mix of actual bunkers, anti-armour, and anti-infantry units, creating an impenetrable defence. Subsequent matches involved experimenting with different mixes of unit types, but it always boiled down to having the right mix to cover your units’ weaknesses depending on the situation.
CoH2 multiplayer is shaping up to be full of constant action, with impressive strategic depth. The addition of TrueSight encourages more cautious movement and positioning of units, but it didn’t make a huge difference due to my reckless play-style — although the dynamic weather adds a layer of complexity to keep players on their toes. While these changes appear to have been implemented with a high degree of thought as to their impact on gameplay, the core of what makes CoH fun and competitive appears to have remained intact, which can only mean good things for fans and newcomers alike.