IGN Review of Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts
Company of Heroes brought new life into the RTS market for me last year. Relic created the truly complete package with spectacular sound, visuals, single player, and multiplayer gameplay. Relic has certainly tried to maintain the level of glory they attained in the original Company of Heroes and have done a very good job. It may not be quite as big a breakthrough (in fact it basically provides the same core game with new toys) or provide that same punch in the nuts impact but it is more hectic World War II strategy fun. That same fast-paced in your face style of play permeates Opposing Fronts and we're very glad to have it back.
Opposing Fronts marches two new factions off to war both online and off: the slow moving but heavy handed British and zippy and elastic Panzer Elite. Both offer up some distinct differences between the Allies and Axis forces of the original Company of Heroes. The British, the first true turtle-friendly faction, provide excellent defensive options. Their engineers are able to build some strong weapon emplacements including devastating 25 pound artillery guns and some thunderous anti-tank emplacements. The main drawback to these is that they take up a lot of the population cap and are immobile but players who manage to get that front line settled should be able to put up a hell of a fight. They'll be used in defending the most valuable objectives like bridges and roads, or if you're in multiplayer, victory points.
The standard infantry of the British can also dig trenches which give them a pretty spectacular defensive bonus against enemies, especially combined with the command units that provide unit bonuses to everyone in the area. All of these new tricks need a careful eye and quick thinking. The tricky thing is that these guys are likely to become a fan favorite, but they can be a hell of a challenge to play since they're a little more deliberate in their tactics. You can even see this in the way their infantry are more cautious than others when moving into enemy controlled territory. I'd say that the British aren't necessarily newbie friendly, but Company of Heroes in general isn't exactly as newbie friendly as a game like World in Conflict with the amount of concentration needed to be successful.
The second new faction, the Panzer Elite, are more about fast attacks and getting places quickly. They have some of the most versatile infantry of the factions as they're good soldiers and all have the ability to repair vehicles. That's especially important since keeping units alive offers up veterancy with rewards. Players can choose to boost either offensive or defensive stats when promoting a unit. The only downside is that you have to stay on top of your units to make sure they're upgraded.
The Panzer Elite also specialize in quickly moving around the battlefield to take and hold locations. Their infantry have the sprint ability and armored cars have an overdrive ability that allows them to penetrate deeper into enemy territory or flank entrenched defenses quickly. The Elite scout cars also have the inherent ability to capture strategic points (no command tree upgrade needed, as is the case with the Allies). They can also be upgraded to deploy on a territory and grant a resource bonus from that point. This provides a pretty excellently different way of playing from the British since the Elite are basically always dashing around the map trying to close gaps. Since the standard infantry grenadiers can repair vehicles and can be upgraded with any of three weapons, they offer up some spectacular versatility to back up the speed which also makes them very exciting to command. The major difficulty with the Elite is that they require a lot of management and attention to tactical detail. Whereas the British may have a hard time of it at the beginning but can hold a line and simply plug holes after getting established, you'll likely always feel like you have to race off to another area of the map to defend.
Relic has given the Elite some pretty interesting abilities along their command lines though. The Scorched Earth path allows players to booby trap buildings for enemy infantry, booby trap strategic points, or, more importantly, disable strategic points altogether, denying enemy troops their benefits. That last ability should come in very, very handy in multiplayer. The Panzer Elite, like the British, aren't exactly easy to use effectively early on, but provide some really spectacular abilities for those that put in the time.
Both of these groups get their time to shine in the single player campaigns. The great thing about Opposing Fronts is that it offers up two new campaigns where the original only offered up one. As you would expect, all of the missions include primary objectives, of which there may be multiple parts, as well as optional secondary and medal objectives. Completing the secondary and medal objectives aren't totally necessary for success of any missions, but in many cases will definitely help players progress. But their most important purpose is to provide additional challenges that make require a bit more planning and quick thinking and in that they are very successful. Some of them are pretty damn difficult and require a tremendous amount of coordination. It's good that they're there for veterans who are looking for a little more than simple victory.
The first new campaign takes place later in the war as British and American troops begin Operation Market Garden, in which the Germans were successful driving back the push to get into Germany through the Netherlands. The campaign offers up a lot of intense defensive missions followed by some slower and less exciting pushes into enemy territory to defeat and secure the last bridges in the area. The assortment of missions is likely to please some, though I was left a little unsatisfied in the end.
The second campaign follows the British and Canadian forces in the Battle of Normandy and ending in the assault and liberation of Caen. As with the Panzer Elite campaign, this one should help players get a pretty good grasp on how the British are used effectively through the objectives. This campaign balanced defense and offense like the Panzer campaign, but provided a bit more satisfaction all around. It could just be my preference for the British power, but it was just more fun for some mysterious reason. Combined, the two campaigns offer up a more extensive campaign structure than the original Company of Heroes and should keep players occupied for a good amount of time.
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