Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts • Page 2

Because the other two fronts got along so well.

I'm not speaking to the CoH hardcore with this, for they have their own complaints. A vocal section of the community who've been on the Opposing Fronts beta have publicly expressed dissatisfaction. This surprised me at first as, though OF may be a bit more of a turn-off for the madding crowd, in most ways it would seem to a glorious reinvention for anyone who adores CoH, shoving in fresh ideas to make a splendidly varied game. Some of their complaints centre around bugs and multiplayer connection problems; I've not noticed any howlers myself, but can't totally attest to online stability until the game's out with the public at large. Their other issue is balance, and that's where, much as I respect their concerns, I entirely disagree.

Yes, there will almost inevitably be some imbalance. It's an unavoidable side-effect of making CoH so proudly asymmetrical. The US and Germans in the original game had their differences, but the underlying mechanics were the same. Give or take the odd ability, they felt pretty equal. The Brits and Panzers are so different, both from the preceding classes and from each other, that it is rather tricky to believe the playing field is level. And it probably isn't, but not significantly.

Generally, I don't condone relying on patch to fix problems, but it's the nature of the beast for RTS games. Warcraft III still recieves irregular balance patches, for instance. If the numbers need to be changed, the numbers will be changed. I don't feel anyone should be worried on that front; there may be an element of confusing imbalance with asymmetry behind these complaints. I completely understand - thinking another player has an advantage over me brings the red mist. I've said all manner of incredibly rude things about Snipers in Team Fortress 2 whenever my Heavy suddenly falls over, for instance. Give this a chance, though. The massive differences between factions are what make Opposing Fronts so interesting, and I'm a little disappointed in anyone who claims otherwise. We don't all need to have the same haircut to have fun.

That aside, like COH, OF is at its absolute best in multiplayer. The constant and vibrant push-me, pull-you of the frontline, each player forever unleashing new party tricks on the other, keeps this a lordly distance away from the usual 'just go for the power stations' RTS squabbles. Victory - glory! - comes from being genuinely clever and attentive here, not from being the guy who knows all the keyboard shortcuts off by heart. Again though, it's now much more complicated than before, so casual players are in for quite some punishment during their first babysteps in online trenches.


You'll believe a tank can fly.

Which leaves the singleplayer; while narrative in first-person shooters continues to grown into a big, strong lad, thanks to the storytelling efforts of clever fellows like Valve and Irrational, the RTS solo campaign is a withered and neglected creature these days. COH's singplayer was a little plain; OF's is definitely better, making more effort with the interlinking cutscenes (or at least being more memorable thanks to all the naughty words) and, notably, splitting the campaign into two. There's one for Brits, and one for the Panzer Elite, the latter documenting the Allied cock-up that was Operation Market Garden from the Axis perspective.

The campaigns certainly work in terms of patiently presenting the key mechanics of the new factions, but there isn't a huge drive to wade through the lot, having the new toys gradually eked out to you, when you know full well you could just go and have access to the full explodiness right away in a skirmish map. There's none of C&C 3's excitedly wondering how bloody Kane escaped certain death again or what those aliens really want, for instance. Curse World War II history for being so unchangeable. If singleplayer is what you're most interested in COHOF for, you'll be entertained, but not enraptured. It's polished and fun, and has clearly has a lot of effort put into it, but nevertheless feels like an optional sidedish to the multiplayer or skirmish main.

What a multiplayer game it is, though. No other RTS provokes the feeling that you're inventing rather than enduring to defeat your foe to this extent. It's complicated and exhausting with it, and while that's exactly what an established COH player will want, I fear it ever so slightly undermines the achievements the original game made in making historical wargames appeal to a mass audience again. It's not the pure, easy entrypoint into real-time strategy that is parent was, despite admirably being standalone (you won't have access to the original two factions if you don't have COH vanilla, mind) . Don't, for God's sake, let that stop you if you've even a glimmer of interest in playing this. If you're a COH player and you don't pick this up, then, as my plucky Sappers would put it, you're a f*@#ing wanker.

8 / 10

Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts Alec Meer Because the other two fronts got along so well. 2007-09-27T14:00:00+01:00 8 10

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