Looking at the rows of gleaming medals pinned to the chest of Company of Heroes by the world's game critics, you'd think it won WW2 (the RTS) single-handedly. It didn't. Not quite, anyway. Most of CoH's most striking features first surfaced in a Russian strategy game released over two years ago. Soldiers: Heroes of World War II was the very first real-time tactics title to combine spectacular physics, great graphics, and a good-sized dollop of WW2 realism. Only a lack of polish and presentational panache kept its gong tally low.
The few that did discover the wonders of S:HoWW2 will know roughly what to expect from this often brilliant, sometimes ropey follow-up. Faces of War is an RTS in which you demolish structures rather than erect them. It's an RTS in which every soldier and vehicle has their own inventory, and every soldier and vehicle can be manoeuvred arcade-style with the aid of cursor keys (for movement) and a mouse (for targeting). This marvellous 'direct control' facility dramatically narrows that emotional distance we take for granted in strategy games. Sending a tank down a suspiciously quiet street with a single mouse click will never ever be as exciting or involving as steering it down that street personally, moving the main gun warily from left to right as you go.