Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts Review :
Trials and Tribulations
Company of Heroes was one of the best, if not the best, strategy games of 2006, making it a tough act for Opposing Fronts to follow. In spite of this it manages to hold its own, delivering some exciting new gameplay without disrupting what made the original game so much fun to play.
First I should point out that Opposing Fronts is more than simply an expansion game. It can stand on its own and doesn’t require that you own the original Company of Heroes game. If you don’t have Company of Heroes you won’t get the original campaign, but with two full campaigns Opposing Fronts may be one of the only expansion games out there that delivers more gameplay than the original game.
The two new campaigns put you in control of the new factions introduced in the game, the British Army and the Panzer Elite. The British Army campaign focuses on the British campaign leading up to and culminating in the assault of Caen shortly after the Normandy invasion. The Panzer Elite campaign has you staving off the airborne assault of Arnhem during Operation Market Garden. Both campaigns do a great job of introducing you to the nuances and characteristics of the new factions while giving you plenty of the dynamic battlefield action that made the original game so good. The campaigns also put you into direct conflict with the other new faction so you can learn how to deal with their capabilities and tactics. The campaign battles are all objective-based, but they still work within the game’s framework.
Opposing Fronts thankfully doesn’t do anything to change the core gameplay of Company of Heroes. Maps are still divided into sectors and at the center of each one is a control point. Capture a control point and that sector will begin producing one of the game’s three resources for your faction. These resources can then be used for everything from shoring up defenses to calling in reinforcements to upgrading units. It’s a good system that doesn’t force you to do something ridiculous like assign soldiers to chop down trees while still forcing you to make sound decisions about your force structure while working with limited resources.
The two new factions are more than just new faces on old units. Each one has a distinct style of play that’s different than each other and from the original game’s American and German factions. The British are an interesting combination of heavy artillery and defensive fortifications. Rather than mount a direct assault on the enemy, the British are better suited to deploy a few howitzers, build a defensive perimeter around them, and then flatten the enemy until they can simply walk in and take the objective. One of the most important British units is the sapper squad, which is like an engineering squad on steroids. Not only can sappers repair bridges and tanks in the field, they can deploy trenches, artillery, and machine pillboxes. The British also deploy leader units that can be attached to squads to give them a defensive boost. Place a trench in front of a howitzer, deploy a squad with an attached lieutenant to the trench, and then leave them to guard the howitzer to pound the enemy until the squad can walk in and take their objective unopposed.
The Panzer Elite are not just on the opposite side of the British, they have a diametrically opposed combat doctrine. The Panzer Elite are fully mechanized and are all about mobility. Squads can be loaded onto halftracks and continue to fire from within and motorcycle troops can scoot across the map in no time. Rather than slowly and methodically pu shing across the map, the Panzer Elite race from control point to control point, harassing the enemy until they don’t know where they’ll be hit next. While excelling at moving around the map quickly, they also have the ability to slow down the enemy. Jagdpanther tank hunters can stop an armored advance in its tracks and booby traps and roadblocks can make it slow going for enemy troops and vehicles.
If you don’t own Company of Heroes then the British Army and the Panzer Elite will be the only factions available to you for multiplayer, while those lucky enough to own both games can choose between all four. The new factions work well together in multiplayer battles especially in the hands of good players. British artillery can soften up enemy defenses and pave the way for the superior firepower of the American tanks and infantry to push their way through the enemy defenses. The Panzer Elite can harass the enemy and look for holes in their defenses while the German Army exploits the weak points in the distracted enemy’s lines.
If you’ve played Company of Heroes then you know how amazing the game’s graphics are. Everything in the battlefield is destructible from high church steeples down to garden walls. Furthermore, the rubble becomes part of the battlefield – infantry can even hunker down in an artillery shell crater for cover. The explosion effects are incredible, so much so that you may find yourself making excuses to launch another artillery barrage just so you can watch the show. The sound is outstanding as well. It seems that every weapon in the game has its own distinct sound and among the cacophony of weapons fire you’ll hear the shouts of men and feel the emotion behind their voices.
Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts does what every expansion pack should do: take a great game and make it even better. If you enjoyed Company of Heroes, then you’ll love the expanded gameplay that comes with Opposing Fronts. And even though the game is a standalone expansion, gamers new to Company of Heroes should also buy the original game along with Opposing Fronts. Together they make for some of the best strategy gameplay available.
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