Storming the pincer attack.
Folks who know me also know I adore Company of Heroes. I recall a friend suggesting that I verbally fellate the game on a regular basis. I therefore may not be the most unbiased reviewer imaginable for the new “expand-alone” Opposing Fronts. So mix yourself up some margaritas and bring a shaker of salt, because I’m about to start sweet-talking.
[image1]Opposing Fronts capitalizes on the original’s strengths, considerably adding to the gameplay with new factions: the Panzer Elite, excellently trained soldiers that served in Germany’s defense in the latter years of World War II; and the British army, artillery-happy soldiers who are always content to stare down the barrels of Jerry’s guns. Both factions bring new, unique twists to the classic action of Company of Heroes.
The Panzer Elite focus on mobility, adaptable infantry, and light vehicles. While they can call in some heavy tank support with their special abilities, their typical forces are essentially halftracks loaded with riflemen. The player can select how they upgrade, whether it is increased damage, accuracy, speed, or resilience, allowing units to adapt to their situation. Squads who are protecting your base would benefit from extra defense and damage while squads on the assault would gain from enhanced speed and damage. Were it not for the efficiency with which the Germans shoot down their foes, I would have pictured Hee-Haw music in the background.
Throw in some nasty special weapons, some vehicles that can perform field repairs on other vehicles, and a few bombing runs, and the possibilities spread open quicker than the arms of your mom. That’s right, I said your mom!
The British, on the other hand, don’t have the same mobility as the Panzer Elite, but instead, have their bases operate out of the backs of huge trucks. Rather than having a centralized base, the British can spread their operations over the entire map, making it hard to corner them. Add in some of the strongest defenses, including trenches that can be garrisoned, and some nasty artillery, and the British become an interesting combination of choke-pointing and steady assaults.
[image2]The new campaigns, one for each new faction, are well-done. The Panzer Elite campaign covers the failed Operation: Market Garden, and the British get to liberate Caen. Though the campaigns don’t have quite the same attention to detail or the variety of missions that the original campaigns in Company of Heroes had, they’re solidly put together and will give players a great avenue to learning how each side works best.
The graphics still hold up extremely well. The additions of weather effects and more dynamic lighting, as well as DirectX10 support, keep the game looking spectacular. Opposing Fronts does need a reasonably beefy computer, though, or your willingness to drop the settings a few notches. It might even be better to run it in DirectX9 at a higher resolution than bothering with DirectX10.
Of special note in Opposing Fronts is the quality of the sound and music. The dynamic soundtrack switches between tense and anticipatory to heroic and bombastic brilliantly. Drop artillery shells onto defending troops and the music swells with cinematic gusto. Pull back to the bustle of your base and the music will ease down into more toned down, expectant string and brass sections.
Company of Heroes is also unabashed in the use of profanity in the voice acting. Though you never hear iconic pejoratives like ‘Kraut’, there’s plenty of swearing. This might sound as though it would cheapen and denigrate the dialogue with expletives, but how it’s done brings a lot of personality, especially with the British troops. You don’t have to listen to a bunch of dull stereotypes about scones, tea, lovely weather, chaps, or stiff upper-anythings.
[image3]While the net code has been upgraded from the standards from Company of Heroes, it’s still the single weakest part of the game. You’ll experience more bugs, crashes, and performance drops while playing online than in any other mode. This is a pity, as the game is otherwise excellent in multiplayer, giving players chances to put a lot of strategies into play by connecting different support abilities and armies.
Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts is an excellent addition to an excellent game, and ample proof that the RTS genre can be both accessible and complex. Do yourself the favor of picking Opposing Fronts and the original up. You won’t be disappointed.