I hate Nazis. But even more than the Nazis, I hate their tanks. I admit that I was never particularly skilled at the original Company of Heroes, but no matter how hard I tried, whether I built entrenchments bristling with anti-tank guns or battalions of anti-tank infantry, every game ended the same. Build cool airborne infantry, defeat early German push with superior mobility, get mowed down by tanks. Build British death commandos, sneak behind enemy lines, devastate German morale and supply lines, get mowed down by tanks. Build massive fortifications with British engineers, fend off waves of German attackers while allies secure other victory points, watch allies die, get mowed down by tanks.
I can hear you now. Why didn't you build your own tanks? That's because allied tanks in World War 2 and in Company of Heroes were crap. Build allied tanks? Watch German soldiers laugh at you while your tanks tread uselessly about the battlefield and get exploded into a thousand million shame filled pieces. By tanks.
I can hear veteran allied commanders harumphing from every corner of the interwebs, chomping on their cigars, twirling their mustaches, and readjusting their fashionable berets. Well, my dear boy, you see, German tanks have weaker armor in the rear. If you were to use your troop formations to lure Jerry into a false sense of security, and then sneak a squad of soldiers around the back with anti-tank weapons, why, you'd make mince-meat of Fritz's panzers and be home in time for tea and crumpets. Superior strategy, my boy! That's the way to beat the Hun.
No, dapper British commander, you're wrong. The way to beat the Hun's tanks is to build your own tanks and use them to grind the Fascists beneath the tread of the people's work-boot. The way to beat the Hun is embrace the glory offered by Comrade Stalin and Mother Russia. The way to beat the Hun is to have twice as many soldiers as the enemy has bullets so that Hitler will have to climb a wall of the Soviet dead if he hopes to spend the winter in Moscow. The way to beat the Hun is to grow a manly beard, wrestle bears, and wear a fur hat with a red star on it. The red star of Soviet Russia.
If you're familiar with the original Company of Heroes, then you'll be largely at home with Company of Heroes 2. Much remains as it was. What has changed are a few map mechanics and the addition of the a new faction. On the map, there are a few new strategic points one can capture, and sometimes blizzards show up. Should your troops stand out in them, away from sources of heat (like giant bonfires) they'll freeze to death. As for the Russians, well, they're pretty much everything I ever wanted in the original Company of Heroes.
The Russians begin with a four man engineering squad that can be upgraded to carry flame throwers among other things. After that, depending on the type of general you've selected to lead your army, you can build conscripts and a type of special infantry. Conscripts are useful in that they can throw grenades, capture territory, and deploy sandbags, but don't count on them for much beyond that. They're outclassed by pretty much every other infantry unit in the game, except perhaps the German pioneer squads. If you chose a general that offers Imperial Guard, you'll have some sturdy anti-tank soldiers. The Shock Troops on the other hand, are great at dealing with enemy infantry.
Beyond the specialized infantry, you can hire the standard mortar teams, machine gun squads, half tracks, sniper teams, and scout vehicles. Once you get into tank territory the fun begins.
The Russians have a light tank, which is quicker and good at dealing with infantry. The medium tank moves along at a fairly brisk pace and can trade a few punches with German panzers before it needs to go home and get its armor plates welded shut. The true beauty of the Russian tank line is the IS-2 "Stalin." While it isn't the top dog in the tank department (that honor still belongs to the German Tiger Tank), it has plenty of firepower, and as long as you field it carefully, there is little on the battlefield that you will need to fear. Combine a few of these bad boys with a flamethrower tank and some shock troopers? The Germans will weep for ever having come to the frozen tundra of Russia.
My gleeful laughter echoed through my home as my Stalin tanks roved about the battlefield, pounding enemy positions and vehicles with enormous 122mm shells. As a blizzard blew into the area, a group of German soldiers and tanks retreated to a frozen lake, hoping to escape from my wrath by crossing it. Sadly, as my tanks fired on them from the safety of the shore, the ice cracked beneath Hitler's panzers, and they were swallowed up by the only mistress harsher than Mother Russia: Mother Nature.
"Are you going to tell us about the Germans?" you ask.
I will not dishonor my family by leading the Nazis into battle. If you want to know how they play, you'll have to try them yourself. Overall, I was pleased with Company of Heroes 2. It certainly isn't worth forty dollars for the graphics update and the new mechanics, if you happen to have played the original, but it's well worth it if you can get the game on sale or have yet to have experienced the goodness that is the CoH franchise.
If I were to complain about something, it would be the dearth of material that comes with the basic game. As if it weren't already a bit on the steep side, Sega has decided to parcel out half of the game's content in the form of extremely expensive DLC. In order to get all the generals and missions you're spending almost as much as you pay for the original game. If the core experience weren't so pretty and fun, the word rip-off would be coming to mind. As things stand, I'll be watching for the unlikely possibility of a 75% off sale on Steam a few years down the road before I even touch any of the DLC.