Company of Heroes is without my favourite RTS title of the moment. Yet funnily enough, it took me a while to get into it!
As with most RTS games, I jump straight in and have a few rounds of the skirmish levels. I think this gives you a good overall 'feel' for the game and sets you up in preparation for the campaign mode.
So, I jump in with both feet. And get wasted. Try again. Get wasted by the CPU opposition again. Oh dear. What's going on here? The AI seems to have an uncanny ability in knowing what you're doing at all times. Try as I might, I get nailed by the AI, unless I knocked the difficulty level down to Easy.
So I ignore CoH for a few weeks. And I think about trying out the campaign mode - despite my misgivings of the skirmish mode. Straight into the US Campaign I go and it is there that CoH starts to unfold its sheer brilliance.
Everything gels. The sound effects, the dialogue between the troops, the amazing level of detail in the unit animation (just watch the firing/reloading sequence of the '88 AT guns, for example) and the feeling that each unit type really does have a role to play in the game.
And that brings me on to CoH's trump card. You know an AT crew is for taking out tanks, right? You know a sniper excels at taking out infantry from a distance already? Sure you did. Every unit type is based on real-life WW2 kits, meaning that its very easy to pickup what unit works where - and best for your mode of play.
Once the highly enjoyable US campaign was completed, I started the German one and then finished with the British one. In terms of order, I'd say the US campaign is the most difficult, the German one the easiest (and shortest) and the British one is perhaps the most enjoyable overall.
Since having completed the campaigns, I'm now an avid convert to the CoH skirmish mode. Now that I know how the game 'plays' - I'm enjoying different ways of trying to take on that damn AI!
Even if you've never been a fan of RTS games - that something like the Command and Conquer series simply made you fall asleep at the keyboard - give Company of Heroes a try, anyway. It really is such a well crafted, well made and thoroughly enjoyable game from start to finish. It would be such a shame to miss out.