Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts
The last year the RTS landscape was dominated by Supreme Commander and Company of Heroes and both didn’t have to wait long for an expansion. COH is the first one with Opposing Fronts, a stand-alone expansion pack that lets you play with the British and Panzer Elite troops.
With the latter you need to try make Operation “Market Garden” fail while with the Brits you’ll have to conquer Caen to create a birdge for the allied war machine. Prepare for an offensive campaign as with the new units Relic clearly wants to force players in begin in attack-mode, even with the more static British setup. But next to new campaigns and multiplayer maps we’re mostly interested in the new units and tactics and those – at first glance – don’t disappoint at all.
The British get a more static playing style which gives them the chance to take over a part of the map and then send cannon fodder toward the Königstigers whether or not with support from artillery. Their mobile command trucks and the Royal Commandos Support make it possible for them to try out a guerilla tactic and the fun thing is that the commandos can plant explosives anywhere, sometimes a lot more handy, but certainly always more spectacular than a minefield.
The Germans – who can’t set up defensive constructions or bunkers – rely on their tanks and other rolling material. Panthers, Hetzers and Jagdpanzers really quickly get rid of a lone exploring Cromwell tank. With their Bergetiger they can even bring back wreckages to life which makes the investment in this expensive and unarmed tank really worthwhile. Unfortunately the Bergetiger is quite selective with its repairs as shooting a Sherman Firefly and repairing it to get it on your side is not an option. No German, no repair seems to be the motto.
Next to the gameplay also the veteran system has been adjusted a bit. With the British individual units can no longer gain experience but their accomplishments and behaviour in the battlefield do have an impact on the officer you can assign to that unit. An infantry platoon can therefore upgrade the lieutenant that goes with them so they themselves can then enjoy all kinds of bonusses. Officers are also important for artillery support and can give your footsoldiers that extra tidbit of motivation they need to get over that hill. With the Panzer Elite on the other side you can choose with each unit whether you want to spend the gained experience on an offensive or defensive bonus.
Opposing Fronts offers enough variation and innovation in gameplay to keep you occupied for some time but then you’ll have to be prepared to undergo the repetitive single player missions (some being straight copies from the original game) including the irritating copy protection. If your firewall doesn’t block RELICCOH.EXE or you’re online by accident, the only way to play the game is to make a Relic account and from there log in into the game – even for the single player part. The other option is Exit to Windows. The DVD validation can only be chosen when the game doesn’t detect an internet connection.
Although one could understand this way of working – Relic lost a ton of money due to the illegal copying of COH – some more customer-friendly way of protection wouldn’t have hurt. (the same protection is also present in version 1.8x of the original game)
Finally some words on the graphics and sound. As Ryuken, Fragland’s biggest strategy expert, already said once, Company of Heroes is a strategy game with the graphical qualities of a first person shooter. Even when you don’t have the latest top of the line Alienware XPS Super Gaming System the game will still look beautiful and this hasn’t changed with this expansion. Now that there’s also dynamic weather effects present as well everything looks and sounds even better than ever before. You’re playing your own war movie!
Opposing Fronts is a worthy successor of Company of Heroes but still this expansion is mostly targeted towards multiplayer. The new units cry out for new tactics and a playing style that’s more concentrated and offensive than ever before and which make for adrenaline-pumping street fights and impressive tank battles. Technically everything is A-OK and there’s nothing more for you to do than to enjoy watching screaming soldiers and exploding tanks from behind your desk.