In the Company of Greatness
C OH was a superb game—superb visuals, a superb aural component, amazing campaign scenarios, and an immersive experience like no other. Creating such an RTS isn’t easy, and sequels are only fun if they out do their predecessors. Out came Opposing Fronts, and I just had to get my hands on it. For me, the best part of the COH franchise is the gameplay itself. The beautifully crafted, realistic locales, the winding storyline, the sheer grit of combat, and the beauty of immensely detailed maps, all add to the level of immersion, and after a while, I effortlessly slipped into the role of a World War 2 sergeant, or tank commander, depending on the mission. The missions themselves were very well done, and hardly repetitive. As a gamer, you were always kept on your toes, guessing, and COH rewarded quick strategic thinkers—a formula which I absolutely loved.
Opposing Fronts brings with it two campaigns. This time you get to play as both the Axis (German) forces as well as the Allies (British). This adds some more replayability for the campaign part of the game. Both add up to be longer than the original game's campaign—I’m a fan of single player, so goody! In the first campaign, you’ll play as two German brothers who are tasked with battling British forces who airdropped in a daring raid that was historically known as Operation Market Garden. The British part of the campaign has you battling against the forces of the Third Reich in a struggle to regain the French city of Caen. At the very outset both the Germans and British play very differently from the original game, and there are a number of new units, with new abilities, and a host of new vehicles.
The terms of strategy the British, as a race, focus on their infantry and artillery more, they rely on delaying enemy advances with mines, and Howitzers. They are also a lot more mobile with good infantry support providing tanks, like the Sherman FireFly and the Cromwell—the former a tank destroyer, and the latter a general purpose tank. The light Stuart battle tank makes short work of foot soldiers, and can be used to support advances against troop emplaced within structures and machine gun nests. The lumbering, heavily armoured Churchill tank is also available, in three avatars. The British infantry are also able builders, especially their sappers, who can also lay mines and wield anti tank weapons.
The Germans are also mobile, in fact, even more so, as they have the most powerful tanks in the game. While the British must build their tanks, the Germans have most of their tanks made available to them via the command point tree. Although they can only build a Panzer IV tank, you can summon powerful all purpose Panther tanks, tank hunter Hetzer tanks, and the super tank-hunter the Jadgpanther. In the campaign you will also get to control the King Tiger, a very powerful tank strong against most enemies. The Germans tend to bulldoze the map—once they get access to these powerful tanks.
Despite their differences I found both sides to be evenly matched, the British with their devastating artillery and the Axis, with their ability to booby trap resource points and buildings. Relic’s winning formula remains largely unchanged, except for faction changes, and why the heck not?
Environments and effects detail remain a treat for the eyes. Battlefields can be rain drenched, foggy, or arid, and everything from the totally destructible environments and structures is detailed to perfection. Remnants of vehicles, scorched bodies, and debris can be seen after battles, even terrain deformation is impressive. All weapon effects are impressive, and attention to detail is good—for example, you will witness details like the smoke that comes out of a tank's exhaust, or the recoil of a shoulder mounted bazooka. Troops will seek cover if fired upon, and their desperate scampering around amid shouted orders really sets the tone for realism.
The multiplayer component is robust, but due to the high system requirements, you may be hard pressed to find servers. Skirmish mode against AI opponents is fun though.
For me COH: Opposing Fronts is a game virtually sans flaws. I happen to have a fast PC with a quad core, 4 GB of RAM and a GeForce 8800GTX graphics card, so I could enjoy this game in all its splendour. And I’ve never come across a better WW2 based RTS experience!