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Entering the Rzhev Meat Grinder in Company of Heroes 2

Xav de Matos, @Xav

If seeing Soviet forces engage the Germans in the PC-exclusive Company of Heroes 2 taught me anything, it's that the war would have be lost if I was at the helm of the world's defense.

At a pre-E3 event in Los Angeles last week, Vancouver-based developer Relic Entertainment revealed the newest entry in its strategy series. Company of Heroes was a landmark title for the developer, solidifying its presence in the genre with one of the best RTS games ever released, followed by standalone expansions. I sunk hours pushing Jerries back from the brink of world destruction in the original Company of Heroes and its expansions, but the newest game seems unrelenting.

Gallery: Company of Heroes 2 (5/22/12) | 7 Photos

Unrelenting action is exactly what I want from a new entry into the series: I want Relic to make it as difficult as possible for me to win the war. Company of Heroes 2 is still a long way from hitting store shelves, set with a vague "early 2013" release window, so there wasn't a lot on display at the event. While there are still plenty of technical features being implemented into the final version, Company of Heroes 2 was gorgeous.

The contrast of a snow-capped township set as the stage for an epic battle was striking. Engineers can make short work of structures with flamethrowers, which look remarkable against the iced-over environments.

Only one level was available at the event, taking place during World War 2's Battles of Rzhev campaign, historically known as the "Rzhev Meat Grinder" for its staggering amount of losses. Relic says one of its goals with Company of Heroes 2 it to tell a better story, engaging players with a better understanding of what the war is like for all sides. How they aim to accomplish that remains to be seen; however, the addition of a deeper narrative doesn't appear to be hampering Relic's gameplay vision.

Company of Heroes 2 features plenty of new tactical decisions. There are, for example, more movement options on the battlefield with abilities like vaulting over cover. Because this is possible, and the map played was so huge, enemies poured in from all sides.

There are also major changes coming to how players see the world around them. Using a new system Relic calls TrueSight, players not only have to deal with the fog of war, but must also maintain line of sight with enemies. You can't just enter an area and magically reveal three-hundred and sixty degrees from your position – you need to keep eyes on enemies to maintain a clear picture of the battlefield.

This is where I could see myself getting out the stationery to write a lot of letters of remorse to the mothers of software-based soldiers. Like the original games, things progress extraordinarily quickly during the battle. Small engagements explode into large assaults, though there was always a sense of cementing your footing in the original Company of Heroes. Here, the escalation seems even faster and more relentless, and only the best strategic minds will survive clashes unscathed. It's hard for me not to be excited by those prospects.

I hope to see more, including details on multiplayer, as Company of Heroes 2's 2013 release inches closer.

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