Company of Heroes Theater of War

Theater of War

Relic Entertainment’s Company of Heroes 2 development team is dropping a very pleasant surprise today on fans who have been waiting for this real-time strategy game to debut. The new Theater of War mode is a cooperative single-player mode that serves as a bridge to multiplayer play.

Company of Heroes 2, which Sega picked up along with Relic from the ashes of THQ, will ship with the 1941 pack of Theater of War missions, including nine German and nine Russian missions. That’s a huge amount of additional content, considering that the single-player campaign itself has just 14 missions. I played one of the missions and found it to be a lot of fun.

While the single-player campaign follows a strict narrative — a story about the war — this new mode offers battles that illustrate other important moments between the Russians and the Germans during the first part of the war, said Simon Watts, a spokesman for Relic in an interview with GamesBeat. Big battles of 1941 are in Theater of War missions — engagements that the main games doesn’t cover.

The new missions bring about different kinds of play that you may or may not pursue in multiplayer games. For instance, in one mission, you only get two or three squads for the entire battle, and you have to keep them alive as you take a series of strong points. You can face off against different kinds of artificial intelligence, such as one that turtles up with defenses around its artillery, or another that builds only tanks so it can rush you.

Theater of War interface“It allows the player to get used to different kinds of multiplayer strategies in solo missions,” Watts said. “With Theater of War, we have a mission pack to tell a story within the larger war. We held this as a surprise until the end.”

Some of the missions can also involve multiple players in cooperative mode, such as a battle where you have to hold a map for three days and three nights against enemy assaults. During that time, you have the benefit of a daily morning artillery strike.

In another map, you’ll have two squads of infantry along with armor to take a whole map. You have to avoid booby traps and deal with a limited number of tools to win.

I played this mission over the course of a half hour or so. In this match, I had to take a bunch of points that earned supplies for the Germans without losing all of my infantry. I had to creep into some locations to avoid ambushes. This exposed my infantry, but kept my tanks alive. And I had to make liberal use of German artillery and air power. At one point, you can take over a repair depot that fixes your tanks and keeps them alive for a longer time as the Russians launch a counterattack.

I almost made it through to the end. In fact, I did manage to take the last control point, but then I lost my last infantry unit to the Russians. It was an interesting take on the early stage of the war, where the Germans had a lot of advantages but were vulnerable at the same time.

Theater of War close rangeRelic is also preparing a second Theater of War pack for those who preorder Company of Heroes 2.

“We’ll keep on expanding this cooperative mode,” Watts said.

The final game is shipping from Sega for the PC on June 25.