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First Look: Company of Heroes Online

What would I have done without Paratroopers? I only had the ability to call down these chain smoking sky-warriors because my division commander, my persistent avatar for Company of Heroes Online, had chosen to specialise in air support, and had levelled up enough to gain the skill. If I had chosen infantry specialisation then I would have had to rely on different strategies. I could have called in a squad of tank slaying Rangers instead, or used my own aerial bombardments to push the Germans back. Alternatively, as a tank commander I could have called in the more fearsome war machines to dominate the Stugs and Panzers roaming the field, and gone straight to their base to win by annihilation.

It's hard to tailor your army set-up like this when relying on random drops. Fortunately, troops can also be purchased from the online store with Supply, the in-game currency earned by completing missions and multi player matches. I've found the rate at which I've gained Supply to be fairly slow so far, but in the final version of the game you'll also be able to buy these items with real money to save time.

I've been enjoying the new hero units a lot. In fact, on returning to the original Company of Heroes for a few games, I found that I'd become quite reliant on them, and missed my special engineers and their ability to repair tanks at super-speed. There is a niggling worry I can't shake, however. The great success of Company of Heroes as a multi player game lies in the near perfect balance between the Allied and Axis factions. With hundreds of new hero units and army items being added to the game, I wonder if Relic can retain this fine balance, and keep matches competitive. Right now, with the game in beta in Korea and not due to hit America until late summer, it's too early to tell, but I can't wait to find out.

Of all the new additions, the experience system, the special units, the army items, the best thing I can say about Company of Heroes Online so far is that the quality of the original game shines through. It's still one of the most complex and fascinating RTS games out there, and one of the most intense and brutal depictions of war in gaming. Considering the fact that the entire single player campaign is to be included as part of the free download, it might just prove to be one of the best deals in gaming as well.

Based in Bath with the UK team, Tom loves strategy games, action RPGs, hack ‘n slash games, digital card games… basically anything that he can fit on a hard drive. His final boss form is Deckard Cain.