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Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts

Company Of Heroes was the strategy game of last year - brutal, brilliant and full of brawn. Can the sequel reach similar heights? Suzy Wallace tracks its progress...

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Dad's Army
The first thing that Relic are really keen to stress is just how different the two new armies will feel. Mosqueira explains the reasoning behind this.

"It's not like a fantasy or sci-fi game where you can add hover-tanks or demons. All the armies share common units, so our goal is really to make sure that when you're commanding the British or the Panzer Elite, they feel unique and distinct. In terms of looks, characteristics, abilities and tactics, every army has a unique essence that sets them apart from the others."

As the only journalist present from the UK, a patriotic smile spreads across my face when the British army appears on screen. Art director Nick Carota explains their visual style. "The British are extremely straightforward and efficient, and very practical - they endured a lot of suffering in the war. We're trying to represent that in their vehicle design, so there's a lot of gigantic bolts and it's like they melted down a whole bunch of cast-iron frying pans to build this Cromwell tank, which they did do." But the differences aren't just limited to their design...

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British lieutenants and captains serve as the army's lynchpins, offering nearby units offensive and defensive bonuses respectively, and in contrast to previous squads, they're the only British units able to become veterans. The Brits will also be able to call upon masses of artillery to back them up, delivering everything from counter-barrages to a general pounding of an area. But the Tommies' key advantage is their defensive ability. Forget COH's measly sandbags; our plucky privates specialise in digging in and weathering the storm. Slit trenches offer excellent cover and are able to withstand direct hits, mortar/anti-tank/anti-aircraft pits can be dug out to provide specialised defences and artillery emplacements can also be constructed.

Another unique British trait (as well as, presumably, the ability to whistle jauntily), is the ability to pack up their barracks and move it to the front line, putting an emphasis on picking out key sectors, moving there and then digging in. Relic also lets on that their command tree will feature the Royal Canadian Artillery, the Royal Commandos and the Royal Scots Engineers, although further details are scarce.

With all the defensive options on offer, playing as the Brits will offer a hugely different experience from what we've seen before. And before you cringe at the thought of all those Jamie Oliver soundalikes, you'll be happy to know that Relic are working hard on making the voiceovers as believable as possible, with auditions being conducted to search out the right talent. Which is great news indeed, guvnor.

Ze Germans
The Panzer Elite are a different matter entirely. Carota explains their design. "Visually, they're very badass. They've got the stealth look to all their vehicles. They had some of the coolest camo in the war, they loved their leather jackets and some of their half-tracks were like the Batmobile. We've just had a field-day working with their stuff."

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Contrasting starkly with the Brits, they're a vehicle-based army with little to no static defences.

Instead, when troops are garrisoned into one of their vehicles, the soldiers will take up proper offensive positions within it, shooting their weapons from its relatively safe confines, essentially turning the thing into a huge chunk of mobile armour.
Some of the game's most powerful vehicles are controlled by these guys, including the Jagdpanther, which Relic liken to a moving bunker, explaining that it once took five US Sherman tanks to disable one. Their command trees should also prove intriguing, with Luftwaffe ground troops, tank hunters and scorched earth being the three options on offer.

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