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The grim beauty of Company of Heroes is that it gives aspirant World War II strategists a bird s eye view of battlefield and takes them down into the brutal detail of the foxhole. It s a war sim experienced from above and below, where the general sees all his decisions—good and bad—played out in realtime.
Relic s original 2006 RTS game was a hit partly because of the delicate way it walked a line that felt satisfying and authentic. With the WWII experience already so well-executed in other genres—shooters and grand strategy sims—COH found a middle ground where it could show the conflict from a new angle. From its squad-based point of view, the tide of battle in COH could be turned by the presence of a single soldier or unit. This perspective also nodded to the intensely personal stories in films like Saving Private Ryan and the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers, both of which had appeared in the previous decade and enjoyed near-universal acclaim.
In this edition of If you like, I ve picked media that takes a similar, soldier s-eye-view approach to WWII. They aren t stories of far-removed commanders or politicians, but rather the men who had to carry out their orders in the various theaters of the 20th century s most brutal war. Given the scope of WWII, any list of recommendations could be almost endless. So with that in mind, be sure to include your own favorites in the comment section below.
Stalingrad, directed by Joseph Vilsmaier
With Company of Heroes 2, the series took its successful squad-based approach to the Eastern Front of the war. And in a way that reflected the much bloodier reality of the conflict between Germany and the Soviet Union in the east, the game adopted a darker tone as well. In the 1993 German film Stalingrad, we witness the full arc of the famous battle played out through the eyes of a group of tight-knit German soldiers.
Stalingrad traces the story of an elite German unit as it takes part in what would turn out to be one of the turning points of the entire war. The Battle of Stalingrad played out in the city s bombed out streets, sewer tunnels, and eventually its frozen countryside as the German army became surrounded. The film is ultimately a story of failure, but also one of friendship as resistance to the horrors of war.
COH 2 s turn to the east can also be seen as part of an increased focus in recent years on the cost borne by Eastern Europe during and after WWII. For a historical account of these developments, I d recommend taking a look at author Timothy Snyder s recent contribution to our understanding of the Eastern Front—Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin.
War Stories, written by Garth Ennis with various artists
In War Stories, comics writer Garth Ennis turns his pen towards a variety of true-to-life experiences during WWII. Noted for his work on comics like Preacher and Punisher, in War Stories Ennis attempts to ground the larger conflict in discrete tales of individuals caught up in unpredictable circumstances.
The eight-issue series, now collected in two volumes, has a scope that takes in battles all over the European theater, from North Africa to the Battle of Britain to the final days on the Eastern Front before Germany s surrender. In reviewing Ennis s work, Colin Smith notes that his writing isn t a tale of events which feel as if they re nothing but ancient history, long since settled and entirely predictable in hindsight. In taking us away from the commonplace and focusing on the lives of his small cast of touchingly-depicted individuals, Ennis constantly compels us to remember how chaotic and unpredictable his character s lives are.
If you see COH as I do, as somehow tipping its hat to warfare as carefully-managed chaos, it s worth checking out Ennis s War Stories.
Kelly s Heroes, directed by Brian G. Hutton
If the dirty, impressionistic violence of Saving Private Ryan changed how a new generation of filmgoers saw WWII, then Kelly s Heroes serves as a reminder of an earlier approach to depicting the war. In the 1970 film starring Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, and Donald Sutherland, war is hell, but it s also a hell of an adventure. If you were to reverse engineer Saving Private Ryan as a kind of twisted, 1960s WWII Western, it might look something like Kelly s Heroes.
The basic story deals with a group of disillusioned American soldiers who go AWOL in order to rip off a bank behind enemy lines. Sick of feeling like pawns in the ambitious games of crazy generals, the soldiers set out to win a piece of the war that they can take home with them—gold. It s pure Hollywood but also hugely entertaining. The combat set pieces in the film range over the French countryside and could be ripped right out of the COH campaign. And as with so many older films that deploy practical effects well, the tank battles and infantry skirmishes have aged quite nicely.
Kelly s Heroes doesn t shy away from showing the costs of warfare, but rather confronts it with a kind of sarcastic humor and fantasy that s also become an important artifact in dealing with the legacy of WWII.
The Young Lions, by Irwin Shaw
The Young lions
Of all the American combat novels to appear after the conclusion of World War II, three proved to be definitive: James Jones s The Thin Red Line, Norman Mailer s The Naked and the Dead, and Irwin Shaw s The Young Lions. And of those, only Shaw s 1948 work deals with the war in Europe rather than the Pacific.
Epic in its ambition, Shaw weaves together the story of three soldiers fighting on different sides of the war. Direct and suitably unadorned, his style is excellent at bringing the reader into the moment-by-moment experience of combat: The firing stopped and it was quiet again, except for shouts from the wounded out in the field. When a man raised his head carefully to look over the embankment to see what could be done, the guns started again, and the grass on the edge of the embankment snapped and slashed through the air as the bullets cut through it. The remnants of the Company lay exhausted, then, along the ditch.
What The Young Lions captures so vividly is the psychological dimension of combat and the way it changes the people caught up in it. The novel also highlights the almost absurd disconnect that exists between the fighting men on the ground and the commanders giving orders from eighty miles away. Just as COH closes this distance with its realtime approach, Shaw s writing excels at telling stories of the war as it was fought in the ditch rather than the war room.
While this week's main Humble Bundle is chumming about with region locked Nintendo games, the Weekly Bundle is well worth your attention. It is an awful lot of video game war for not a lot of money. Specifically, it is Relic video game war.
Here's what paying what you want will get you:
- Company of Heroes: Complete Edition
- Dawn of War: Game of the Year Edition
- Dawn of War 2
- Company of Heroes 2 - The Western Front Armies: Oberkommando West
Yes, it's a bit odd to include Company of Heroes 2's standalone multiplayer expansion without the game it's based on. But if you pay above the average, you'll also get:
- Company of Heroes 2
- Company of Heroes 2 - The Western Front Armies: US Forces
- Dawn of War 2: Retribution
- Warhammer 40K: Space Marine
Should you extend your payment to $15 you'll also get Company of Heroes 2's most recent expandalone, Ardennes Assault.
There are some RTS classics nestled in there. It's worth dipping in just for Dawn of War: Retribution's excellent Last Stand multiplayer mode.
The bundle will run until Thursday, June 4.
GOG has added some Saints Row, some Darksiders, and a Metro game to its lineup, all of them completely without the hassles and headaches we know (and really don't love) as digital rights management. And to mark the moment, it's got them all on sale, too.
First up is Saints Row 2, now on for $4 instead of the regular $10 price, and Saints Row: The Third—The Full Package, which includes the main game and a pile of DLC, for $5 instead of $15. Then there's Darksiders, currently going for $8, and Darksiders II, which is $12. The Darksiders II Complete DLC pack is also up for grabs for $8.
Finally, there's Metro: Last Light Redux, and this one strikes me as a bit odd, because Metro 2033 Redux is nowhere to be seen. Licensing issues are sometimes a problem with GOG releases, but Deep Silver hold the rights to the entire franchise, so if it can do one it should be able to do both. Technical issues, maybe?
Whatever the case, Metro: Last Light Redux is on for $12.50, which I'd say is a really good price for a really good shooter. All five of the new-to-GOG games are available now, and will remain on sale until May 18.
Update: The mystery of the missing Metro hasn't exactly been solved, but it has been acknowledged, and there's a chance the game will turn up at some point in the future. "We cannot say exactly why it s been released this way, since this is related to discussions that are under NDA," a GOG rep explained. "But we sure hope that we will be able to bring Metro 2033 Redux to GOG in the future."
Want to play some free games this weekend? Steam's latest Free Weekend promotion has a couple to choose from, and they couldn't be more different. One lets you colonise an alien world, another lets you spray liquid faeces at buildings and people.
I'll let you decide which sounds more appealing. No judgements.
In one corner we have Firaxis's latest, Civilization: Beyond Earth. In the other corner, Volition's absurdist open-world comedy Saints Row. It's the full series that's playable, including Saints Row 2, Saints Row: The Third and Saints Row IV.
I particularly enjoyed the latter two Saints Rows, which are enjoyably silly and perfect for a mindless weekend of laughs and carnage. If you are in the mood for something more considered, Beyond Earth is a perfectly good alternative. I'm not it's greatest fan—much preferring last year's Endless Legend—but our reviewer liked it a lot.
To download any of the games, head to their Steam page and click the "Play Game" button. You've got until Sunday to get your free time in, and each game is discounted until Monday if you like what you play.
Written by Tom Marks
We ve already shown you what Metro 2033 Redux looks like when put side-by-side with the original, but the game looks so darn pretty that we wanted to spend more time in post-apocalyptic Moscow. We fed it to that benevolent giant we call the Large Pixel Collider and ran it on max settings at 2560x1440 resolution, and what do you know a video came out!. You can also check out our review of Metro 2033 Redux here.
Want more from the LPC video archive? Recently we've hit Deus Ex, NeoTokyo, Watch Dogs, Wolfenstein: The New Order, the Titanfall beta, Max Payne 3, Metro: Last Light, and Arma 3. There's much more to come. Have a game in mind you'd like to see the LPC take on at ultra settings? Tell the LPC directly on Twitter.
Sep 5, 2014
Back in May, the original Dawn of War and its many expansions cast off the shackles of Gamespy and Games for Windows Live and replaced them with Steamworks. Dawn of War 2 and Chaos Rising, meanwhile, required additional work work that's now been completed. A new update for both games has just been released, which gives GfWL the old heave-ho and moves achievements and leaderboards over to Relic's servers, while integrating Relic's battle servers to manage multiplayer networking in both entries.
In the process, Relic have removed a few features from the games. LAN multiplayer, Referee mode, and the option to pause during multiplayer are all gone. It's a shame, but at least the games are still playable online. Meanwhile, Games for Windows Live is still kinda, sorta trundling on, despite reports that it was heading for the guillotine Microsoft hasn't put it out of our misery just yet.
The Metro and Stalker games are incredibly atmospheric post-apocalyptic shooters, but where Stalker is set in a sprawling open world, Metro is a far more claustrophobic and linear experience. But it sounds like Metro developer 4A Games might just be aiming for something a little more Stalker-like in its next game.
In a lengthy interview with Eurogamer, 4A Games Chief Technical Officer Oles Shishkovstov talked about "the performance differential between Xbox One and PlayStation 4," the difficulty of developing for multiple platforms, the strengths and weaknesses of different APIs and all that sort of thing. It's good stuff if you're into that sort of thing, but the really interesting bit, at least for me, came around the midway point when he was asked if he could talk about what the studio is currently working on.
"For the game we are working on now, our designers have shifted to a more sand-box-style experience - less linear but still hugely story-driven," he said. "I will not go into details, but it requires some work from programmers as well."
It's only a couple of sentences and nothing more is said about it, although to be fair, it's a Digital Foundry interview focused on developing for the new generation of consoles. But the possibility of an open-world Metro game is incredibly exciting. And it's also the sort of thing that 4A Games might actually do: It was founded in 2005 by former members of GSC Game World, the studio that created the Stalker franchise.
Video by PC Gamer intern Tom Marks
Last week we gave you our review of Metro 2033 Redux, but today you can judge the graphical differences firsthand. We decided to throw both the original game and the Redux version to our irresponsibly large computer, the Large Pixel Collider, to scrutinize 4A Games' remastered environments, lighting and character models. We cranked all the graphics to max, set the resolution to 2560 x 1440, and started killing monsters. The original is still a good looking game, but Redux has some impressive new lighting effects, and runs much, much better it stayed at a rock-solid 60 fps even during combat, which would drop Metro 2033 down to about 40 frames per second.
In the world of video games it's just one outrage after another until you just wish Flanders was dead. This time people are upset about the pricing for 4A Games' forthcoming Metro Redux package, which includes both Metro: 2033 and Metro: Last Light. The former is a huge overhaul of the 2010 original, while the latter doesn't differ greatly from the 2013 shooter, though all DLC is bundled.
Of course, people who already own both games aren't happy that they'll need to pay again, despite 4A Games offering a 50 per cent discount to those who have either game in their Steam library. The controversy got so heated in the Steam discussion forums that it prompted a "blindsided" 4A Games to release a (rather lengthy) statement justifying the price.
"Almost the entire team of around 80 people at 4A Games will have been working on the Metro Redux titles for almost a year by the time we release next month," the statement read. "It has been a substantial project for the studio, with three main elements."
The studio went on to list the substantial new features, including engine additions such as global illumination and terrain tessellation, among other tweaks. Metro: Last Light will get some "minor" new features like a Check Watch and Check Inventory, as well as a whole new game mode. Finally, transferring Metro 2033 to the new engine, along with the new content and assets, was no small feat.
"We think the 50% discount is more than fair for the amount of work that has gone into this title," the statement continued. "It is a complete remake of the original game in the latest engine, that will offer a significantly different experience from the original throughout with improved graphics, performance and gameplay."
The studio's full statement is over on the Steam forum. A before and after trailer released last week, showing how the new edition will size up next to the old games.
Darksiders studio Vigil Games came to an untimely end in the wake of THQ's collapse, and yet it didn't: Instead of purchasing the studio, Crytek left it to wither and die, then hired a big chunk of its staff for its Austin-based Crytek USA. Now its happening again, as Crytek USA has been vastly downsized in the wake of Crytek's move to free-to-play, but the Vigil team is sticking together under yet another new name.
Vigil Games founder David Adams, who was also the chief of Crytek USA, actually left the studio three weeks ago, taking the "core team" with him to form Gunfire Games. He said Crytek's money issues were part of what convinced him to go, but it was also the fact that Crytek's problems were causing others to leave.
"It really was the team," he told Polygon. "When you make a game, one of the most important elements of that is the people you work with. You could get 12 of the best developers in the world and put them into a room and they may not make a good game."
There are currently only seven people at Gunfire, all of them "leads at Crytek USA," according to Studio Director Matt Guzenda. "We're still working on the next round of guys coming around."
Adams said the new studio is "exploring" the possibility of making Darksiders 3, and has actually spoken with Nordic Games, the publisher that currently owns the IP, but added that he doesn't want to "jump into anything immediately." For now, the team is looking at some smaller projects to get started, with a long-term goal of launching a brand-new game that would "build upon what we've done in the past."
"Third-person, games with a lot of characters, adventure aspects, player progression, hunt cool bosses, fantastical creatures," he said. "We have some ideas kicking around."