Company of Heroes
I've never been equally stunned, amazed, and frustrated with an RTS before. Relic, the same wonderful bastards that brought us Dawn of War and Homeworld, have worked to give us yet another amazing RTS. Company of Heroes is built on the same gameplay design that made Dawn of War so great, improved even more to present an amazing look and feel that is immersive to a ridiculous degree. If you enjoyed playing Brothers in Arms or Call of Duty for their mood and feel, you should find Company of Heroes equally powerful. From the bloody beaches of Normandy to the assault of Cherbourg, you'll fight through hell, and come out the other side.
First, the resourcing model in CoH is very different from most games I've played. Like in Dawn of War, your resourcing model focuses on capturing territory on the game board by seizing points on the map. These help you produce the game's three resources manpower, munitions, and fuel. What's different in this game is that the collection of these resources is severely hindered compared to other games. You've got to fight tactically to survive, because reinforcements come slowly.
Another change in this game is that you simply cannot play a defensive game in Company of Heroes. Obviously that isn't wholly accurate; CoH seems to throw out the whole idea of turtling in favor of a constantly shifting, dynamic battlefield. It does this by not providing you with ways to create a real perimeter with your construction resources. Often times, the production of a Rifleman squad is more important than setting up a minefield because of the battlefield flexibility your soldiers give you. These simple changes make this game hard to adapt to, both in the resourcing model and the defensive options. It is only after a great deal of practice that I've managed to get past some missions, and even now I'll say that the normal mode is exceedingly difficult. Challenging is an apt description of this game.
CoH doesn't have the best graphics, or the most stunning audio, but the fact that you can watch the commercial that advertises the game and not realize that it is an RTS speaks volumes to how amazing the game looks. Imagine playing last year's (probably the one before that really) World War II FPS title on an older machine, and you've got a good idea how it looks. The experience is rounded out with some great voice acting on the part of the unit dialogue. My favorite is how the sniper starts whispering when you tell him to go hide somewhere.
This game can be a complete frustration, requiring careful, specific, and tactical gameplay. However, it is more than worth the effort to learn. If you are willing to slug through that, you'll find an excellent title that will likely end up being one of the year's best.