Losing a match in COH always seem more depressing than losing in any other RTS. I find it annoying even when I lose to players whom I know are much, much better than me — in other words, I knew I was probably going to lose, but it still sucks losing anyway. When I lose, I often choose to offset the negative emotions (self-reproach, anger at random little things like a Rifle squad that refused to retreat despite repeated orders, etc.) by leaping into the arms of my understanding girlfriend, the foxy individual posing here with my Collector’s Edition COH case and the Tiger I miniature. Not being much of a gamer herself, her commentary on the game itself is often limited to observations of suppressed infantry (“Oooh! Scoochers! They’re so cute when they scooch!”). But she could appreciate COH’s emotional impact. She cringes when Riflemen start screaming “we ain’t gonna make it, we ain’t gonna make it!” or “They’re all dead! I’m the only one left!”
The other day I used Corsix’s Mod Studio (an excellent and easy-to-use utility, get it here) to pop open COH’s sound files and extracted all the U.S. unit voices. The number of recorded lines for each unit is staggering — between 500 and 900 in most cases, many of which are only rarely heard in any given game.
As I played these voices back, I saw my girlfriend with a pillow over her head. “It just doesn’t sound like a game,” she said. “It’s all ‘F-this’ and ‘F-that.'” When she watches me actually play a game, she’ll frequently demand to know where the medics are. “I can’t take it when those guys get hit and they’re just on the ground, writhing and coughing and reaching a hand up … and then the medics are too late and oh no, they just disappear!”
She’s not alone, either. My best friend Steve, a tough, six-foot tall, rough-and-tumble individual with the all-American ruggedness of a Harrison Ford or Robert Redford, dislikes playing 1v1 COH matches with me. At first I thought it was just because he hated losing, which is strange, because he loses to me in other games with no problem. At last, Steve admitted to me, he hates losing in COH because “it’s just too intense, man.” What the hell did that mean, I asked. How can it possibly be more intense than an SMG duel in a crowded game of Counterstrike? Steve sighed and said at last, “I can’t take my dudes dying like that, man. Those brave sons of bitches, just getting jacked up like that. Especially to some random shit like artillery or a strafing run or a random tank shell that kills three dudes in one shot for no reason. What a way to lose men.”
In all fairness, Relic’s artists and animators probably deserve equal praise for the realism of the infantry in the game, but there’s nothing more human and compelling than the voices of the soldiers in COH. A cast of truly outstanding yet faceless voice actors, coupled with ambitious sound design, has really catapulted the emotional impact of a COH match above that of practically any other RTS, Starcraft included. Single player campaigns aside, the experience of a COH multiplayer match fully immerses you in a Saving Private Ryan-esque struggle against historical units whose design is no less inspired or authentic.
P.S. — If you think my girlfriend is cute, leave a comment! She’s so modest she deserves being embarrassed by online admirers.